Airline staff members’ tips for beating jet lag – your thoughts?

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This topic contains 14 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by  Ian 10 Dec 2016
at 12:14
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  • Craig Bright
    Moderator

    Hi All,

    We’ve recently published an article on the Business Traveller Asia-Pacific edition in which we asked members of staff from major international airlines their tips for how to beat jet lag: https://www.businesstraveller.com/newsletter/2016/11/16/roundup-airline-crew-members-tips-beating-jet-lag/

    With the recent discussions about whether aircraft window blinds help offset the effects of jet lag in the “Window blinds” forum topic (https://www.businesstraveller.com/forums/topic/wndow-blinds/), we’d be interested to hear your thoughts about some of the suggestions put forward by the people spoken to in the article. Which ones have you tried? Have they worked? Are there any tips mentioned that you haven’t tried and will give a go on your next long-haul trip? And what other tips do you suggest for frequent travellers?


    MrMichael
    Participant

    The only one that surprises me is the spicey food one. It has never occurred to me that what I eat makes a difference to how I sleep. I guess I will have to cut down on the Chicken Jalfrezi’s.

    The kippig one is interesting. Ever since working at sea in the early eighties I have been nioyed (time/work permitting) an afternoon nap. The point about a nap of more than 2 hours being a bad idea is spot on. A couple of 2 hour naps is far better than one 4 hour nap.

    Jet lag is not helped by some airlines not doing what they can to maximise people’s sleep, particularly eastbound transatlantic. Although BA have recognised this with their Sleeper service, for those down the back no such options are available.


    GivingupBA
    Participant

    Thanks for the article, Craig.

    After decades of frequent east-west-east long distance travel I’ve finally concluded that for me only 3 things, and nothing else, work for jet lag: [1] the most effective – when you arrive, force yourself into the new time zone, i.e. get up in the morning and go to bed at night at normal times for the new time zone. [2] Slightly helpful – on the flight and after arrival, avoid alcohol and don’t eat too much or too heavily. [3] Slightly helpful – after arrival, go for a long walk/ get plenty of exercise.


    JohnHarper
    Participant

    Jet lag is not helped by some airlines not doing what they can to maximise people’s sleep, particularly eastbound transatlantic. Although BA have recognised this with their Sleeper service, for those down the back no such options are available.

    Surely this being the case there’s an opportunity for BA to enhance their economy offering eastbound across the Atlantic and offer a cuplet of water on departure and then nothing more to ensure the opportunity for sleep is maximised.

    Come to think of it why limit the enhancement to eastbound Atlantic services.


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    The strange one for me, “warm is good for staying awake” – I find so many cabin temperatures set far too high, also the closed cabin environment retains heat. To get their passengers to sleep, cabin crew should reduce the cabin temperature…

    Flying to the Far East, I will avoid an early morning arrivals. I like to arrive late afternoon, go for a run, have a drink and hope I get more then 3 hours sleep. I will try to manage my time in the cabin, but have found it is far easier to ‘enjoy’ the flight and accept my first night’s sleep in Asia, will be interrupted. Night 2 is never a problem.

    Coming home, I don’t suffer.


    FDOS_UK
    Participant

    With all due respect, the challenges presented by timezone differences to cabin crew and business travellers are somewhat different.

    Cabin crew work on the flight, whilst business travellers do not.

    Cabin crew normally spend one or two days downroute (per destination), whereas business travellers may spend a short or longer period there (I just did 2 weeks + 2.5 weeks in DUbai, back to back). So cabin crew are unlikely to adjust fully to time zone differences, whilst business travellers may.

    Whilst cabin crew may have some good experience to share, it is unlikely to be directly applicable to many business travellers.


    FDOS_UK
    Participant

    The strange one for me, “warm is good for staying awake” – I find so many cabin temperatures set far too high, also the closed cabin environment retains heat. To get their passengers to sleep, cabin crew should reduce the cabin temperature…

    Flying to the Far East, I will avoid an early morning arrivals. I like to arrive late afternoon, go for a run, have a drink and hope I get more then 3 hours sleep. I will try to manage my time in the cabin, but have found it is far easier to ‘enjoy’ the flight and accept my first night’s sleep in Asia, will be interrupted. Night 2 is never a problem.

    Coming home, I don’t suffer.

    Interesting – I find the same as you (although the UAE is only a 3 hour difference in summer and 4 in winter, so the disruption is less.

    The old wisdom of ‘west is best’, in terms of travel direction, seems to be true for many people.


    rferguson
    Participant

    I think over the years i’ve tried every remedy to beat jetlag. As FDOS mentions though for us crew the situation is a bit different. We often need to manage our sleep patterns to be AWAKE during the flight (when from an avoiding jetlag POV we should be sleeping). And also the jetlag for us is constant – especially if you have a lot of east-to-west swings.

    The best remedy? For me none. I work on sleep when i’m tired for a few hours, eat when i’m hungry. And lots and lots of naps. When going east I can’t do the ‘stick to UK time’ thing. Although it may help with sleep cycles I find it incredibly depressing to have perpetual darkness. Wherever I am I make sure I get outside for daylight. For example if i’m in the far east I probably won’t get to bed until 3 or 4am but i’ll get myself up by 7am, go to the breakfast buffet, then get out into the daylight for a few hours. Then come back nap for a few hours – understand this isn’t always possible for the business traveller to do.

