How to beat jet lag

Nikki Parkinson Travel 64 Comments

Apart from waking up at 3am each day like I’m ready for an evening out sipping prosecco and downing a caprese salad, I really can’t tell if I’ve been jet-lagged since returning from Europe last Friday.

Reason being: I’ve been battling a lovely lurgy picked up two weeks ago while in Italy. That’s energy zapping in itself.

Before flying home, a number of SY readers were asking me for my tips on how to beat jet lag.

Can I suggest that getting sick shouldn’t be one of them? 😉

Jokes aside, jet lag is the pits … a difficult-to-avoid by-product of travelling long-haul.

As author Elizabeth Gilbert said on her Facebook page last week (while sharing a photo of her jet-lagged self at 3am):

This is what my poor innocent bathroom mirror had to look at this morning, in the cruel, cruel pre-dawn hours. Niiiiiiiiiccccceeeee.

She was pondering the question, why do we travel? Why bother? … (you can read her response here).

I loved every word.

I’ll take the jet lag for every memory that’s now etched in my mind from our three weeks’ away.

Precious time spent with immediate and extended family; laughs and good times with friends; amazing sights, smells and tastes enjoyed with my husband and youngest kid.

But what if you would like to minimise the impact of jet lag on those memories and moments?

There are a number of things you can do to improve things.

This post is very much a crowd-sourcing post. I want to hear your jet-lag busting tips. What works for one person may not work for another. And all ideas are worth trying, yes?

6 tips for beating jet lag

6 tips for beating jet lag

1. Book flights that have you landing in the early evening at your destination. This happened to us by accident – not planning – on our trip. We landed in London about 7pm and made it to the hotel by 9.30pm. This meant we could easily go to sleep on London time. We were exhausted and sleep came very easily. It meant that we got up on London time the next day and were able to put in a full day of sight-seeing. Yes, by Tuesday evening we were struggling to stay awake during our night out at a show but we made it and I think the arrival time played a big part. It was the same coming home. We touched down in Brisbane about 7pm and were home by 8pm.

2. Get as much natural sunlight as you can when you reach your destination. This is not so easy on a cold, wet British summer day, but a little sun did filter through by the afternoon on our first day. We basked in it. Coming home, I couldn’t leave the house on account of said lurgy but I did chase the sun around the house in an attempt to simulate being outside.

3. Avoid alcohol and over-eating while flying. I still had one or two drinks on each flight … so I didn’t really follow my own advice here. I did eat lightly though, helped by pre-ordering a gluten-free meal, which was largely an offering of chicken or fish with vegetables, a side-salad and fruit salad.

4. Keep moving if you find yourself with time to spare between flights in transit. Again, something I only partially followed. On the first leg of our flight from Brisbane to Singapore, I ended up with a migraine (I never get migraines) and vomited out of view of other passengers but still in one of those sick bag thingies. I spent our time in Singapore Airport in a lounge recovering. Mr SY did a few laps of all the shops and fared better for it.

5. Sleep on the flights when you can but don’t stress about it. Plenty of travel sites will give you almost scientific advice as to when you should sleep on a flight, depending on the time and direction you’re flying. I say, remove the stress of this. When you feel your eyelids heading south, hit pause on the movie or bookmark the page in your book and SLEEP. Don’t force it and don’t even track how many hours you’ve slept (or haven’t slept). This will only add to the stress and make it more difficult to sleep.

6. Cross everything for an upgrade. Or vow to save up and fly anything but economy from this flight on. My little brother scored an upgrade on one leg of his flight home. I was lucky enough to be upgraded here. If you fly at peak times, the chances of a free upgrade are up there with winning the lotto – the planes are full. If you are a regular long-haul traveller then you’re probably already an advocate for the pointy end of the plane where you can lie flat and get decent sleep. I salute you.

So, over to you … what works for you to help beat jet lag? Share your ideas in the comments below.

… and here are some more tips from the SY Facebook community …

I need your help with this post. If you’re a regular long-haul flyer, what are your hot tips for beating jet-lag? (I’ve shared mine on the blog) http://bit.ly/1HvoDdb

Posted by Styling You on Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Comments 64

  1. I’m hearing you on being sick on holidays. Middle ear infection here. But jetlag is the nemesis of any traveller. I am a big fan of melatonin to help you sleep when you arrive. I used it all the time when I was living in London and travelling a lot. The kids take it too. I am sure I will eat my own words when we head to China in September!

