Insomnia, an upset stomach, difficulty concentrating, nausea, anxiety and a loss of appetite: while far-flung holidays are dreamy, the impact of a long-haul flight can be far from it.
Jet lag is something that Todd Bliwise knows a little about. The luxury travel agent clocks up between 200,000 and 300,000 air miles every year, and over his globe-trotting career he reckons he’s figured out how to avoid feeling rubbish when he reaches a new destination.
According to Bliwise, who was recently profiled at Bloomberg, defeating jet-lag requires following a simple two-point plan.
Step one: help yourself to sleep
“My father is a sleep researcher, and I always bring sleeping pills on a plane,” says Bliwise. “Just be careful how you use them.”
He observes that some sleeping pills can affect you for around eight hours – so if you take one at the start of a six-hour flight, you’re going to feel discombobulated for a couple of hours after touching down. In other words, timing is key.
Sometimes, Bliwise says, he takes a sleeping pill “in the lounge before I board, to be as efficient as possible, and the worst thing that’s ever happened to me is I fell asleep during dessert.”
It’s relatively difficult to obtain prescription sleeping tablets in the UK, and for good reason: like all medicines, the pills can have side effects. It’s also comparatively easy to become dependent on some types of sleeping medication.
However, you can purchase mild and safe sleeping tablets, such as Nytol, over the counter in pharmacies. Herbal remedies are also often effective: valerian root, a traditional medicine used to aid sleep, is used in both Kalms Night pills and Boots’ Sleepeaze Herbal Tablets. There’s one more thing to add to your carry-on bag.
Step two: hit the ground running
Exercise might be the last thing you feel like doing after a ten-hour flight, but Bliwise says a pair of running shoes “are as vital as the sleeping pills” in defeating jet lag.
“The greatest way to explore a new city is by running, because you cover twice as much ground as you would walking, and my father told me that one of the best things to fight off jet lag is exercise,” he tells Bloomberg.
There’s plenty of research supporting the theory that exercise can help our bodies adjust to a time change and return to our normal internal body clocks, or circadian rhythm. In one study, hamsters were exposed to an artificially-created new time zone. It was found that hamsters who ran on an exercise wheel adjusted to the new time zone in just a day and a half – while those who did no exercise took more than eight days to adjust. Spending time outdoors in natural light will also help your body adjust to a new routine following a flight.
So there you have it. Consider your next holiday hacked.