long flights can be very exhausting
Last week we came back to Australia after having spent around seven months in Europe. We started our (series of) flight(s) on Tuesday evening departing from Vienna to London. As we had a 12-hour overlay we decided to book a room at one of the many airport hotels at Gatwick, which turned out to be a very good idea because it gave us the chance to get a good night’s sleep in before embarking on our two remaining flights.
Our second flight took us from London to Singapore in about 13 hours and the last leg brought us to Sydney on Thursday evening after a two-hour stopover in Singapore and around 7.5 hours in the air. All of this sounds probably quite exhausting and I can tell you, it is. It’s a very long distance to cover, there’s no way around it but the good news is that there are ways before, during and after your trip to cope better with the effects of jet lag.
How does jet lag affect us?
What causes jet lag? The problem with flying long-distance is that you move through various time zones, which messes up your sleeping and eating routines. Studies have found that it takes you a full day to recover from each time zone you travel through.
The effects are extreme fatigue, indigestion, loss of appetite and concentration issues. How jet lag affects you and how fast it takes you to recover from it greatly depends on your state of health and age but you can also help you body and follow these tips in order to avoid total exhaustion before you even start your holidays.
1. Get a good night’s sleep
Even though you might think that you’ll have plenty of time to catch up on sleep during the flight, you should try to get some good shut-eye the night before your departure. If you don’t sleep you’re already messing with your routine before take-off, which makes it much harder to adjust to new time zones. Try not to plan too much for the day before your flight so you can de-stress, have a good night’s sleep and start your trip relaxed.
rest up before you take off
2. Pick a good plane
Often, this is not up to you as it depends on the route you’re flying, but if you have the chance to choose between different airlines and/or airplanes try to opt for an A350 or A380. These planes are equipped with high-tech humidification systems to keep the air moist, LED lighting systems that simulate natural phases of the day as well as an air purification system that allows you to breathe in fresh air.
choose a comfortable plane if possible
3. Avoid alcohol, coffee and sleeping pills
As tempting as it is, alcohol does us more harm than good when it comes to flying. It causes dehydration, which just adds to the effects of our jet lag. This also goes for coffee or coca cola. Artificial stimulants affect your sleep and therefore increase recovery time from the effects of your jet lag. Sleeping pills are also not a great option for long-haul flights as they leave you feeling fuzzy on arrival doing nothing to help you with your jet lag. Try to keep hydrated during the flight and bring some sleepy-time teabags for a natural way to get some shut-eye.
Stay away from coffee during your flight
4. Eat right
Try to stay away from foods that are heavy on your stomach or anything that makes you bloat like beans, lentils, broccoli or onion before taking off as well as during the flight. Try to stick to fruit, nuts, light meals and lots of water while you are in the air. You don’t want to battle indigestion and a bloated stomach while travelling in a confined space with your seat neighbours just a few centimetres away.
stick to light meals while you're travelling
5. Split up the trip
If it’s possible try to plan a longer stopover between your flights to break up the trip and allow your body to adjust to the new time zone while you are on the way. If you manage to arrange a 24-hour layover, you can even do a little bit of sightseeing, shopping or you can visit a nice restaurant (check out Antony Bourdain’s show The Layover) to sample the local cuisine. Often, this option also helps you reduce the price of your airfare.
Break up your trip and try the local cuisine
6. Try to arrive during the day
When it comes to flights, the general rule is: West is best, east is beast. If you can, try to pick a flight that arrives during the day. This way you are not too tempted to go to bed once you arrived. Keep moving and explore your destination a little bit while the sun’s shining and go to bed in tune with the local time zone so your body can adapt easier to your destination.
Keep moving after arrival to easier adapt to the local time zone
7. Go in the sun and/or exercise
Exercise will help your fatigued body to get some energy back and this in turn will also help you sleep better once you’re putting your head on your pillow. A good stretch after a long flight as well as a massage or a visit to the spa can also help you relax as well as a good dose of sunlight.
A little bit of exercise is always good after a long flight
8. Catch up on your sleep
It’s important to get your sleep back on track once you’ve arrived at your destination. Maybe this means that you have to take a couple of siestas during the first days but that’s not such a bad thing if you’re on holidays.
Your siesta at the beach is well-deserved after an exhausting trip