Please sign in to post.

Curbing jet lag with a big breakfast after the flight

I saw this article in the Washington Post this morning (gifted - no paywall) that said that eating a hearty breakfast at your final destination can reduce jet lag in older adults. This was based on a recent study done by Northwestern University and the Santa Fe Institute. There were a few other suggestions in the article as well, like skipping a late meal the evening before.

Seems a no brainer to me. I love to eat breakfast. You should probably skip the mimosa, though. 😊 https://wapo.st/3Z7Avjm

Posted by
2297 posts

I must be one of the fortunate ones - never any jet lag going over the Atlantic, I'm ready to rock on arrival.

Returning to this side of the Atlantic well, that has been hit and miss on some issues.

Posted by
2267 posts

You should probably skip the mimosa, though.

Dealbreaker!!

Posted by
6281 posts

Hahahahahaha, Scudder!!!! Yeah, that's a tough requirement. :)

periscope, I'm the same - hardly any jet lag heading east but it hits full force when I get back.

Posted by
3105 posts

It seems odd though that a big breakfast would not make you even more sleepy afterwards!

Posted by
548 posts

I generally also adjust better in the eastbound direction, but I've always wondered if that's because when I fly from North America to Europe, I am going on vacation (and generally being more active, getting more sun exposure, walking around, etc. -- all those things that are supposed to aid in jet lag) but when I fly back from Europe to North America I'm just going back to work (i.e. nothing exciting, sitting in my office / home office, etc. -- sitting indoors catching up on email doesn't exactly quicken the heart!)

I'd be curious to know if European residents flying to North America feel differently, especially if they're coming to North America on vacation and being more active.

Posted by
6281 posts

It seems odd though that a big breakfast would not make you even more sleepy afterwards!

I don't know but the article explains it pretty well. There's also a link to the actual study they did. I found this part interesting, though.

As we age, our network of circadian clocks is more prone to misalignment, but it’s not yet clear why this happens, researchers say. It could be, in part, because the lens of our eyes turn yellow over time, affecting how we perceive light and changes in brightness.

I had no idea...

Posted by
6281 posts

I generally also adjust better in the eastbound direction, but I've always wondered if that's because when I fly from North America to Europe, I am going on vacation (and generally being more active, getting more sun exposure, walking around, etc. -- all those things that are supposed to aid in jet lag) but when I fly back from Europe to North America I'm just going back to work (i.e. nothing exciting, sitting in my office / home office, etc. -- sitting indoors catching up on email doesn't exactly quicken the heart!)

It would be interesting to see what Europeans say about this, but I do know that since I've retired, I don't just sit at my desk all day when I get back. I am usually pretty active around the house, and will try to get out and walk and go places. And yet I still get jet lag worse after coming home. Now I am not as active as I am when on a trip, but I'm not that far off, either.

Posted by
277 posts

I read that article in the Post yesterday too mardee. Thanks for gifting it here. Really interesting research. We were really anticipating jet lag when we got to London from the red eye east coast flight, but did great. Did eat our in flight meals, get a nice (big? Not sure how to qualify oatmeal and croissants) breakfast, but did follow the advice many suggested to stay up and outside walking around the whole arrival day. I think that really was the ticket for us.

Coming back, though, kicked all of our tushies! The youngins included! Took me about 3 into 4 days to feel normal.

Worth every second of misery though! 😂

Posted by
7261 posts

” Using the model, they found that it may take five days for a person’s circadian clock to acclimate to a six-hour time difference on a trip flying west and six days for a trip east. For older adults, the model predicted it may take seven and nine days respectively.
The model’s predictions echo findings in similar studies on mice, the researchers say. They cautioned, however, that the results depicting a decline in the circadian clock’s ability to acclimate to the new environment as humans age needs to be borne out in clinical trials.”

As a former engineer, I’m always interested in new scientific studies, but I also question hypothesis without clinical trials to support their conclusion. So, I’m curious. For our older travelers, how many days do you personally feel that it takes to acclimate? 1-2 days, 3-4, 5-6 or 7-9?

I’m 66, flying to a 9-hour time difference and experience a 1-2 day range each trip heading to Europe and 3-4 flying back home to the west coast. If their model projection is linear, that would be a week and a half while I was in Europe! (I eat the dinner on the planes and their little breakfast.)

Posted by
8425 posts

I am usually ok on the third day, and I have no appetite for a big breakfast on arrival.

Posted by
6489 posts

Like Jean and others, I do better after flying east than after flying home. I'm usually good to go the morning after landing in Europe (from US west coast), having followed the usual advice to stay outside, walk around, get sunllight etc. on arrival day. But it can take me a week to get the sleep cycle right after returning home.

Maybe on next month's trip I'll have a big breakfast after landing, as well as the smaller breakfast the airline will serve. But I have to wonder how much of the breakfast benefit is just the coffee. (I didn't read the study itself.) As for the assertion that "the breakfast options in Europe are typically much better than in the United States," I respectfully dissent. Sure, croissants are wonderful, and porridge can be too (especially with Bailey's as I learned in Ireland), But on the whole my favorite big breakfast is eggs, pancakes, and sausage. (Since I don't eat this every day, I've made it to the late 70s.)

The article said they were considering "clinical trials." I'd like to volunteer for those. If they include first-class flying as a variable, I'd like to volunteer for that. Getting a good onboard sleep is a jet lag reducer I haven't tried. ;-)

Posted by
593 posts

Our flight for Norway leaves at 7:30 PM on Icelandair. I'm glad they don't provide free food in economy, because I don't need to eat two meals during a time I wouldn't usually be eating (and, if they give it to me, I will eat it). When we get to Oslo around noon, I'm planning on eating a hearty lunch still hours earlier than I would be eating breakfast at home.

