How to beat jet lag when you’re travelling long haul

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Jet lag. It is the jagged thorn to every traveller’s exotic rose. It leaves you chronically tired and unable to enjoy the culinary and visual beauty of your new destination. For many sufferers it can mean spending the first few days of your holiday feeling confused and delirious and companies know this, offering a whole host of pills, products and supplements which offer to cure or prevent jet lag.

Remember viagra? Yeah, so apparently that’s a jet lag cure… You may also have heard about the ostrich pillow; a “snazzy” igloo shaped head tent designed to block out everything around you, including air it would seem. And sleeping pills, I know someone at one time or another will have recommended these as the ONLY way to survive long haul flights. That would be wrong again.

So, with all these lies floating about out there, what really helps cure, or even prevent jet lag? Well, let’s find out shall we.

Who better to answer these burning questions than an international flight attendant who has spent the last eight years flitting in between time zones with a major airline with links to America, the UK and New Zealand? 

Emma Hardy (above) spends around twenty hours each working week flying to and from London and L.A. so jet lag is a huge part of her daily life. We spoke to her about jet lag, and how she survives the different time zones! Here’s what she had to say:

“With the very different time zones between the two cities its hard to avoid jet lag completely, but the following hints have definitely helped me!

#1. Before the flight get a good nights sleep and try to do some light exercise. (Flashpacker tip: Exercising a few hours before you go to sleep will tire you out, making sure you get better sleep at night meaning you’ll feel more awake in the morning)

Read more: How fit do I need to be for a Flash Pack holiday?

#2. Change your watch to your new time zone as soon as you board (Flashpacker tip: This mentally prepares you for your new time zone – the last thing you want to do is stick with your original time zone!)

#3. Try to adapt the new sleeping/eating times if possible. (Flashpacker tip: Shift your eating and sleeping habit a few hours forward or backwards – depending on the direction you are travelling – for a few days prior to travelling in order to prepare your body for the change)

#4. As hard as it is, try to avoid the free on-board bar! Alcohol causes dehydration and sleep deprivation. If that is too hard, limit your drinks as 1 drink at altitude equals 3 on the ground. (Flashpacker tip: dehydration is one of the main symptoms of jet lag and breathing in the recirculated, dry cabin air doesn’t help. Keeping hydrated on the flight will help you reduce the feeling of jet lag at the other end.)

jet lag is for wimps coconut water

#5. Coconut water! I love the stuff and always drink it while I’m flying. Its super hydrating and full of natural sugars and electrolytes. If you forget the coconut water then just drink loads of still and sparkling water. It will make you feel so much better at the other end.

#6. Try to get a little bit of sleep onboard so you arrive at your new destination feeling a bit more fresh. (Flashpacker tip: Avoid sleeping pills as these induce a false sense of sleepiness and will more than likely make you feel more tired and dehydrated at the other end.)

Read more: The most beautiful airports in the world

#7. Ask your Flight Attendants for some earplugs and eye masks which we always carry onboard. (Flashpacker tip: wear your travel pillow backwards so that your head doesn’t fall forward and wake you up as you sleep!)

#8. Looking after your skin is very important while flying, I swear by Rodial Dragon’s Blood Hyaluronic mask. I put it on under my makeup and leave it on all flight. Its a great moisture booster for your skin! (Flashpacker tip: The cabin air will dry out your skin so a really good moisturiser is very handy – as is some good quality lip salve!)

#9. If you get peckish mid flight and forgot to bring any of your own snacks with you ask your Flight Attendant for something… We always have a snack tray in the galley with cookies, crisps and chocolate for passengers throughout the flight.” (Flashpacker tip: This isn’t really going to help with jet lag, but it certainly helps make your flight that much more enjoyable!)

We also spoke to Doctor Sohère Roked, a leading GP who specialises in holistic medicine, about her recommendation for dealing with jet lag. According to Doctor Roked, valerian and melatonin are two very useful supplements to counteracting jet lag. 

“Valerian is a great calming herbal remedy that helps sleep while melatonin is a hormone that induces sleep and is great and resetting the body clock.” While melatonin is hard to get in the UK, it “is very handy to take for a few days if possible” Roked explained.

Like Emma, Doctor Roked also recommended adapting your sleeping pattern to that which matches your destination’s time zone. “It is a good idea to stay awake on the flight if you know you are landing at night to make your body adjust, or if you know you are arriving in the morning, trying to sleep on the plane to make the adjustment easier.”

Images: Shutterstock, Emma Hardy

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