If you’re going from east to west, wake up an hour and sleep an hour later than usual each day. On the other hand, wake up and hour and sleep an hour earlier if you are traveling from west to east.
Upon boarding your plane, set your watch to the destination time straight away. It will help your body start adapting to the new schedule. Avoid the usual “departure time” mentality – i.e. “it’s 3 a.m. at my departure place; I should be sleeping right now“. It’s a useless thought and even if you are not tired, you will feel tired. Your mind has a powerful control over your body.
To sleep or not to sleep
Rest well for a few days before your long haul flight and be sure to keep yourself in the ‘pink of health’. Healthy, well rested and active people recover from jet lag faster.
Fly red-eye (overnight) if you go from east to west and try to sleep as much as you can. I usually wait until the first meal is served and once I finish it I go into “blackout mode”. I am lucky that I don’t need the sleeping mask, ear plugs or headphones with some classical music ritual, but what I do is partially cover my face with my turtle neck or sweater. Not very sexy but it will do the job. It’s never really resting but it’s better than nothing… well, unless I’m flying Business, then, it’s way better!
When you go west to east, try flying early in the morning to arrive during the day at your destination. Go to bed early the previous night and then don’t sleep during your flight. Enjoy the multimedia system, the meals and make new friends on the plane. Once you land, continue with your day and wait until night-time to sleep. I’ve always managed to feel only a little jet lagged doing this. And with the long waking hours, exhaustion using kicks in giving me deeper sleep at night.
No matter what, do NOT sleep when you arrive at your destination if it’s not night: no nap, no rest on the beach, no sleepy cuddling in bed. NO SLEEP. It’s the most important rule! Wait at least until 10 p.m. to go to bed.
Do NOT drink tea, coffee or Red Bull to stay awake. The high levels of caffeine and sugar will give you an artificial high that leaves you feeling worse once it wears off. Instead take plenty of water and juice to stay hydrated before, during and after your flight. Likewise eat a light, healthy meal that is high in fibre and protein. Nuts, fruits, vegetables and fat-free white meat such as fish and chicken usually does the trick to provide you the energy you need.
Avoid sleeping pills if possible. Instead adopt a positive and optimistic outlook and feel excited about the adventure that lies ahead. This will keep you going.