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How to get over Jet Lag

Jet lag is that horrible feeling you get after long flights. After zooming through different time zones, the extreme tiredness, fuzzy-headed feeling, absentmindedness, stomach upset and general disruption and disorientation that eats into your holiday time or ruins the post-holiday buzz.

The human body is made to be awake during the day and fast sleep at night. Flying into the light when your body thinks its night and eating the airline food when you would usually be asleep disrupts our circadian rhythm. There are 24 time zones in the world and the more you cross during a long-haul flight, the more severe the jet lag can be.

As your body does not know if it should be stopping or starting and this confusion results in days of exhaustion and below par performance.

Here’s some advice on beating the dreded jet lag. Top tips on how to manage it before, during and after your flight.

BEFORE

Choose your flight times carefully

Taking flights during quieter times such as midweek, early morning or late at night (and avoiding school holidays) could help. Depending on the route and class of airline you’ll have more space to stretch out and more air.

Fly west


West is best say the jet lag experts. By travelling west you fly into a longer day. You’re extending your day. By flying east, you’re shortening it and losing time. It’s easier to stay up later than get to sleep when your body is not ready to rest.

Are you a good sleeper?

Only you will know this. Can you sleep on a plane or do you find it impossible to nod off, distracted by fellow passengers, the in-flight entertainment and the constant drone of an aircraft cabin. It’s the disruption of your natural rhythm that leads to jet lag so if you are a sleeper taking a night flight when you can maintain your routine will help fend off jet lag. If not, fly during the day.

Get as good a seat as you can afford

It’s a no brainer. Business or First Class with lie-flat beds / capsules or pods will afford you a better chance of rest than cramped Economy Class. Could you upgrade one way? Buy a seat with extra legroom in the emergency-exit row, get a bulkhead seat (beware, airlines usually assign these to families with babies) or even just find an aisle seat?

Have a stopover

On a long-haul flight, a stopover will be necessary. This is a good chance to stretch your legs, get some rest and acclimatise. Dubai, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Hong Kong are usual stopover stages.

Reset your clocks

A few days before you fly, reschedule your bedtime by an hour or two. Consult the the ultimate jet-lag advisor on British Airways’ website. It was developed with Dr. Chris Idzikowski, a leading sleep expert. By selecting your normal wake-up time, the time at your destination and the time at home, the tool will tell you when to soak up some light and when to draw the blinds.

Hydrate

Drink lots of water before you fly to avoid dehydration. And lay off the alcohol the night before you fly.

Check out the meal options

Choose carbs for a night flight and you’re planning on sleeping or proteins to keep you awake and alert. Take some nuts, dried fruit and dark chocolate to snack on.

DURING

Reset yourself

As soon as you step on board set your clock or smart phone to the time zone you’re flying to. There’s an app called Entrain that connects users to lighting schedules, proven to help you adjust to new time zones as quickly as possible. Start thinking as you would if you were already on holiday. It’ll help get you into the local mindset.

Drink water

Say no to alcohol and ask for water or juice instead. Experts say about a litre (two pints) per hour you spend in the air on top of drinks with meals.

Sleep

If you’re going to sleep eyeshades, earplugs, a pillow and warm blanket will all help. Maintain as much of your bedtime routine as you can, even changing your clothes. Tell your seat mate and the cabin crew that you’re going to try to catch 40 winks.

AFTER

Sleep

When you land, have a short nap. Try to keep them to half an hour or less so you don’t ruin your nighttime sleep.

Stay hydrated

Drinking water. Again! Staying hydrated will help with the effects of jet lag. And avoid alcohol.

Eat well

Refuel sensibly with lean proteins, a little fat and dark green leafy veg.

Try to stay on schedule

If you’ve flown long haul for just a few days stick with your home routines. If you’re on a longer trip, live as the locals do.

Caffeine? Melatonin? Exercise?

A cup of coffee always helps to give a boost of energy! So does exercise, although don’t do it too close to bedtime.

Many travellers swear by Melatonin. It’s a sleep hormone that your body releases in the evening, letting you know that it’s time to rest. It’s available in the US but only on prescription in the UK so check with your doctor in advance.

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