We asked a Finnair flight attendant with a decade of experience how to help your body clock adjust to a new schedule.
“The worst part is the heavy fatigue, which can last up to a few days after the return flight. Sometimes you’re really tired, but still can’t get to sleep. You’re sort of running on half-empty, and it’s very hard to get things done.”
This is how Finnair flight attendant Anna Törnblom describes the effects of jet lag. The symptoms are familiar to frequent travelers, especially after flights crossing several time zones.
Törnblom has been a part of Finnair’s cabin crew for over ten years. In a usual month she flies three long-haul flights from Helsinki – mostly to Asia or North America – and a few shorter ones within Europe or Finland. Unfortunately, even with her long-term experience, jet lag is still an issue.
“You always feel the effects, but through the years, I’ve learned what helps me recover.”
”People often ask me if jet lag can be avoided altogether. Sadly, the answer is no. You always feel the effects, but through the years, I’ve learned what helps me recover,” Törnblom says.
Here are her top three tips for getting over jet lag:
1. Try to sleep well – finding your own rhythm is key
“The most important thing for recovering from jet lag is finding the right sleep rhythm. Ultimately, sleep is the only real remedy,” Törnblom says.
“The right rhythm depends on the individual though. Personally, when I have long haul flights to Asia, I usually sleep up to five hours right after arriving, then go out in the evening, get something to eat and go to the gym. After that I go to bed pretty late and sleep until morning. Some people, however, only take a short nap after the flight so they can sleep better during the night. A good pattern is personal and varies a lot: You can find out what works for you only by trying.”
2. Listen to your body and set aside time to recover
Besides getting enough sleep, Törnblom says it’s important to set aside time for recovery.
“Try not to make big plans for the day after a long flight. If possible, you should reserve the day for resting and easy chores. Don’t do too many things when your energy levels are low,” Törnblom says.
“The long hauls from Asia usually return to Helsinki during the afternoon, so my usual routine when I get home is to eat, have a sauna, and go to bed early. The next day I recommend some fresh air and a jog, if you feel up for it. It’s important to listen to your body.”
3. On a short visit, stay close to your normal rhythm
”We crew members usually stay only for a night at destination. On short layovers I try to stick to Finnish time or as close to it as possible, so I can keep the same natural rhythm when I return home,” Törnblom says. “How you sleep in the destination greatly affects how quickly you recover after the trip.”
Even on longer stays, it’s worthwhile to start setting your body clock closer to your regular rhythm at home towards the end of the trip.
Read a physician’s tips on how to prepare for jet lag.