Cathay Pacific

How to Get Over Jet Lag: 7 Tips from an Aviation Insider

Good sleep routines and watching what you eat play a part in beating jet lag, but that’s not all, says Nina McGrath, Group Safety Manager – Fatigue Risk Management Systems, Cathay Pacific

What is jet lag?

Jet lag is a bunch of symptoms we get because our body clock is out of sync with local time. In aviation we say ‘west is best’, because if you fly to the west, you acclimatise by one and a half hours a day on average, but it’s only one hour per day if you fly east.

CX-Nina-Mcgrath-Yung-Harmony-Calm-Sleep-Stories-Audio
Credit: Yung's Harmony

What can you do to adapt to your new time quicker?

You need to tell your body clock what time it is. Sunlight is the most effective way of doing this: if you maximise daylight, that sends the right message to your body – all the more if you combine that with some light exercise. It’s better to have lunch when it’s lunchtime, and not to go to bed until bedtime, although it’s OK to have a short nap if you feel you are not going to make it. Going to bed when it’s dark will also help.

What can you do to maximise sleep at night?

Good sleep hygiene applies no matter the time zone. Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, particularly in the afternoon or evening. Avoid the blue light from mobile devices. This tells your brain it’s daytime – so use the night function on your phone. Make a nice sleep environment where you can control your comfort, light, noise and temperature.

What if you wake up and can’t get back to sleep?

Try a meditation app like Calm, or listen to an audiobook or a podcast, but nothing too exciting – just something to stop your brain calculating how much time there is before you need to get up.

Tips For Getting Over Jet Lag

tips for jet lag
Illustration: Bay Leung

1. Eat and sleep in step with your destination. Pilots and crew often try to stay on their home time when they travel, but you probably won’t want to.

2. Turn on the filter that stops blue light coming from your mobile devices to trick your brain into the right time zone.

3. Don’t go to bed hungry or too full, avoid spicy foods and skip cheese if it gives you bad dreams.

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