It’s been a long flight but now you’ve finally touched down full of excitement and anticipation. And then it hits you – jetlag! A few hours into your holiday you’re foggy with tiredness, your body aches and you suddenly have an overwhelming urge to sleep at lunch time. The joys of long haul travel.
Jetlag happens because your natural circadian rhythms of sleeping and wakefulness have been disrupted. Your brain loses track of what time it is and whether you’re meant to be feeling alive and buzzing or dead on your feet. Eventually your body will adjust to its new time zone but there are things you can do to help.
Get prepared at home before you leave
If you’ve got a long flight coming up then it’s worth trying to adapt your body’s natural sleep/wake pattern long before you get on the plane.
Jetlag is worse when flying from east to west as your body thinks your day’s getting longer whereas travelling east makes it think the day is shortening. So a good idea if you’re going west is to stay awake one or two extra hours in the days leading up to your trip. Do the reverse if you’re going east. You should also be getting out of bed earlier, or later, respectively.
Try melatonin supplements
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by your brain that tells your body it’s time for sleeping. You can take it as a supplement in pill form which can help you feel sleepy more quickly. As a supplement it doesn’t suit everyone though so it’s highly recommended you visit your doctor to check it’s right for you before you start taking it.
Set your watch to the new time zone
Once you’re sitting on the plane, set your watch to the local time at your new destination and keep yourself awake until it’s night time there. It’s tempting to doze on the plane but if it’s daytime at your destination then try hard not to.
Drink plenty of water, but avoid too much alcohol
Cabin air is usually quite dry and it’s easy to become dehydrated during your flight. This makes it all the more important to keep drinking water, as it will not only help you stay alert but your kidneys will thank you for it. The effects of alcohol, however, are often more pronounced at 30,000 feet. Whilst that sneaky glass of wine might help you snooze it will also dehydrate you further and makes it more difficult for you to adjust to the new time zone later. Stick to the soft drinks!
Get comfy with a travel pillow
When travelling both long and short haul, a good neck pillow can make a massive difference. This type of pillow will provide essential support to allow you to sit or sleep in a relaxed position, even if you’re cramped or uncomfortable generally.
A handy travel pillow has a unique curved design, improving your head positioning and relieving any neck pain during your journey. It also comes with an adjustable velcro strap for different neck sizes, making the pillow suitable for both adults and children.
An eye mask will also offer more comfort while you sleep by creating the ideal sleep environment.
Take it easy for the first few days
Chill out during the first few days whilst your body adjusts to its new environment and time zone. Put any big activities on hold for a while and do things that are relaxing and don’t add stress. A long haul flight places a range of demands on your body, many of which you’re unaware of, and problems with jetlag are common. Don’t overdo it initially – use the chance to acclimatise properly so you can really enjoy your holiday.