Published Originally: December 17, 2019
by Victoria Crawshaw, Across the Pond Student Ambassador
Studying at: University of Southampton
Some slightly unfortunate complications of studying ‘across the pond’ are long (sometimes overnight) plane journeys and a five to eleven-hour time difference, depending on where you call home. Although these definitely become easier to adjust to, jet lag can still be an unwanted side effect of many hours of traveling, no matter how much of a seasoned traveler you may be. So, here are some handy tips on how to overcome jet lag:
Before you Fly
If it’s possible, I always try to adjust my body clock close to the new time zone before I even step foot in the airport. Starting a few days before my flight, I will push the time I go to sleep and wake up a bit earlier, until, ideally, I am waking up at what would be a reasonable time in the new time zone. For example, since I call Florida home, there is a five-hour time difference between there and the UK – so I would aim to wake up at around 4-5 am (which would be 9-10 am in the UK) on the day of my flight. This clearly works better the closer you are to the UK in terms of time zones – I can definitely see how this could be difficult for those of you on the west coast! But regardless, the closer you are able to get to the UK time zone, the better off you’ll be once you arrive – plus, I’ve found this strategy also helps me sleep better on overnight flights!
On the Flight
Try and avoid eating a large meal late into the evening – many airlines will serve food as late as 11 PM local time, and as much as I find myself tempted (I AM paying for it, after all), this can make it difficult to fall asleep on the flight. Avoiding caffeine and energy drinks is also a smart idea – its best to stick to water in order to keep yourself hydrated.
Trying to create a comfortable sleeping environment can sometimes be difficult, especially if your flight is full – but there are some things that can help! Packing a neck pillow and a blanket (or a cozy sweater or jacket) can help you to stay warm and replicate the feeling of being in bed. An eye mask and earplugs can also help with blocking out any lights or sounds that are bothering you.
After you Arrive
If your flight arrives in the late morning or afternoon, the best thing you can do for yourself is to stay awake! A short nap may be very tempting, but it can ultimately lead to worse jet lag. If you can, try to stay active and go outside – exposure to the daylight and exercise can both help you overcome jet lag quicker and will keep you alert and awake. Try your best to eat meals at the local time (yes, this sadly means avoiding midnight snacks), and aim to fall asleep at a reasonable time for your new time zone. If you’re really struggling to get to sleep, a warm cup of chamomile tea or natural supplements such as melatonin can help you get to sleep quicker.
The quicker you are able to overcome jet lag, the quicker you will be able to fully dive into your new (or continued) adventure in the UK!
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