HOW TO// Get Over Jet Lag Like a Flight Attendant
In my two and a half years as an international flight attendant, I have gone through more time zone changes than I thought was humanly possible. It's normal in my line of work to fly four to five international roundtrips (or more) a month. That's eight to ten, 15-hour, flights in 30 days. It's a lot of travel and a lot of jet lag. So who's better to dish out tips and tricks than a heel-wearing, beef or chicken asking, time change pro? Here's what I've learned along the way:
Plan on not sleeping on the plane
I often see passengers bringing pillows and pajamas onboard with dreams of spending their entire long-haul flight fast asleep. Bad news. That rarely happens. Whether it be turbulence, loud seat mates, or just normal airplane discomfort, getting a full night's rest on an airplane is rare. Try to get as much sleep as possible before your flight departs. To ensure I get get a jumpstart on jet lag, I usually plan a 2-3 hour nap before I get to the airport.
Invest in eyeshades and earplugs
Eyeshades and earplugs are my #1 secret to sleeping on an airplane. The cabin lights, movement of fellow passengers, and screaming babies make shut-eye hard. Eyeshades and earplugs (and/or headphones) give a bit a privacy and allow you to tune out the world.
Stay up until nightfall at your destination
Do not nap as soon as you land. Try and stay up for as long as you can and then fall asleep whenever the sun sets. If that happens at 6pm, that's totally okay. It's important to 'trick' yourself into the right time zone even if that means staying up for an abnormal amount of hours. Apps like Timeshifter can help ease the sleep confusion.
If you must nap...
Nap for only a few hours and set multiple alarms. I cannot stress this enough. There's a high probability that you will have no recollection of turning off your alarm after 30 hours of traveling (speaking from experience). Napping and sleeping through the alarms is the best way to assure you will have a terrible time adjusting to the proper time zone.
Take a walk
In a weird jet lagged state, fresh air is about the only thing that wakes me up. Take a walk a few hours after arrival to get a quick of burst energy or save it post nap to wake yourself back up.
Forgo coffee and alcohol
Did you know caffeine does absolutely nothing for you when your jet lagged? And alcohol will make you feel even worst? Okay, those are scientifically proven facts but veterans of the airline industry will tell you...coffee and drinks will not help you feel any better. You will still feel tired and zombie-like after spending $6 on an airport cappuccino. Skip them for the first day.
Water, water, water
All flight attendants will tell you that our number one 'secret' is water. We drink giant bottles during and after every flight we work. The Aerospace Medical Association suggests 8 ounces of water per hour flown. That's a lot of water to remember drinking. Instead of annoying your flight crew by ringing your call bell every five minutes, bring your own bottle (I carry an empty water bottle with me and fill it up at an airport water fountain).
Photo by Steve Halama