The Goal

The Goal

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Touring Tips 1 - Jet Lag

While living in New Zealand has numerous advantages - A decent number of rifle ranges, good beer, fine wine, mostly superb coffee*, a great landscape for trail running, easy access to excellent fishing and therefore seafood - it does has the disadvantage of being bloody miles from anywhere. As a result of this key factor plus the need to travel for work and shooting, I've managed to become deeply intimate with jet lag. As it's likely that I'll be doing a bit of traveling for fun and profit over the next 18 months, it seemed opportune to think about jet lag.

Jetlag is a mismatch between your current actual timezone and the various chemical processes in your brain and body which regulate the daily rhythm of your body's activities. Fortunately for international travellers, these processes will adjust themselves over time. Unfortuately for international travellers, there's a maximum rate at which they can adjust and there are plenty of things that people do to disrupt this process. Depending on how you react to jetlag, you can feel pretty grotty during the adjustment process, which is not going to be conducive to top sporting performance.

I am in no way an expert on the science of diurnal rhythms and their management, but I've worked out a routine and a few tricks which seem to allow me to help make the adjustment as quickly as possible:

Rule #1 - Your body will only adjust at about 1 hour per day of time difference maximum. Some people may be faster and others slower.

Rule #2 - You cannot speed up adaptation beyond that limit, but you can slow it down by doing the wrong things.

Rule #3 - The sooner you move your sleep patterns to your destination once you have arrived, the closer you will get to the maximum recovery rate.

Rule #4 - Do not have afternoon naps or any extra sleep outside of your normal nightly sleep routine.

Rule #5 - A couple of glasses of wine is fine, but don't hit the booze to try and force sleep, as this will generally result in a very poor quality of sleep which may be counter-productive.

So far, so good; however it may not be entirely obvious how to apply this to your trip so let's work our way through the trip from NZ to the UK:

Before the flight: Try and get plenty of rest and keep well hydrated. If you can start to move your bedtimes forward or backwards to closer match your destination timezone, so much the better.

Flight Plan:

NZ TimeLA TimeLondon Time
23:1002:1010:10Flight departs AKL. Watch some films, do some work, but stay awake for the majority of the flight
09:1012:1020:10Try and get a little sleep before landing at LAX
11:1014:1022:10Flight lands at LAX
13:1016:1000:10Flight departs LAX. Snooze if you can.
14:3017:3001:30Meal served. Eat properly to ensure you don't wake up because I'm too hungry to sleep and have two glasses of wine. Then go to sleep and get as much sleep as possible.
23:4002:4010:40Flight lands at LHR.

After the Flight: No matter how hard it is, try to stay awake until at least 20:00 on the day of arrival in your destination. Get as much daylight as possible once you arrive at your destination, as this will help**, as can strenuous exercise***. Don't drink lots of alcohol on the evening of arrival, as you'll come out of deep sleep when the booze wears off. You'll also be dehydrated and feeling rubbish.

A final thought: Touring is expensive. A little preparation and thought can stop you wasting a lot of money. Save the boozing and late nights for after you've won the matches. It's OK to be knackered at work when you get back to your home country.

* With the exception of ground coffee for cafetieres. For some reason, it's frequently miserable over here.

** Forbes-Robertson, S., Dudley, E., Vadgama, P. et al. Circadian Disruption and Remedial Interventions: Effects and Interventions for Jet Lag for Athletic Peak Performance. Sports Med (2012) 42: 185. doi:10.2165/11596850-000000000-00000

***  Waterhouse, J., Reilly, T.,  Atkinson, G., Edwards, B. Jet lag: trends and coping strategies. The Lancet. Volume 369, No. 9567, p1117–1129, 31 March 2007.


  1. Nice write-up. I move my watch to destination time when I board the plane and try to stay up the entire time, through about 2000hrs at my destination. Eat lightly on the plane.

    I've found the time change does have some deleterious effects on my shooting. Had an ugly shoot in the RAF club match the day after I landed in UK last year. This year, going to the UK two weeks before the Imperial!

  2. Get up real early as possible each morning for the first 5 days. Hit the eyes with sunshine. It is alleged to trigger the circadian rhythm in the eyeballs. Gaz is DEAD right about not having naps during the day. They are the worst thing you can do.
    Travelling east to west seems to wok better as well. Long days and long nights. I have found West East is harder to switch. Don't be tempted to have a day in Hong Kong or LA at all. Get from A to B ASAP.