Beating jet lag, fly like a pro
Beating jet lag, fly like a pro / Lilian Dikmans

As a person who travels often, I have spent numerous hours on long haul flights. I love travelling, but lengthy plane trips across multiple time zones can really mess with your body. If you have the luxury of flying business or first class, you will most likely recover well. But travelling economy, cramped into a small seat for 14-plus hours, can leave you feeling like death on arrival.

Over the years, I have developed a little routine that helps me cope on the plane and recover faster when I get to my destination. I used it on my recent trip to Europe and it worked well. It focuses on creating an environment to get some sleep, which has the added benefit of helping to pass the time. I avoid taking medication like sleeping pills as they can do more harm than good, leaving you feeling groggy. Instead, I try to do the following.

Eat a proper meal before getting on the plane

Airline food is never the greatest. It can leave you feeling pretty average and prevent you from sleeping. I prefer to eat a decent meal before going to the airport, including a good serve of carbohydrates, such as potatoes or rice. The carbs help me to sleep later on. Then I avoid eating on the plane. Instead, I take my own snacks like raw nuts, crackers or homemade protein bars if I get hungry. I also make sure I drink plenty of water before getting on the plane so that I am well hydrated. Continuing to sip on water while on the plane is also important. I sip rather than gulp it down during the flight to minimise trips to the bathroom, which will keep you awake.

Use ear plugs and an eye mask

Once I am on the plane, I set my clock to the final destination’s time zone and aim to sleep during their nighttime. If you can get some sleep at the proper time, you can start to minimise jet lag. To assist with sleep, I always wear ear plugs or noise cancelling headphones to block out noise and an eye mask to block out light. This is essential. A neck pillow can also make things more comfortable.

Fresh air and exercise on arrival

If you arrive at your destination during the day, you need to fight the urge to sleep straight away. Ideally, you should avoid napping and stay awake until a reasonable bedtime. This is the only way to get accustomed to the local time zone. To stay awake, first, I drink coffee as soon as I arrive and eat a good meal with protein. Then I’ll get some fresh air and exercise. I might go for a walk outside to check out the surrounding area. If there’s a gym in the hotel or nearby I’ll do a short workout. When evening eventually arrives, I’m ready for a good 8 or 9-hour sleep that will hopefully see me wake up at the right time feeling refreshed.

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