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Jet Lag 101: How To Guarantee Plane Sailing On Your Next Flight

By Amanda Sheppard 24 April 2018

We all know the drill – you set off for the airport with a spring in your step, excited for your next holiday, and all too eager to set that out-of-office email. Fast forward to 12 hours later – the excitement has gone, and with it, your sense of purpose. Long-haul travel can turn even the happiest of campers into a shell of their former selves, but if you play your cards right, you can minimise the effects of jet lag and set yourself up to start your holiday on form. Take it from us!

Ban the Morning Brew

Some people say that coffee makes them a genuinely better person – we think there’s a case to be had here. But if you’re able to forego your morning brew, you could be saving yourself a restless night (or two). Caffeine is said to disrupt your body’s production of melatonin, a sleep-regulating hormone, making it harder than it already is to fall asleep in a different time zone. Ban the morning brew and lets the z's flow freely.


While we’re on the subject, if you’re looking for a little added help in the sleep department, shy away from chemical sleeping tablets. Not only are they dangerous, but they leave you with one whopping sleep-hangover – trust us. A naturally occurring substance, melatonin helps to control your body’s circadian rhythm. Taken in tables, gummies, or a range of over-the-counter herbal remedies, it’s readily available in pharmacies and some supermarkets. Recent research suggests taking melatonin for a few days before you fly, as well as after, for the best effects.

Scrap the Suit and Tie

You wouldn’t be alone in thinking that dressing to impress improves your chances of an upgrade, but it’s likely more to do with your frequent flyer tier status and, quite frankly, luck of the draw. But we’re not here to judge – if you’re happy to set off on your journey suited and booted, then be our guest. Once you’re on board, however, a set of comfortable clothing (or even pyjamas, if you’re so inclined) could have a significant impact on your comfort levels, helping you set off on a good night’s sleep.

The Age-Old Debate: Window, or Aisle?

If you’re planning to get some serious shut-eye, the window brings with it obvious benefits. And if you’re lucky enough to be travelling with an aisle-seated friend in tow, clambering over a stranger in the middle of the night won’t be an issue. But if you’re likely to be up and about at all hours, easy access becomes much more important. Try as we might to give you a concrete answer, this one really comes down to a matter of personal preference.

It’s Time for Some Meal Talk

Unless you’re seated at the sharp end of the plane, airplane food is not something to look forward to. Nutritionally speaking, it’s not very good for you either – your taste buds are much less sensitive at higher altitudes, which means your in-flight meals have likely been packed with added salt and seasoning to give it some flavour. Recent research shows that avoiding food while you travel could help freeze your body clock, letting it start from zero when you break your fast the next morning in your point of arrival.

Walk This Way (and That)

DVT (deep-vein thrombosis) is a serious condition and frequent flyers are known to be at risk. It can be avoided by stretching your legs every few hours and taking a brief walk up and down the aisle. A little goes a long way, and many airlines provide tips on staying healthy on board with a range of suggested stretches and movements you can do in your seat or nearby space. Sky high workout anyone?

Bar the Booze

Dutch airline KLM lets us in on a little tip as to why you might be feeling tipsy after take-off. The lower cabin pressure contributes to lower levels of oxygen in your blood. Basically, while you may not actually be drunker, your drink will certainly feel more potent. Tempting though it may be, restraint is best here. Hangovers are hard at the best of times, so don’t make things worse when you’re short on sleep and have a big week ahead of you.

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Amanda Sheppard

Senior editor

Following a brief and bitterly cold stint in Scotland, Amanda returned to Hong Kong—a place she’s called home for over 18 years—to begin her career as a writer. She can often be found getting lost somewhere very familiar, planning her next holiday, and enjoying a cup (or three) of good, strong coffee.