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Yet another jet lag question

Next May, I will be taking an Aer Lingus flight to Heathrow, arriving at around 8:05 a.m. Once I clear customs and take the train into London, I plan to go directly to my room in Lambeth North. I'd like to go to a supermarket and pick up some supplies for my self-catering flat.

A friend of mine who has traveled a lot says she wouldn't even try to sleep on the plane, considering it leaves the U.S. around 6 p.m. She said she'd stay up all night and read, then take an afternoon nap once settled into the room. Get up, have an early dinner, and then make it an early night.

What do you think about this plan? Is it better to soldier on through the day without a nap?

On my recent visit, I got to my room around 2 p.m., took a shower, went out to eat, took a long walk, and ended up going to bed around 8 p.m. Slept a full 12.5 hours, too!

Posted by
2751 posts

I found an afternoon nap was the only way I could get through the day and enjoy it with timing like yours. The nap refreshed me so I could happily go to 9-10:00 PM (although I become pretty miserable until I get that nap). I agree with your friend, don't even try to nap on the plane, just enjoy your entertainment on the flight. I found when I didn't try to sleep on the plane, I did better. Keep the nap to less than 2 hours in your hotel room. FORCE yourself to get up when the alarm wakes you. Even so, now, whenever possible, I keep to the day flight as it not painful at all. Keep in mind, everyone is different, but I hate to be miserable due to no sleep and this is the system I used/use.

Posted by
12040 posts

Every frequent traveler has their own routine that works for them. Your friend's advice would not work for me, but may for you. Try it, and if not, try something different next time.

Posted by
18021 posts

I see nothing wrong with sleeping on the plane, particularly during the last half of the flight, when it is after 10 pm Pennsylvania time (3 am London time). But don't be surprised or upset if you can't.sleep. Anything prior to that will probably be difficult because it is earlier than your body is used to sleeping normally (you will still be in a circadian rhythm based on when it is light and dark in Pennsylvania.

The most important thing is to get out in the sunlight in the morning when you get to London while it is still dark in Pennsylvania. This will start the process of adjusting your body's rhythm to the new time zone.

I don't think there is anything wrong with taking a short (1-2 hr) nap before dinner if it helps you stay awake until sleep time in your new location (that's what I always do, although I'm coming from a time zone two hours later than yours).

Posted by
6353 posts

I always try to get as much sleep as possible on an overnight flight. If I'm arriving in the AM local time, I want to behave as I would at home for that time of day. Sleeping during the day is not my normal procedure so I don't do it when I get to Europe. I power through, stay outdoors as much as possible (if weather permits), have an early light dinner and go to bed early (by early I mean about 9pm). I usually sleep through the night and get up ready to go the next morning.

What works for your friend, or what works for me (or anyone else), may or may not work for you. Only after experiencing international travel a few times will you know how you are affected (or not) by jet-lag and what method of combating it works for you.

Posted by
6742 posts

I never pass up a chance to sleep on the plane, especially on an overnight flight.

Posted by
16866 posts

I always try to sleep on an overnight flight as that is the only solution that eases jet lag for me. However, I rarely accomplish the goal and have decided that giving up and using available entertainment beats painfully trying and trying to sleep when you just are not comfortable. After that happens, then a nap at the destination feels pretty necessary, even though it doesn't help the jet lag issue.

Posted by
31303 posts


My jet lag strategy is always "a work in progress" so it's a bit different with each trip. Rather than follow any particular recovery method, my tactic lately is just to be guided by how I feel. If I feel like sleeping on the flight, I sleep. If I feel like having a short nap when I arrive, that's what I do. If I feel energetic after landing and want to explore for a few hours before having a nap, I do that. I never plan any sightseeing for arrival day so that I can be flexible.

I don't think there's a "one size fits all" solution to jet lag. Everyone has to find the method that works best for them.

Posted by
2514 posts

My theory is that as soon as I step into the airport at home I am mentally on the time at my destination. So if I arrive at the airport at 4 eastern time, I mentally think of it as 10PM. So, yes, I would sleep on the plane if at all possible. 6PM is 11 in London, I think, so whenever I was able to sleep I would do so. I would then arrive In the morning, eat breakfast, and try to not sleep until 9PM at the earliest. Then sleep until a normal waking time the next day and be done with jet lag. Works for me, but everyone has their own method. I think the mental aspect is important - you live fully by the time where you are and you adjust quicker.