  2. Those noise cancelling headphones really work! My husband always wears his but can’t hear when the hosties offer food and drinks and then talks to me in a very loud voice sharing with the whole plane. We have just returned from Italy to pack our container here in Cape Town after 2 1/2 yrs living here in Sth Africa and will be moving back to the Gold Coast to pick up our old lives again. Exciting times for us but our flight comes into Melbourne on a Saturday morning at 8am and we have to drive to Quarantine to pick up our little dog who will be very very excited to see us after 12 days – no time for Jet Lag doubled with a short stay with or 3yo grandson before we leave for the Gold Coast. I need all the Jet Lag tips anyone can give…….an excited dog plus excited grandson after 35 hours in transit!

  3. Arrived home this morning after a 31 hour door-to-door trip back from Europe. Ohhoo how my head is spinning. I think if you can arrive at destination in late afternoon early evening it makes such a difference. Unfortunately most flights from Europe arrive into Sydney in early morning. I’ve had a sleep today and going to bed early about 830pm (have to be up for daughter’s early netball game!). Another thing to help is loads of water. I think everyone dehydrates on planes so drink as much water as you can before, during and after flying.

  4. So many fantastic tips here! As a lot of people have mentioned, I find the getting to the destination (and the excitement and hitting to streets and sights) and adopting the destination timezone as soon as I arrive, really helps to minimise the jetlag. On the return leg, one of the things that really works for us is trying to build in a stopover to breal up that LONGHAUL!. This generally tends to be Singapore for us (just because we have points and fly with them majority of the time) so we land (generally evening), have dinner and then go to bed. Then we have some time by/in the pool the next day before hitting the flight home. Doesn’t totally beat the jetlag but does a lot to minimise it. All the best for recovering from your lurgy Nikki!

  5. Agree with all as mentioned a couple of extra tip though, try and find a SILK eye mask. Personally I can’t stand the synthetic nylon ones as they make my eye lids sweat and my face hot. As we know, its more conducive to sleep with a cool head, so I find the silk eye mask invaluable. Another thing I love is the jet setter aromatic mist from Perfect potions. It hydrates as well as refreshes. 🙂 Have included a link!
    http://www.perfectpotion.com.au/shop/Product/9333360001334/jet-setter-aromatic-mist

  6. I agree with all your suggestions and give myself one day to adjust or fly home on a Friday before having to function at work on Monday.
    Long haul flights are the pits but i find looking at my pictures makes me realise why I do it over and over.
    Love those Bose headphones too and no make up, lots of freshening wipes and healthy snacks like nuts, dries fruit etc.
    Water, fresh air, being synced to arrival timezone on my watch etc
    Get well, I adored your trip and all your suggestions over the last month. I have suggested to Mr Cheekie we go to Puglia in the future after seeing your pics.

  7. I invested in some Bose noise cancelling headphones for a recent long haul to Europe flying economy. They were amazing even when not watching a movie . They block out all that background plane noise, engine sounds , crying baby sounds and make the inflight entertainment much better. Agree also with changing your watch to the new time zone, water, staying up when you arrive at your destination , a sleeping tablet during the flight for a light sleep, comfy clothes in flight and utilising the hot shower and change of undies/shirt in the airport lounge facilities in transit if you have access ! Always worse flying west to east for me and no matter what you do it will take days to adjust properly ! Love to travel and will persist with economy over business class coz it’s so much cheaper but I always look and hope for upgrades using frequent flyer points ! Happy Days …

