Top 10 tips to tackle jet lag

by Dominic 25/01/2013 13:05:00

Flying is awesome, for the first
20 minutes or so.

Firstly, Visa Bureau and STA Travel's flight competition is still on, book your flights to Australia from STA Travel before 31 March and you could win the cost of your flight back, up to £1000!

No matter where you're coming from, Australia is far away - almost as far as you can get, meaning it's going to take you a while to get there. While travelling thousands of miles to literally the other side of the world only adds to the sense of adventure, it also has one large negative: jet lag.

Your working holiday visa allows you to stay in Australia for a year, while this may feel like all the time in the world to adjust to your new surroundings, the reality is your year will fly by and you'll be applying for your second year visa or getting on the plane back to the rain in no time.

Because of this, it'd be great if everyone could jump off the plane, hit the nearest bar/beach/barbecue/koala in the face and feel fine but seeing as most people have travelled from the opposite side of the world to get to Australia, jet lag rears its ugly head and reduces lots of people's first few days to a strange insomnia-riddled world of boredom and frustration until they can adjust.

We at the Visa Bureau have had some experiences with travel (over half our London office are Aussies and Kiwis) so we've asked around the office for everyone's favourite tips to deal with jetlag.

What is jet lag and why do we get it?

Jet lag is our bodies' inability to cope with a sudden change in routine. It usually happens after a long haul flight through several time zones and can affect your sleep patterns, appetite, blood pressure and bowels.

We get it for one simple reason: we aren't supposed to fly. Our body clocks are mechanisms that have carefully evolved over thousands and thousands of years to know that when the sun comes up, you eat your breakfast, when the sun goes down, you go to sleep.

So what happens when you go careening through the air at a million miles per hour to land in a strange place where then sun comes up when you're putting your pyjamas on isn't exactly the most natural of processes.

Thankfully, jet lag isn't known to cause any long term harmful effects and while its effects aren't the most pleasant, there are several things you can do to lessen its effects and get going with your working holiday quicker.

Before you go


Sort your jet lag and avoid falling
asleep on the beach or with your
face on a barbecue.

  • Get a start on your new routine: The sooner you adjust to the cycle in Australia the sooner you can start having fun. If you start while you're still at home, it won't come as such a shock to your system.
  • While you don't have to stay up all night and sleep through the day, a shift of around four hours should be enough to dampen the effects.

  • Change your clocks: OK, so this might be more of a psychological trick than anything physical but most people check the time absentmindedly. Having your watch or phone tell you the time in Australia can help ease you into a new time zone.
  • Book your flights to arrive early afternoon (Australian time): Unless you can afford the luxuries of business or first class (in which case you can probably just pay someone to pamper your jet lag away), sleeping on planes isn't easy for most people.
  • Even without the time zone change, plenty arrive off the flight exhausted from hours upon hours in a pressurised cabin of re-circulated air and the first thing you'll want to do is hit the hay.

    However, arriving in the early afternoon allows you to get a good dose of Vitamin D producing sunlight, get to grips with your surroundings and then go to bed at a normal time.

  • Stop over: As above, flying for so long will take its toll. Getting off for a few hours might only prolong the journey but having the chance to get off the plane and walk around for a few hours as well as experience and intermediate time zone will allow you to recover quicker.
On the plane
  • Stay awake: At least on the first leg. Napping will only serve to disrupt your sleep pattern further and any sleep you get on a plane is unlikely to be fitful so while the in flight entertainment might have lost its charm hours ago and the guy next to you might be unbelievably dull, resisting the urge to fall asleep will pay dividends later.
  • Go to sleep: Two conflicting points here but unless your working holiday is your first time on a plane, you probably have some experience with jet lag already, even if you've never been as far before. Strictly a personal choice, but some sleep aids such as Kalms, a face mask or neck cushion might let you get over the gap in your cycle.
  • Drink plenty of water: It's not just sleep that jetlag affects; it can throw plenty of your body's vital systems out of whack. The most important is your hydration levels. Allowing yourself to become dehydrated will only make you more tired and worsen the effects of jet lag.
  • Drink plenty of water on a regular basis; eating properly will help too.

When you arrive
  • Get outside: The first thing you should do is get some fresh air - if it's light, even better. Natural light will do wonders for your body's adjustment while fresh air will help to regulate your systems once more.
  • Exercise: While this might be the last thing on your mind, remember that tiredness isn't the only symptom of jetlag. Being awake in at 3 in the morning because your body clock thinks it is 2 in the afternoon is just as unpleasant.
  • Getting a bit of exercise in the day, even when you're exhausted, will allow you to sleep better come nightfall and let your body recharge itself.

And finally we have the strangest tip in the list:

  • Shine a light at the back of your knee. No, we're not kidding, even though there's no word in the English language for the back of the knee, there are light receptors there that can influence your body clock.
  • Shining a light on the back of your knee can help jar your body clock into a new time zone, don't believe us? Click here for some jargon.

It's still a possibility that you could follow all this and then still suffer from jetlag. The best thing you can do is resist the temptation to sleep when you're tired and force yourself into the new routine.

- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor with the Australian Visa Bureau, an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications for a Working Holiday Visa to Australia.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

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