A Pilot's Guide To Combat Jet Lag Featured

Sleep. One of the most important nutrients your body needs, but if you’re honest with yourself, how high up your list of priorities is it?

by Suneil Banerjee 10 October 2017


Work, family, social life, gym, more work. Sleep is what you get when all those things are done, right?


Sleep is essential for the human body to recover and repair after the stresses and strains that the day places on our bodies and minds. Research has found that the brain builds new connections with other parts of the brain as a result of new experiences during a normal day. During sleep, it appears that the import new connections are strengthened and the not so important ones are discarded.
But what if your normal day isn’t quite so normal? What if your normal day has you working through the night and arriving in a time zone 8 hours ahead of where you just left? Welcome to jet lag, my friends.

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Jet lag is classed as a Behavioral Sleep Disorder and although you can’t stop this from happening, there are certain things you can do to help get your body clock back on track.
So, what’s the best way to deal with jet lag? It’s very much a case of find out what works for you, but here are my favourite methods to deal with it...

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Set your watch to destination time as soon as you take off.

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Jet lag is the difference between what time your body thinks it is and what time it actually is. The only way to get over it is to match the two up. With your watch set to destination time, try and eat and sleep to that new time zone during the flight. If you’d be having lunch in the new time zone, have lunch on the flight. If you’d be sleeping in the new time zone, try and sleep on the flight. If you need to bring food with you, or a sleep mask and ear plugs, do what you need to do.

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When you land, keep to local time.


It’s very easy to land after a long flight and go for a sleep because your body is telling you it’s the middle of the night. This tends to be the case when traveling west. Don’t do it! Try and stay up till 10pm and then you’ll sleep a full night like a hero. Conversely, when heading east, set an alarm for your normal wake up time and make sure you actually get up. Keeping the curtains slightly open will let sunlight in, waking you naturally and peacefully. If you really can’t keep your eyes open, a quick 90-minute nap is fine, but make sure you set an alarm and get up when it goes off.

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Keep the room temperature cool

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To achieve sleep, our body has to cool down and reach a certain temperature. So, a cool room, no more than 21 degrees Celsius usually promotes better sleep. My personal preference is 19 degrees – you can always pull another duvet over yourself if you get too cold!

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Hot and busy day? Have a cool shower before bed

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You know how fresh you feel when you have a shower first thing in the morning? The same benefits can be felt by having a cool shower before bed. Our bodies accumulate more grime and sweat during a normal day than we’d like to admit. I’m sure we’re all well aware of that if it’s been a particularly warm day. By having a cool shower before bed, your pores are clearer and your body fresher enabling you to relax into a better quality of sleep.

 

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Exercise!

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A personal favourite of mine, exercise invigorates your body and mind, makes you feel less lethargic and promotes better quality of sleep. Even a gentle walk outdoors in natural daylight is a great way to help you stay awake when trying to adapt to a new time zone.

Suneil is a Senior First Officer for British Airways on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Follow him on Instagram @the787dreamlife and the787dreamlife.com

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