  8. It’s true you cannot avoid jetlag but you can minimise the effects.
    As Nic says it always seems less on the outward flight and I have no doubt that excitement has a lot to do with that 🙂
    Oh, for busi class but having to fly economy won’t stop me from travelling. My tips are:
    Water load as much as you can for 24 hours prior to flying as well as on board. That way you can have a couple of drinks in flight (it’s time to celebrate a little but not too much). And yes use Hydralyte on board and for the first 24 hours after arrival.
    Change your watch to the arrival time zone as soon as you board your flight, if not earlier, and try to match your eating and sleeping to that time zone. Take some healthy snacks on board and ask crew for fresh fruit, then you can eat at the right time for your destination (and miss some of the meals on a long haul). As you say Nikki, choosing a healthy light meal option also helps. As you also say, don’t stress about what time you sleep in flight, just catch what you can and don’t watch the little screen that tells you how many more hours, minutes, seconds until arrival – blah!
    Remember screen time makes for bad sleep so match movie watching to day time in your arrival time zone. Read or listen to music etc. if you find going to sleep difficult. Take a book you know you will enjoy or magazines, puzzles etc. Noise cancelling head phones and a sleep mask both help. Hint, buy your own sleep mask those on airlines often have a nasty plastic smell.
    Take off your makeup, clean your teeth and put on some night cream just like you would at home, all those little rituals prepare your brain for sleep. Wear comfortable clothes that don’t twist around you whilst you are trying to sleep.
    My experience is that Premium Economy still doesn’t give a lot of leg room if you are tall like me so we prefer to buy exit row seats. Yes you will be close to the loo and/or galley but your headphones and mask can alleviate some of that annoyance. Exit rows also mean you can always get up and move around without having to step over someone and you don’t get interrupted by someone having to step over you either.
    Yes try and fly so you arrive at your destination mid to late afternoon rather than morning. Find your accommodation, have a shower and then head out for a walk to a close by restaurant for dinner. Then off to sleep. Next morning get up for breakfast and then get onto your feet and hopefully into the sunshine. Don’t give in to the idea of an afternoon nap, but if you feel the need, plan an early and easy night for that first day.
    The choice of natural remedies or prescription drugs are so personal, I like to use Travel Essence orally in flight as well as on arrival, plus the Travel Essence cream and mist from Australian Bush Flower Essences. I have also used melatonin. If you get dry eyes then certainly some eye drops as well as lots of moisturiser for face and body. Valerian is another natural option to help with sleep.
    If like me your ankles tend to swell up then keep your shoes on but do wear comfortable shoes with compression socks – the latter are ugly but so are lumpy painful ankles on arrival. Some Travel Essence cream on your ankles may also help with the swelling.
    Choose your airline and flight schedule to suit you in terms of layovers and stopovers. We are flying to Europe in September but have decided we just can’t do it in one hit any longer so we are having a stop over in Hong Kong both ways and on the way over the scheduling is perfect. It helps that we really like Hong Kong, we enjoy Cathay as an airline and we get Qantas points. Sometimes the cheapest flight option can be hard on your body or you just don’t feel comfortable with the crew. Sadly flights home typically arrive early morning so we just have to plan for a couple of very low keys days once we get back.
    And as others say, just accept you will be jet-lagged and make the most of every precious minute anyway.

  9. If I’m heading to Europe I don’t seem to suffer at all – might just be the excitement! But the return home is another story… I find all these tips really useful, plus melatonin. Would never not go though – every trip is worth the suffering! Hope you’re feeling better soon Nikki! x

  10. Water water water and then some more water. Also I always put my watch on to the time it is where I am going…works really well to get into the mindset.

  11. Great tips Nikki.I have none to share as I don’t really enjoy travelling any distance in any form as my body gets uncomfortable.I often joke that I got jet lag from travelling by plane from Sydney to Melbourne then to Mildura there was a 5 hour delay but I was so tired!
    I agree with you though the memories are worth far more than any jet lag you suffer.I do hope you are feeling better soon…rest up Nikki Xx

  12. I swear by Hydrolite prior to, during and after my flight. I also download some really boring podcasts to my phone so that when I feel like I should sleep I stick my headphones in and turn the volume quite low and most times this sends me off to the land of nod. Sunlight and lots of walking in the fresh air are a huge help once I land, as is swimming (ideally in the ocean but the hotel pool will do). If you do find yourself wide awake at 3am, try the boring podcast thing or reading in really dim light. Otherwise I will just surrender to it and get up, do some exercises in my hotel room, catch up on emails or other work and flash back to early days of motherhood when I existed on no sleep and just got on with it. Coffee is also your friend 😉

  13. The flying east west thing helps so if you can actually go around the world in the right direction it does make a difference. Of course, this requires actually going around the world! The idea is to follow the sun.

    Have you noticed how the jet lag is worse when you come home from Europe as opposed to going? Going to the U.S the jet lag is worse when you arrive than when you come home.

    Despite my apparent words of wisdom, I did the complete opposite on my recent trip because that was where we needed to go. To the U.S, then to Europe (and Lecce etc!) and then home.

    I “love” the way you get on planes, they feed you and immediately make it night time for the long haul flights!

