Jet lag sucks, and we all know it. There are all sorts of supposed remedies to attempt to power through the day after a long flight, but sometimes the heavy eyelids still get the better of us. After speaking to those who know, we reckon we're guilty of making these mistakes.
Mistake: Landing at night means I can sleep through the jet lag and wake up refreshed
“Opt for a flight that arrives in the day, so you’ll find it easier to stay awake,” says Willabelle Ong, a social media influencer and lifestyle blogger who flies every fortnight. This rule applies regardless of where you’re flying to (whether it’s Europe or the States).
It’s not just so you can make the most of your first day – it comes down to biology. Your body responds to the cues that a good dose of sunlight can give you. “Walking in the sun helps your pineal gland in the brain to secrete natural melatonin,” explains Dr Pushparanee Somasundram, a senior family physician at the Department of Family Medicine at Sengkang Health. “Melatonin helps to keep you awake in the daytime, and sleep well at night.”
Mistake: I should tire myself out before a flight so I can sleep on the plane
Do you try to stay up late before a 4am flight? You’re only going to pass out once you’ve sat down in your seat. What you should be doing instead is to time your shut eye according to the time zone of the country you’re flying to. This could mean only sleeping after you’ve been airborne for six hours.
So set your watch to a new time zone. Eating food according to the schedule of your destination will also help you acclimatise, advises Jessica Chuang, Regional marketing Director of Greater China, Southeast Asia and India for Hotels.com. You might not have control over the time the airline serves meals, but you can pay attention to when you’re reaching for snacks.
Mistake: Drinking coffee or sugary beverages will help me stay awake
This is a big mistake stewardess Cherie Yeo often sees during flights. She sees passengers downing juice, soft drinks and coffee, and then get jittery once the sugar and caffeine hits their system. The dry air and low oxygen in the aircraft already causes dehydration and lethargy, so sugar, caffeine and alcohol will only make the discomfort worse. Water is your friend.
A side note: If you're on sinus medication like phenylephrine or pseudoephedrine, give it a miss before you board. These are known to disrupt your sleep cycle, says Dr Pushparanee.
Mistake: Napping after landing will worsen jet lag
So you’ve landed in the morning and want to pound the streets. But if you land at dawn, catching a short nap is the fuel you need to survive the rest of the day. “If my London flight touches down at 6am local time, I force myself to nap for three hours – just because it’s insane to stay up till night time,” says Cherie. If you would naturally wake up at 9am, then that’s the time you should start your day with - just be careful not to oversleep.
Once you’ve woken up, get straight out into the town so you aren’t tempted to go back to bed. Willabelle advises skipping the taxis to get your heart rate and adrenaline going. “Explore the town on foot to get your blood flowing. Or if it’s gloomy out, try hitting the gym.” Jessica also suggests that you do your homework and find out what’s in the area of your accommodation. If you’re familiar with the vicinity, you’ll be more efficient in getting out and about and shaking off that stupor.
Mistake: I should reward myself with meals to keep off post-flight hunger
Airplane food doesn’t sit right with everyone, but exercise some restraint in choosing your meals once you land. Studies have shown that turkey, chicken, oats, sweet corn, rice and tomatoes can combat jet lag as they help regulate your sleep cycle. It just takes one or two days of eating these foods to reset your body. After that, you’re good to indulge.
Have these essentials on hand before you board
1. Chamomile tea
If you want an alternative to water, Willabelle recommends chamomile tea, which is known for its calming properties. Because it’s also caffeine free, you don’t need to worry about dehydration. If there’s a brand you favour, it’s simple enough to pack a couple of tea bags in your purse.
2. Eye mask
Cherie swears by the self-warming MegRhythm Steam Eye Mask Lavender-Sage. When she’s struggling to fall asleep in accordance to a new time zone, she finds the heat from the masks calming and the scent relaxing.
3. Classical music playlists
Dr Pushparanee advises that your music of choice should be slow, soothing and rhythmic. Studies have shown that classical music releases dopamine and reduces stress, so if you’re a nervous flier and can’t rest, this could ease the anxiety. So even if you’re not a classical music buff, get a playlist on your Spotify before you fly.
ALSO READ: HOW TO HAVE A SAFE AND STRESS-FREE VACATION
This article was first published in the June 2018 issue of Her World magazine.