Conquering Jet Lag like a Pro
Jet lag – the arch-nemesis of travel. Mac, Founder of Maction Planet, has travelled to over 100 countries. Straight from an expert traveller, here are several tried-and-tested tips to make sure you hit the ground running in The World’s Greatest Metropolis, and beyond.
I’ve been fortunate enough to go round-the-world 13 times. It has taken me a lot of travel, and needing to be in tip-top shape when I land, but I think I have finally found a few ways which help to at least minimise jet lag, if not banish it completely. Here are my thoughts for before, during and after the flight.
Before your flight:
Think positive: Jet lag is a state of mind
Of course, this isn’t strictly true. Jet lag is actually caused by an imbalance in the body’s chronobiology from the disruption in its circadian rhythms when crossing timezones. However, a positive attitude goes a long way to help overcome it. Don’t get caught up in conversation about how “you must be jet lagged”. When I worked as a salaryman in Tokyo, employees visiting from overseas enjoyed talking about how jet lagged they were – primarily as it gave them an excuse to do nothing for two days. As the safety briefing on the Whale Watching boat in Kaikoura, New Zealand points out “Mind over matter: If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”.
As soon as you can, start thinking in the time zone you are going to
Some people suggest starting to adjust your sleep a week before your trip, shifting your night time towards that of your destination by an hour a night. This is simply not practical for most people. As you are sat at the airport waiting for the gate to open, adjust your watch to the destination time start to think in that time. If you can, try and sleep on the flight in accordance with that new zone. After you land, do not worry about what time it is back home. You may need to schedule some calls back home, but don’t let thoughts of the time in London or New York dominate how you are feeling.
Coffee is not king
Caffeine remains in your system long after it is drunk … or even eaten (it is found in chocolate). Avoid coffee and caffeinated teas and sodas before and during your flight. Replace them by drinking plenty of water or infused herbal teas like Camomile, which has a calming effect. Best to save that coffee for when you land.
Avoid alcohol in the lounge and on the flight
The most boring advice, I know. Many focus on the dehydrating effects of alcohol, but much more disruptive is its negative effects on quality sleep. But when you land in Tokyo, you can more than make up for it, with our Craft Beer, Whisky, Shochu and Sake tours!
Seat Logistics: The Game
Business Class and First Class are not accessible to everyone. If you are in Economy, think about what seat will be more comfortable for you. I try to get a window seat, and, if possible, an emergency exit seat for the extra legroom and easy access. Sometimes, just asking for one when you check in is enough to get it. I know some of my friends feel trapped in a window seat without easy access to the toilet and a place to stretch their legs. In that case, the aisle of the centre block may be better than other aisle choices, If the person sitting next to you needs to leave their seat and you are sleeping, they can choose not disturb you and exit the other side. Also, the person sitting in the centre of this block is more likely to be travelling with the person on the other side and so is more likely to disturb them when getting out. However, make sure your seat reclines, as some seats at the back of planes do not. The flip side of an emergency exit seat is that they are often in areas of high footfall such as near lavatories and the galleys. For more seat choice help, check out seatguru.com
During your flight:
Sleep and rest as much as possible on your flight
Any sleep you do get on the flight is unlikely to be high quality, so maximise your chances of hitting the ground running by resting and sleeping as much as you can. Put the phone and iPad away. If you do have to use them, make sure the Blue Light filter is on. If you need something to help you fall asleep, grab an actual book.
Sleep kit: Engage
Dress comfortably. While you may feel self conscious in your pyjamas in economy class, at least wear something comfortable. Noise cancelling headphones are very useful, not just for watching movies: the reduction in ambient noise is a godsend for staying sane. An eye mask is key and a neck pillow is a great investment – my favourite is Ostrich Pillow, which can double as both. Use earplugs if you need them.
Don’t do drugs
I have personally never taken sleeping pills to handle a long flight. I never felt I needed it. However, some do. All these pills do is put you into a comatose state which is not the same as a good night’s sleep. If you are going to use pharmaceuticals, seek medical advice and carefully follow directions. Sleeping pills can leave you very dehydrated, they interfere with melatonin secretion and your body clock, and can increase the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis. Ambien has side effects and can be addictive if misused. I even recommend consulting with a doctor if you intend to take Melatonin.
After you land:
Keep going until local bedtime
Many flights to Tokyo, especially those from Europe, now land in the morning. Hopefully you have managed to get some rest on the plane. In any case, push through until at least 8pm. Sunlight is your friend – fresh air and sunlight are the enemies of jet lag. Direct sunlight is the most powerful stimulant for regulating your biological body clock. staying indoors will only worsen your jet lag. Although your body may be telling you to eat as it is craving energy, a heavy meal for lunch may well drain you, so be conscious of that. That coffee we told you not to have before your flight can be a great way to get you through the morning and afternoon. And, whatever you do, do not sleep during the day!
Getting straight into it
This works for some people. For others, a few hours of adjustment are required. If you are one of those people, try to make sure any business meetings you may have are scheduled when you are best able to tackle them! In my experience staying busy and having a firm plan is incredibly important – if I have my first day planned with activities booked in advance, I am much more motivated, excited and less likely to stay in my hotel room. Some of our tour guests want to be picked up from the airport and get straight into it. We make sure that we plan our tours accordingly so you adjust to the speed of The World’s Greatest Metropolis at your pace.
Do not get out of bed.
Even if you wake up in the middle of the night, stay in bed. Fight the temptation to get up, turn on the TV or head to the gym at 4am. Relax and rest even if you are not sleeping.
Although you may be suffering a little from jet lag, just remember where you are and why you are there. Whether it is in Tokyo or elsewhere on this wonderful planet of ours, enjoy the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of your new temporary home. We continue…