    I follow lots of the the advice you gave, Nikki, but still suffer. It takes both my husband and I a couple of weeks to get back on track. There are people who don’t even suffer. Amazing!

  14. All the posts have very good advice. I am not a good traveller, cannot sleep on a flight without some help. So talk to your Doctor about options! My husband says jet lag does not exist (well for him) I know different. Its like a hang over with out the party!

  15. A few years ago I managed to snag exit row seats for every sector of a European holiday, and still we had problems with being near galleys and bathrooms- and waiting passengers. So we upgraded to premium economy on our last long haul leisure trip and really enjoyed a bit of extra space, but for our trip next month will be in business class. I’m still expecting to be exhausted at either end.
    I’m with you on the sleeping when you can on flights and doing laps of the airport while you’re in transit- just need to be careful, because I always seem to start the next leg with a new haul of makeup! Could be worse: at least I’m not buying designer handbags or clothes (who does that at the airport?)
    I also try to let the excitement of arriving somewhere new keep me wired to do at least a little discovering of the city, while keeping expectations of doing lots of sightseeing very low.

    1. Will be interesting to hear whether you got more sleep in business class (lying down has got to be a great help!) and whether that lessens the jet lag impact. You must be getting very excited now Johanne!

    2. Will be interesting to hear whether you got more sleep in business class (lying down has got to be a great help!) and whether that lessens the jet lag impact. You must be getting very excited now Johanne!

  16. Agree with all of your tips Nikki! I arrived home around the same time as you I think and I am still waking up at 3:30am every morning!
    Another tip would be (if arriving home on a Friday or a weekend) don’t let yourself sleep past midday the next day – I know it’s hard but. Just. Get. Up! In saying that I didn’t follow my own advice and my husband and I stayed in bed dozing until 3pm the Saturday after we got back – biggest mistake!!! Still – I’d rather have jet lag and get to travel overseas any day of the week!!

  17. For the first time ever, I got a little medical help from my doctor for the long haul flight to the UK and it worked a treat. I felt almost rested when I arrived! My best tip is to try and keep to the time zone that you arrive in even if you’re totally tired. Napping in the middle of the day is fatal!

  18. Hate to tell you this Nikki but you can’t beat Jet Lag !
    It takes your body 1 day per hour of time difference to adjust So in 10 days from landing you will be OK You can manage it by keeping hydrated not overindulging Getting as much sunlight at your destination to help reset your clock but your cicadean rhythms are out and only time will fix it

  19. Great tips! I actually don’t like landing too late because I find I am a bit wired from flying and can’t go straight to sleep. But early landings are definitely brutal too.

  20. all good points thanks nikki! I do think landing in a place late afternoon early evening is the best! to synch the body clock to natural local time!
    we like to have a stop over in Singapore or somewhere for a few days!
    we stayed in a resort on Langkawi for 4 days on route to Paris! as we had been so busy leading up to our trip, it was the perfect way to start our European adventure of 4 1/2 months! I know, we had the time!!!
    we also had a couple of hours in Dubai airport and arriving in paris at 9am … but we were ok!
    I always take 2 natures own ‘sleep ezy’ capsules, ear plugs, a blow up neck cushion and a sleep mask and it’s goodnight from her hun!
    hope you are feeling better now! love m:)X
    a friend who has long legs thinks premium economy is better than economy!

  21. As a regular traveller, I concur with all your tips, particularly the getting out and about once at your destination or return home. A certain amount of soldiering on coupled with passive acceptance of ‘what is’ for a few days is required I think. Sorry you are still so unwell Nikki. Not fun at the best of times but even less welcome on holiday or combined with jet lag. Best wishes for a return to good health very soon.

  22. We like to arrive in the afternoon or evening. I always sleep on flights, even short ones. We arrive, unpack a little, then shower and go out and walk around, have a meal etc. Kathryn 🙂

  23. Tips 1, 2 and 3 are crucial especially landing in the evening at your destination. We all use pharmacy strength sleeping tablets on the flights. They help to get you off to sleep and allow the flight to disappear behind your eyelids. Also buy some ear plugs (Beckie managed a good 6 hrs from Brisbane to Singapore a couple of weeks ago). We also try to have a few ours at Changi Airport too. We always book in to the transit hotel, have a couple of hours sleep then a long shower and fresh clothes. Then go and get a massage before your next flight – works a treat!. xx

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