On our return to Minnesota, we usually drive the 3+ hours home. If everything goes well, we can be home by 11 PM. It's a full day, but we are ready to go to bed at our usual time.

Posted by
312 posts

Well, for me, having flown from London to Tampa quite often, I’ve found myself fine flying west but the jet lag hits when flying east back home. I do agree that it’s partly the excitement of being on holiday vs. the ordinariness of getting back to normal life, but I think the timing of the flights also makes a huge difference. My usual flight to Tampa gets me there at about 18.30, so it’s usually about after 9 by the time I get to my friends in Sarasota, and of course it’s much later for me, so I’m in bed by about an hour later. And wake up fresh and happy the next morning. The return flight is overnight and I never manage to sleep much, so by the time we land at about 6am and I’ve finally got home about 2 hours later, I’m a zombie. The jet lag seems to fade in a day or so, but after flights back from the west coast, it lasts much longer.

Posted by
23250 posts

We have worked out a pretty good routine over many years of practice. We are eight hours off so we try to do about four hours of time shifting at home. Works better since we are retired. Since our flights depart in early evening -- around 8pm, we go to the airport early -- maybe four pm. Have a relaxing, evening meal at one of the airport's up-scale restaurants. Within an hour of take off we are settled in, eye shades, ear plugs, and ignore all activities. An hour or so prior to landing will freshen up a bit, have whatever is passing as breakfast and prepare for the day. Depending on how we feel and what was served on the plane, we may have a second breakfast or lunch. Try for a two hour nap between 1 and 3, 2 and 4. Hit the streets, local park, get oriented to the neighborhood around hotel, and have dinner on the local schedule. Sometimes the next day is a little sluggish but the following day is fine.

Posted by
3995 posts

Thanks for the article! I was curious how they defined older travelers; they didn’t!

Posted by
1478 posts

I, like many posters here, seem to do better arriving in Europe rather than arriving back home.

Science says that is backwards. So, I have always assumed it was because of the excitement and having a packed schedule.

I recently went 3 hours time change west and found the same thing. I adjusted well upon arrival to fun destination and suffered upon arriving home.

I also do better when landing in the afternnoon or evening and then being able to go to bed in a few hours rather than landing at 7 am and trying to keep going the full day.

I do find that skipping the meal on the plane and having breakfast helps. I usually don't eat breakfast so this is different than my usual day.

Posted by
4385 posts

I've been reading about these kind of studies and theories since I start travelling back in the '80s, each one works for some and not for others. Some eat and drink on planes, some don't, some take melatonin or Benadryl and some don't, some start time shifting beforehand, some set their watches to destination time, etc. etc. etc.

Unfortunately, you have to experiment and find out what (if anything) works for you. The one consistency does seem to be that you'll be fairly OK upon arrival, but totally knackered upon returning home. Which isn't really surprising.

Posted by
7261 posts

@Dick, ”If they include first-class flying as a variable, I'd like to volunteer for that.”

Yes! That’s the golden ticket! “Hello, I would like to volunteer for your study. I can be packed in 10 minutes!” ; )

Posted by
740 posts

Try Asia.
There you cross the international dateline. You lose a day. Then on the way back you may arrive only two hours later on the same day you left.
I believe that the science shows that going east is not as bad as going west.
Back to Asia. That big breakfast to allay jet lag could be inclusive of noodles and fish. And not at the right time you arrive.
I guess same thing for Europe. Where is that big breakfast in France or Italy. Better to go to England and chow down on the famous English breakfast. Nothing like greasy bacon and black pudding to set you straight for your first jet lagged day.

Posted by
628 posts

I've long concluded that many conflate jet lag and simple travel fatigue and any exhibition of being tired gets described as jet lag.

When traveling to Europe, by the time I get checked into my hotel, I'll have been traveling easily 24-30 hours and while I'll get a couple hours of shut eye on the flight, it won't be the nice deep sleep. Once I'm checked in, being tired and the travel day is catching up with me and an hour nap is a perfect refresher. There's no issue adjusting to the local time and I am not out of rhythm. It does seem like many of the solutions for jet leg come off as folk remedies for what may just be travel fatigue.

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/travel-and-sleep/jet-lag

Posted by
4385 posts

Just be careful, that "short nap" upon arrival can turn into a long sleep

Posted by
2010 posts

I can sleep on the plane, but my husband cannot. On arrival day we always stay awake and try to be outside moving for as long as possible. We have an early dinner around 5, and then my husband crashes for the night. I am good for a few more hours, so head out on my own. The next morning we are good to go. I could not do a big breakfast upon arrival. My husband does need several cups of coffee on arrival day. A pastry and coffee, and we are good. With a big breakfast I would nee a nap and then all bets would be off for me.

I get hit with jetlag hard when we arrive back in Seattle. My husband is messed up for a day or two, but it usually takes me several days to adjust.

Posted by
14506 posts

When I land in Paris or Frankfurt usually 10 AM coming off that non-stop flight from SFO, I have no jet lag.

After getting the luggage and all that, dilly-dallying, the time is generally pretty close early breakfast time on the west coast, so I look forward to having a hearty hot meal. With that I am fresh and fit. The more I slept on the flight , the better it is in feeling fresh and fit.

Agree...no need for the mimosa.