I recently had some houseguests with me here in Singapore who had just flown up from Perth. They arrived early evening and I fussed around them, offering up water, telling them they should get some fresh air and to try to stay awake till at least 10pm. I was trying to ward off the perils of jet lag until my friend kindly reminded me there is absolutely no time difference between Perth, Australia and Singapore!
That said, not all travel involves an easy hop in the same time zone. The thought of jet lag puts many people off longhaul travel, especially as there is no ‘jet lag cure’. There is, however, a multitude of useful tips and tricks to alleviate jet lag. Here are five of my favourites:
Know what to expect
Flying west is easier on the body than flying east. Humans run on a 24-hour cycle, known as the circadian rhythm. After flying across different time zones, when we arrive at our destination, our body finds it difficult to adjust. It is far more difficult on the body to fly east to west, e.g. London to Hong Kong, rather than west to east, e.g. Hong Kong to London. This is because when you fly east you are ‘losing’ time.
When I fly from Hong Kong to the UK, it often only takes us one day to recover. The other way round can take up to a week! So if you’re planning a trip and flying east, allow a few days to rest and reset the body before rushing off on a big adventure.
Try to steer clear of that tempting Bloody Mary and drink water throughout your flight. Staying hydrated shouldn’t stop on the plane. Keep topping up on water at your destination. If you’re flying with a baby, you may also want to give an extra milk feed before bed time to ‘top them up’ and hope they sleep for longer!
Adjust to the local time zone
As soon as I get on the plane I set my watch to the time at my destination. Try to mimic that time as best you can, although this can be tricky when flying with kids. When you arrive, stay awake till as late in the day as possible, and keep to a local time schedule.
Get some daylight
My mum swears by daylight on the back of her knees. I don’t know if it’s an old wives’ tale but I do know that getting out into bright light is helpful for resetting the body clock. Don’t be tempted to arrive at the hotel and crawl into bed if you are exhausted. Try and go for a walk outside or splash about in the pool.
Take natural supplements
Some people ward off jet lag using a melatonin. Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the body, which helps to regulate the sleep-wake cycle. At around 9pm your body starts to produce melatonin, which puts the body in a ‘tired state’. The time at which you take melatonin is important. If you’re trying to reset your body clock to a later time, such as after flying east, you should take melatonin at local bedtime nightly until you have become adapted to local time. If you’re trying to reset your body clock to an earlier time, such as after flying west, melatonin should be taken in the morning. I hope these tips and tricks help you overcome your jet lag woes and allow you to make the of your next adventure.