How to Avoid Jet Leg During a Long Haul Flight

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Jet lag is unfair.  Just when you’re ready to start exploring your exciting, new destination, bam!  It hits you like a ton of bricks and ruins a day (or two) of your precious holiday.  Jet lag is the jelly-fish, an unwelcome visiter, eager to ruin your pleasant day.

Luckily, avoiding jet lag isn’t as hard as avoiding jelly-fish.  Nope, it’s possible to free yourself from jet-lag have an extra day to enjoy your vacation clear-headed.  During my first overnight flight as a fourteen year old, I decided to read for the entire flight.  I slept for about an hour.  Needless to say, I was wrecked the next day.  Since then, I’ve become much better at dealing with long-haul overnight flights, through trial-and-error and accustoming my body to the experience of changing time zones.  The tips and tricks that follow have helped me avoid jet lag during time-changes of five and six hours.  What works for you?

1.  Sleep smartly.  What do you do during a nine-hour flight?  The obvious answer may seem sleep, but it’s not always the best option.  Depending on the time change and your personal level of exhaustion, the ideal amount of sleep to avoid jet lag changes.  Flying from New York to London?  Sleep!  After boarding, close your eyes and don’t open them until you land.  Flying from Rome to Boston?  It’s probably best to stay awake, but if you cannot keep your eyes from shutting, a nap is in order.  As you fly more frequently, you’ll realize what your body needs from sleep.  A good rule of thumb, however, is to sleep like you would at the current time of your destination.

2.  Only drink water.  Don’t get alcohol, soda, juice, coffee or tea.  Studies show that drinking water helps reduce jet-lag and, while I’m not sure if I really agree, drinking water most certainly helps battle dehydration from the recycled air.

3.  Eat like you would at your destination.  Would you be eating dinner at midnight?  Probably not.  Or perhaps lunch at eleven am?  If you got up quite early, perhaps.  Many people say eating on planes increases jet-lag, but avoiding plane food isn’t always a good idea.  If you will be arriving in the early morning, eating a big meal right before you leave for the airport.  Landing in the afternoon?  Lunch on the plane might make sense.  Use your brain and your stomach when deciding what to eat on the plane.  Or choose an airline with good food!

4.  Dress for the time of your destination during your flight.  Flying during the night?  Wear some comfortable clothing you can sleep in.  Plane ride during the afternoon?  Wear what you would normally (perhaps not to work, though).  By dressing like you would for the time at your destination, you’ll trick your mind into thinking that it’s already adapted to the new time zone.  Just make sure it’s comfortable to sit in for quite some time.

5.  Be skeptical.  You could follow every single avoiding jet-lag tip and still find yourself falling asleep standing up at the baggage carousel in Heathrow.  The best advice, bar none, that anyone has ever given me in avoiding jet lag is: don’t believe it exists.  If you tell yourself that you will be jet lag, then, guess what, you probably will be.  If you expect to be perfectly adapted to the new time zone upon arrival, then it’s more likely you’ll be awake (or tired).  Don’t be a slave to the change of the clock, that’s the best way to avoid jet-lag.

How do you beat jet-lag?  What’s the largest time difference you’ve ever experienced?

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