Please sign in to post.

jet lag question

I'm worried about being exhausted and having jet lag once we arrive in London. Our flight from San Francisco leaves in the morning 8:30 AM, Aug 10 (then, one layover in Dallas) and arrives in London at 6:30 AM, Aug 11 ( = 9:30 PM San Fran time). What is the best time to go to sleep? Thanks!

Posted by
333 posts

I know a lot of people will tell you to get busy outside and stay up until bedtime. That has never worked for me. I'm usually exhausted after last minute trip preparation and then 24 hours of airports and such. I've had the benefit of being able to check into my hotel upon arrival each time. I will settle into my room and then set my alarm and allow myself up to a two hour nap (make sure to set the alarm!). THEN I get a light lunch and busy myself with sight seeing, etc. I stay awake until a regular bedtime in my new time zone. It's worked very well for me.

Whatever you end up doing, I wish you a great time in London! What a fun city!

Posted by
1294 posts

You have to experiment and find out what works for you.

I use the power thru the day method. Get outside in the daylight and keep going till about 10 PM local time. I find that I hit a low point about 3 to 4 PM local time but once past 5 or so I seem to get a second wind that keeps me going until 10 or 12 that night. I can sleep through the first night but on successive nights I may wake up briefly in the middle of the night.

Posted by
362 posts

I agree that you have to find what method works best for you. I have tried sleeping on the plane on overseas flights so that when we land I am acting as if I just woke up. It doesn't really work for me, but there are plenty of people who do successfully manage to sleep on the plane.

If my room isn't ready, I will store my luggage and power through the day until I can check in. Otherwise, I go to my room if it's available that early and take a nap. BEFORE I take a nap, I make sure that I know where I can get food later, because I'll be hungry when I do wake up.

One time my flight was SO delayed arriving at its destination that it was after supper time by the time I reached my hotel. That time I simply grabbed the emergency granola bar from my backpack and - first time ever - availed myself of what turned out to be a decently stocked mini bar that held a slightly larger than airplane size bottle wine. I was out like a light shortly afterwards, but I woke up the next morning feeling totally refreshed.

Posted by
11280 posts

Just a tip from sad experience: if you do take a nap on arrival day, set an alarm so you don't sleep longer than you intended!

Posted by
31435 posts

As the others have mentioned, you'll have to figure out which method works best for you. I've tried the "sunshine & fresh air* approach and staying awake until about 21:00 in the new location, but it doesn't work for me. The best method I've found so far is to check into the hotel, have a shower and get cleaned up, take a short power nap (no more than 1.5 hours or so), and then do a bit of light touring and a walkabout to familiarize myself with the area. That allows me to stay awake until an early bedtime in the new time zone.

Posted by
1133 posts

Oh, kwhith, I feel your pain! At best, on the flight, I might get a 20 minute cat-nap.
In the past, when I had a flight that landed in Europe before noon, I would take the short 1 to 1 1/2 hour nap and then get going until a somewhat normal bedtime.
More recently I have been able to get flights that arrive in Europe in the late afternoon or early evening, so I check in, walk around the neighborhood, have dinner, than go to bed about 10pm. I get up the next morning in time for breakfast and stay busy, but will hit the wall about 6 or 7pm.
By the next day, I am usually fine and completely adjusted to the new time zone.
(Coming home, it's a different story, but that's a different story ...!)
So in your case, for this trip, I vote for the nap when you can, with the alarm set.
Have a great time!

Posted by
8429 posts

I suggest a nap to limited to an hour (90 minutes max). Enough to take the edge off but not so much that you end up wide eyed at what should be bed time for your location.

With your SF departure as early as it is, I would be surprised if you did not get a few hours nap on the DFW-LHR leg, so you may not be as bad off as you fear.

Posted by
1061 posts

On our last trip, we flew from Hartford to Dublin and spent couple of days in Dun Laoghaire relaxing before the main part of the trip (RS Villages of South England tour). We took a nap when we arrived (we were able to get into the B&B early - our flight arrived in Dublin at 5:15 local time).

Posted by
315 posts

As soon as you can, put yourself on your destination's schedule. So perhaps as soon as your Dallas flight takes off, set your watches to London time and try to get some sleep according to that time.

I usually drink two large, strong coffees each day (so, four "normal" caffeine servings) so I will manipulate my caffeine intake on the day my flight leaves. Maybe one small coffee that morning, so I can try to sleep on the plane (which has left New York around 6pm). When I land in Europe, I get coffee right away (even in the airport) and blast through my day. I usually go to bed quite early that day (8 pm) and am then more or less on schedule.

Even when I can't actually fall asleep on the plane, I try to remain relaxed as much as possible, sort of "pretending" to sleep, rather than giving up and reading or watching a movie.

Coming back is easy--you're just staying up very late one day, which I can always do with no trouble--I am a natural night owl.

Posted by
1353 posts

The one time I allowed myself to take a nap it took me a full week to get over the jetlag. Never again! sometimes it's a little painful, but i get outside in the sunshine take it slow and go to bed shortly after an evening meal. With that method I am usually good to go on day 2.