Posted by
170 posts

I am usually awake on the plane and rest or try to sleep once I get to my destination. I cannot sleep on a plane. Now, because I am older than 50, I cannot sleep once I get to my destination, so I just relax in the hotel. I am usually fine the second full day. I've mostly followed this pattern for 13 trips outside of North America.

Posted by
3829 posts

I nap on the plane as much as possible. For your arrival time, I try to walk around outside as much as possible, take a short nap in the afternoon (set the alarm!), go out for dinner, walking around, and then go to sleep early. I'm usually pretty good the first full day of the trip using this method.

Posted by
823 posts

For me personally, I don't nap upon arrival when traveling eastward. I have found, via personal experience, that it greatly delays the re-setting of my body clock to the new time zone. My strategy is to try to sleep on the flight (no easy task for me) and then gut it out on the day of arrival. Walking, getting fresh air, and seeing the sights helps. Then I retire for the evening between 8:00 and 10:00. When I wake in the morning, my body clock is usually firmly established to the new time zone.

Good luck.

Posted by
19161 posts

As far as I'm concerned, anything that yields a normal wake-up time and only minimal jet-lag on Day 2 (first full day in Europe) is a success. I can't imagine making an effort not to sleep on the plane. A few hours' sleep on the plane is highly unlikely to keep you awake till the wee hours on your first night. What it will do is make it easier to get up from your arrival-day afternoon nap if you find you need one.

Posted by
261 posts

I say don't take a nap when you arrive and get outside upon arrival no matter the weather. Fresh air and adrenalin keep me going until bedtime around 9 pm local. The side benefit is I always wake up around 4 am the first morning in Europe, and this has afforded me some wonderful early morning "alone time" in places like Bath and Amsterdam!

Posted by
3492 posts

We try to get as much sleep as possible during the flight and then treat the first day as a normal day. Get to the hotel, check in, shower up, get some lunch, and then--and this is what really helps--stay outside in the sun walking about in the fresh air. Then an early dinner around 8 to 9 p.m. and off to bed. No jet lag the next day. Not saying this will work for everyone, maybe we're just lucky, but it has always worked for us.

Posted by
433 posts

I generally agree with the fresh-air and sunshine theory but I am a bit worried about my next trip when the sun will set very early. Staying awake to local bedtime is important but the sunlight is what really resets the internal clock. Are there any effective strategies for jetlag when traveling around Christmas with the shortest days of the year?

Posted by
4536 posts

I once tried the don't rest and stay up until normal bedtime theory (albeit coming home) and never felt so shattered for days. It is so much a personal thing.

Posted by
98 posts

We travel quite a lot too. On overnight flights, I try to sleep as much as possible. After arriving at my destination, I try to spend as much time outside as possible and then go to bed around 9 pm local time. Afternoon naps make me grumpy and make it harder for me to sleep at night.

Posted by
697 posts

I am one that simply cannot sleep well on an airplane. I usually nap in the last leg of the flight by only for a few minutes. Once I tried taking a sleeping pill prescribed by my doctor. It worked fine at home but on the plane I was sick to my stomach for about 3 hours of the flight. Never again. Once we get where we're going, we unpack, get groceries if needed then go for a nice walk then retire pretty early (about 9pm). On Day 2, we're ready to go.

Posted by
395 posts

I'm with Mira. I don't want my traveling companions reminding me what time it is at home. Set your watch on the plane and just go with the local time. Fortunately my husband usually gets hours of sound sleep on the flight, so at least one of us is somewhat clear-headed on arrival. Still we plan no driving or only a short drive on that first day. We're flying into Dublin on our next trip and taking the ferry over to Holyhead; I booked a cabin with beds so we can nap before landing in Wales. I'm hoping that works out well and those of us who normally can't sleep on the plane will be ready for an afternoon of sights.

Posted by
4763 posts

I wish I could sleep on planes but I can manage only a few naps at best on the 9-hour flights from this coast. We try to leave late in the day so we get to Europe around midday the following day, then stay up in the daylight till after dinner and have a long sleep then. This usually works but not always. If we landed early in the morning like you will, I don't know if I could get through the day without a nap. I'm pretty sure my wife couldn't.

But if sleeping on the plane is possible for you, then by all means do it! The less sleep-deprived you are on arrival, the easier that first day will be. No reason to stay awake deliberately in flight, unless you really really want to watch those movies and reruns. ;-)

Posted by
198 posts

I never can sleep on any flights....