    As others have mentioned room temperature is incredibly important for me as is sleeping with the air con switched off (where the temperature allows). I actually travel with my own travel blanket as I always find the hotel bedding to heavy and warm.


    canucklad
    Participant

    Oddly, the only time I really suffer from jet lag is arriving back in home in Scotland after flying in from home in BC !
    My trips either way to HK from Blighty don’t have much of an effect on me..

    My number one tip, and I know it’s not always possible nor practical is a an invigorating swim, ideally after a sauna/steam session..
    And if you’re staying for a few days, accustoming yourself to natural light is a must, as soon as!
    Lastly I’d suggest alcohol as a natural method of controlling your brain to sleep, but please be “Drink Aware, and drink responsibly” : )’

    My CX mate stays in hotels that totally blank out light , if his is layover is such that he wants to stay on his HK sleep cycle. Remembering that HK is a 24 hour city and London isn’t .


    nevereconomy
    Participant

    Over many years of brutal long overseas trips, I really did not find much to make an appreciable difference. Avoiding the 777 (jet lag at its worst) helps, and I did find
    avoiding those longhaul flights with an early am departure to make a small difference. In
    the final analysis you have to suck it up, get on with the workdays and the late business dinners and make the best of it. Yes, I have fallen asleep in a customer’s office in Taiwan
    in the afternoon, but they have usually experienced the same on their travels and do understand.


    stevescoots
    Participant

    For the past 8 years i have been doing UK-HK, average 3 weeks Uk, 3 weeks HK. To date i have found no magic cure or sure fire system. My routine typically is no matter what time the flight departs is to sleep as soon as possible after takeoff, either after the first service if I am hungry or forego the food. When landing force myself to adapt to the new time zone. landing in Asia will mean a couple of groggy days fixed by an occasional 2-hour nap at my desk at lunch. Sometimes i do get the inevitable staring at the bedroom ceiling at 4am so i just get up and drive to the office, amazing how productive it can be with no-one else there! When back in UK the first few days tends to be getting up at 4am, so i am working on Asia time a few days, take a nap in the afternoon for an hour or so then force myself to stay awake until around 10pm, maybe go take the dog for a walk or something like that. I found that a nightcap does not really help and whilst sleep aids can help to get some good REM sleep you tend to wake up feeling groggy, like a mini hangover


    handbag
    Participant

    When I am travelling as a passenger, try and stay awake on a day flight and sleep on a night flight.

    When I arrive, try and get nonlocal time asap. e.g. If arriving into USA , stay up as long as possible. If I arrive to Japan in the morning, stay up and have an early night.


    IanFromHKG
    Participant

    To be honest I use an unnatural (or at least non-natural) approach

    Sleeping pills

    Great for jolting you into the timezone. Fortunately, being in HK, prescription-strength sleeping pills are easy to come by (PM me if you want details of what and where!). My golden rule for years, however, was to take them only for three nights and then stop, regardless of how I felt.

    For those without access to the real deal, old-fashioned antihistamines may work, although people react to them differently and some may cause grogginess the morning after.

    As with all medications, of course, check with a doctor to ensure they are not contra-indicated. Which brings me neatly back to how I first got on to this – many years ago, when Senior Offspring was still a babe in arms and we were contemplating our first LH flight, the Memsahib took her to our trusted family doctor to ask for advice on how to cope. Expecting useful practical advice on sleeping patterns etc and natural methods to help, she was somewhat taken aback when said doctor said “well, why don’t you just drug her? I always drug mine” and helpfully prescribed aforesaid antihistamines.

    Offspring (now in their teens and studying in the UK and therefore flying regularly between HK and UK) are still offered over-the-counter sleep aids (we keep the prescription-strength stuff for ourselves – given that they sleep far more than half the time anyway!).


    seasonedtraveller
    Participant

    After many years of travelling Westbound out of the UK, I’m now travelling Eastbound much more. Particularly China, Japan, SEA and India.
    I have to admit that I’m struggling with the Eastbound jetlag, worse if it’s longer haul (11-13 hours) to HKG/PEK/PVG for example.

    Right now, I’m in the Westin Bund in Shanghai, travelling home tonight via HKG with CX and I have rested in bed until 11am this morning with just computer work to complete.

    I have tried allsorts of jetlag prevention including staying awake on day flights, no alcohol when flying, Melatonin tablets and setting my watch immediately to the arrival time zone.
    Nothing really works for me and I agree with Martyn that cabin temp (for me) is way too warm for sleep and on so many aircraft, there is no individual air control to keep you cool.

    It’s the awkward arrival times (02.30am into BOM for example) and departure times (03.00 to Colombo) that really screw me up.
    I am seriously considering arriving a full day early in future – just so that my body can cope, I’m not a young lad anymore and I find myself yawning constantly in meetings.

    If anyone has a miracle cure, I would love to know.


    Ian
    Participant

    Some really interesting ideas an insights.

    I travel regularly to Japan and tend to prefer a direct flight that arrives in the morning. I always plan for the time zone change by getting up really early in the morning I’m flying (i.e. 4am for a noon-ish flight), so that I will definitely be tired and get some sleep en route.

    I tend to eat in the lounge before I board and then only eat lightly, maybe have one glass of wine and the rest of the time drink water or maybe a cup of tea. I also set my watch for the destination time as soon as I board and try to match ‘their’ time for when to sleep, etc.

    Upon arrival, I’ll keep myself busy, ideally outside as much as I can, before getting a slightly early night and then Im fine from then on.

    Return trips are pretty similar, although flying west is always easier anyway.

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