Pilots And Flight Attendants Shared Their Best Advice For Beating Jet Lag When Jumping Across Time Zones
If you’ve ever jumped more than two or three time zones in one day then you’ve at least felt the bare minimum of jet lag, but if you’ve ever flown across the pond or halfway across the world then you know how devastating jet lag can be. I’ve got some long ass flights coming up in the next two months so when I saw this advice from pilots and flight attendants on how they deal with jet lag I found it to be very useful, and I hope you bros do too. So much of this advice is conflicting from person to person, and it’s interesting to see how everyone differs (via AskReddit):
Commercial Pilot / FA here: it depends how long you are staying at a place and/or how important it is to quickly adjust back to your home timezone. When I’m somewhere for less than four local nights or have an important appointment coming up, I normally try to not adjust to the local time. This can be quite hard, but most of the time it’s worth it.
Sunlight and the times you’re eating makes a difference. Make sure to have no light in your room when you want to sleep and set a color filter on your phone to only show the red color channel. Avoid bright lights, especially blue lights, during these times. Eat according to the timezone you want to adjust to. Try to limit your alcohol / caffeine intake to the bare minimum.
Always remember, it takes a long time to adjust, 1day per 1h20m difference for westbound flights and 1 day per 40 minutes difference for eastbound flights. During this time where you’re not fully adjusted you will most likely experience fatigue, sleeping problems and lack of concentration.
I would stay up according to the destination’s local time as long as I could and crash when it gets dark to adjust quickly to local time.. depending on the timing of my departure call time will be. Sometimes I maintain my usual home sleeping timing if it fits my departure schedule, i.e. if my departure time is morning according to my home ground time.
I don’t. I just suffer.
Going back to working domestic next month, god willing.
Airline Pilot here, I can tell you this much, my body never gets used to it. We have four day long trips that’ll start with a 4pm flight and midnight end. Day 2 will have a noon start with a 7pm end. Day 3 starts at 7am and ends around 5pm and the last day may have a 5am show. The time changes and the jet lag don’t really do anything, it’s the lack of a circadian rhythm. Sleep apnea is a major issue with airline crew members. What I’ve learned to do though is just wake up when I have to wake up and find sleep when I can. There’s a lot of cat napping. If we don’t swap the plane out after a flight and have a two hour break, there’s a good chance flight attendants or pilots might be sleeping for a half hour or so in the first class seats.
On days off it sucks because sometimes I wants to be awake until 4am or in bed by 8. It really annoys the SO and rarely do we ever have a nice night sleeping without waking her up every two hours because I can’t sleep.
My wife is a flight attendant and she basically always stays on home time and doesn’t even try to adjust to local time for such short durations. Being a flight attendant really is a great job, but it can be very tiring and physically demanding at times.
I’m not a flight attendant but my global HQ is 9 hours difference, which is brutal.
The trick to minimizing jet lag for me is to switch eating and sleeping to where ever I’m at. I try to time my arrival for late afternoon and depart early in the morning.
Eating on schedule is easy of course, sleeping not so much, since I’m usually getting my second wind in the late afternoon. What works for me is to take 3-5 mg melatonin with a couple beers a few hours after dinner and put myself to bed. I make the room as dark as possible, even cover any small lights long like on the alarm clock. I listen to a podcast or if I’m really awake I have a sleep hypnosis track that helps. Also, sometimes take a long hot shower and do some yoga or get a massage.
Set all devices to local time, don’t think about what time it is at home – colleagues are constantly asking and I just tell them “9 hours earlier than now”.
My last night, I stay up until my flight home the next AM and sleep on the plane.
my friend’s girlfriend is an attendant, and she found that time zone changes are super manageable if you fuck anyone that looks at you.
I travel extensively for work all over the world, and besides forcing yourself to stay up until dark in the new time zone, taking 3mg melatonin (it’s available in the supplements section of any pharmacy in the US without a prescription) 1 hour before I want my new bed time helps to reset my circadian rhythm. I can adapt to 9 hour time differences and feel 100% after 2-3 days of this.
I’m a former flight attendant. The rough schedules are why I am not a current flight attendant.
I would take a melatonin 8 hours before my wake up call regardless of what time it was. It was better than nothing but it was still incredibly rough.
Husband of cabin crew here. Seems the answer is to sit in bed all day when you’re home and put little or no effort into helping around the house. Being cranky and complaining about everything might be optional, not sure…
I’m an international flight attendant and you pretty much don’t deal with it… jet lag is a part of my personality now
Not a FA, but a friend is one.
Years ago when he was still an addict, he used to go to sex clubs near the airport after snorting a bit of meth for a good pep and getting fucked until it was about time to head back to work. He would take a power nap and head back to work.
Now he just works the gates for the airline.
Domestic US FA here who is based in the midwest. Time change isn’t a huge deal considering it’s at most 2 hours. Mostly I’d just find myself waking up early while on the west coast. What is harder are the very long days and the inconstant schedule. Example, working at 5am one day then the next day not working until noon and getting done at midnight etc.
Not an FA but I’ve been traveling a lot for work lately (NA, Europe, Asia). I find that it’s really important to keep your caffeine as alcohol intake relatively low while repeatedly flying long-haulage, and it’s also really inportant to make the mental switch to the new time zone as soon as possible. (IE if I am flying London to Bangkok, and the flight leaves London at 1pm and lands in Bangkok at 5am, with a 7 hour time difference, I set my watch to Bangkok time as soon as I check in for my flight, and eat “dinner” instead of “lunch” even though it’s only 11:30 in the morning.)
If nothing else works, I’ve gotten really good at cat naps in trains and taxis, and will take a Benadryl before bed to try and force my body to sleep for 7-8 hours if at all possible.
I travel a bit with the military, but don’t have in-flight duties. My routine is based off landing time. If I’m landing in the morning or early afternoon I drink a lot in the airport and sleep the whole flight waking up refreshed in the morning at my destination. If landing at night I force my self to stay awake for the flight drink a little when landing and wake up the next morning good to go. I know a lot of people say to avoid alcohol, but it works for me. It’s a drug you just have to know how it will effect you and the dosage you need.
Aid worker who does a lot of long haul here. A lot of it is psychological. I treat the flight as a chance to switch off (even though I hate flying) and enjoy it as a time zone neutral experience. I nap where I can. I never look at clocks and when I’ve landed I don’t get fixated with the home time. I keep myself totally present in that countries time zone and take 3mg of melatonin before sleep time if my body feels like it needs it. In saying that, I have lived in a lot of countries and have nearests and dearests in multiple time zones. I am mentally aware of their time but don’t personalize it. I am also a really bad sleeper and I use away time to catch up on sleep. So now, even in an unsafe country I tend to sleep like a baby. I;ve been refining this for years. It works!
After reading through all of these I’m convinced that there is no single ‘best practice’ for combatting jet lag. Everyone marches to the beat of a different drum, both psychologically and physiologically, and it seems like everyone needs to experiment with a variety of best practices before finding what works best. You can keep on reading through the AskReddit thread for more advice by clicking here.