I went to England this past year (April May) left LA at 5pm got to London at around 1ish, then hopped another flight to Scotland...I was quite dead, forced myself to stay awake until 10pm. Its feasible to do things with little sleep, just don't be driving a whole lot. The next day was a bit like having a horrible hangover... Although since you get in at 8am....I'd try to stay awake until 5pm. I managed to do this once while going to China...a lovely 12 hour flight from LAX to Beijing arriving at 4am....As long as you aren't driving, its possible.... just be careful when crossing the streets since the traffic is coming from the opposite direction.

Posted by
12400 posts


What works for one person in avoiding being shattered, wiped out, zoned out upon landing is a personal thing. I would be glad if the transatlantic flight from SFO landed at 0800 or so. When I fly over from SFO, two things I can count on, the flight being 11 hours, direct, and that I'll sleep. How long is the question? At best 6.5 to 7 hrs, at worst 3.5 to 4 hrs. I eat the the hot dinner served with a little red wine (if included), take my after dinner coffee or tea, then try to fall asleep. If I'm lucky, I will have slept one hour prior to dinner.

Main thing is to resist the temptation to watch the movies, focusing on sleeping instead. I leave my watch set on west coast time, changing it only upon landing. It's best time and energy wise when I land between 0900 to 1100. Depending on how much sleep I got on the flight, which varies from flight to flight...pure chance, I am good to go once I clear Immigration and Baggage Claim. Do I take a nap when I get to the hotel? No, usually doesn't work anyway. I go for a hot lunch instead at the train station or a pub. Do I try to get to the museum before it closes at 1700...sometimes,...depends.

Posted by
902 posts

I have only had one overseas trip (so far). I don't know if my reading everything I could get my hands on about jet lag helped or I was just lucky. I get up a 5 am local time for work, I generally have a hard time getting a good night's rest, and luckily am a fairly good napper. After reading and listening to advice these are the things I did for my trip.

  • I bought a ticket for the best seat I could afford. Since I thought that I was only going to take one lifetime trip, I got first class. Now this is a problem because I contracted the travel bug and would like to travel more economically so I can go again. For my upcoming trip I am flying out first class and then back economy plus. I hate flying and feeling claustrophobic.
  • I got up at 4 am the day of my trip and exercised for an hour (long walk with the dog) before going to the airport for 1st leg.
  • I ate light for breakfast and lunch and then had a filling dinner during my layover.
  • I walked about 2 miles during my layover and took one benadryl before boarding. No alcohol.
  • I declined the dinner on the transatlantic flight and reclined my seat as soon as possible. I asked the flight attendant to wake me in time for me to eat breakfast and have hot tea on the flight.

I had a great 5.5 hours of sleep on the almost 7 hour flight. After landing about 8 am I just picked from my list of things to do. I went at a pace that suited me. I was on my own so nobody else to worry about. I even went to a fairy-telling dinner that ended at 11 pm. I slept well that night, got up early about 6:30 am, stayed busy and met my tour at 4 pm. I hope I am this lucky again. I think it was important to go one day before the tour started.

So my advice is read what has worked and not worked for other people and try to guess what will be best for you knowing your own particular quirks and habits. I hope you get some good luck too.

Posted by
491 posts

Wow, these are all quite different suggestions. I guess I will have to play it by ear and see what works this time around. At least I know what I am in for regarding customs and flight delays. I don't know if I was more tolerant when I was younger, but I don't remember a lot of hassle on my first trips to London in the 1980s.

Posted by
1173 posts

If you can sleep on the plane after watching a couple of movies, do so. You will need all the rest you can get. Then when you land an get to your hotel, try to go out and get some food and walk around. I never go to a museum the first day, but if the weather is good, walk around, see the sights. Then go to bed early to get up refreshed the next day. What you did last visit sounds like a good plan. You may also find that you are getting used to the plane flight as you did it last year. The more you fly it gets a bit easier as you are going to London, shorter time than say Rome. Much longer flight. Jet lag is jet lag and you have to let your body rest and sleep.

Posted by
491 posts

I'm actually considering bidding for an upgrade on my flight to Heathrow. I lucked out last year and was able to sleep on the flight over, because I had both the window and aisle seats to myself. I'm afraid I won't be able to sleep in an upright position and will arrive a completely miserable wretch.

Though I'm counting the days, a bit of anxiety is starting to kick in!