Posted by
293 posts

If you can adjust yourself BEFORE you fly, in the comfort of your own home, that might be a worthwhile solution. Starting three days before you fly, try waking up at 3:00 am (Yes, I know . . .) but that will be like waking up at noon in Europe. If you can adjust yourself at home pretty well, getting sleepy again around 7:00 pm, you can be well on your way to getting over jetlag once you get to EU.

I find that the power nap does not work for me; it is a deadly strategy which cannot be overcome for a week or more. I have learned the hard way that I need an evening flight which lands me in EU in the late afternoon or early evening.

You can also take with you some benadryl or other sleep-inducing tabs for the first two or three nights. Good luck! And have fun!

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks, everyone, for the tips. I KNOW I won't be able to nap on the plane. Even when I've flown at night, I just struggle for hours and then give up. I've never been a good sleeper, and uncomfortable coach seats don't help. :/ I guess I'll see how I feel when we get through Heathrow and everything. Can't check into our airbnb until afternoon so maybe we'll start by eating brunch and taking a walk. Hopefully, I'll get a 2nd wind! :) Thx!

Posted by
18240 posts

The major part of jet lag is desynchronization, when the daily body clock is out a synch with the time where you are.

Every living thing has a biological clock that controls body functions on a daily basis. This even applies, I read, to plants. The first recorded observation of the "circadian rhythm" was made in 1729 when a scientist observed that the daily movements of a plant's leaves continued even when the plant was in total darkness. This circadian clock controls such human functions as pulse rate, respiration, body temperature, metabolism, and mental acuity. I remember, on my first trip to Europe, a business trip with a medical products company, sitting at 10 AM (2 AM Denver time) on a bench in a hospital waiting to see a doctor and, with nothing else to do, timing my pulse. As I remember, it was around 40 beats/minute. I mentioned to my co-worker, "You know, we're asleep. We just don't know it."

This clock, which is driven by sunlight, turns our body functions on in the daytime so we can be alert and turns them down at night so we can sleep. That's why we find ourselves dragging during the early day over there when it's sleep time at home and unable to sleep at night over there when it's daytime at home.

This internal clock is "reset" by exposing it to the new cycle of light and dark. That is why it is important to get out in the morning, when it is dark at home. Getting out in the afternoon, when it is daylight at home, will have no effect. Taking a nap shortly after arrival will deprive you of the hours of sunlight needed to make the reset.

I've found that taking a short nap (1 or 2 hours) just before dinner refreshes me and helps me to stay up to my normal bedtime at home.

Posted by
4125 posts

kwith, what a punishing itinerary!

I urge you to look into things you can do to prep for the time switch. Don't wait until you arrive to deal with this! You can to some extent reset your circadian clock with light and diet.

I have had good results with melatonin, using it to shift starting 3 days before departure and also on night of arrival. However, it affects people differently.

Sleep on the plane, while desirable, is overrated compared to clock-shifting activities. Pretending to sleep is nearly as good on that score. Good luck!

Posted by
279 posts

I fall into the stay awake until normal bedtime in the new location group. It helps to have a plan for something to do after you check into your hotel. In London I would go for lots of people watching followed by afternoon tea. Have your plan ready, you will not be interested in making a plan after you arrive.

Posted by
21665 posts

Unfortunately this one may require a little experimentation on your part because everyone responses differently. We were in the conventional wisdom stay up and gut it out group for many trips and it worked somewhat well. Then one year, more by accident, we took the afternoon nap. For us a whole new approach that is terrific. We follow Lee's earlier posting/recommendations with a max of two hour nap around mid afternoon. We set a two hour alarm but rarely sleep more than 90 minutes or so. For us, it is a perfect solution. We recover far quicker than the old days of staying awake.

Posted by
12788 posts


The main thing to sleep as much as you can on the plane, esp the Dallas leg. There have been times where once I am seated, strapped in, etc I fall asleep, ie I sleep through the take off. To not waste the sleep, it is better to sleep after the plane is airborne, which helps while away the time. Do not worry about feeling exhausted upon landing? How do you know that will be the case? You may not get jet lag. There are those who do not.

Posted by
4125 posts

There have been a lot of posts on this thread to the effect that the way to avoid jet lag is to sleep on the plane.

The implication is that jet lag is caused by lack of sleep.

But neither of those things is true, although traveling via redeye often entails a sleep deficit as well.

Jet lag is caused by your circadian clock being out of sync with the time zone you are in. The remedy is not to make up your sleep deficit (which you also want to manage) but to shift your clock.

That's why you often encounter advice like, force yourself to stay up until bedtime the day of arrival. (That may or may not work for you, but it is an example of clock-shifting.) Things like exposure to early-morning sunlight can also get your clock on local time (again, your mileage may vary).

There is also a jet-lag diet, and fasting regimes, and some people swear by melatonin.

Posted by
12788 posts

Yes, by all means sleep on the plane. I sleep on the plane, sometimes less, sometimes more, eg, 7 hrs on a transatlantic flight. That's when I'm lucky. I don't get jet lag, don't land at LHR, or Paris, or FRA feeling zoned out, exhausted, fatigued. After baggage claim, Border Control, and hitting the facilities, I am good to go...not groggy, jet lagged, etc since I slept (without the help of pills, of course). That makes a big difference.