Japan Hacks – Dealing with Long Flights and Jet-lag

If you are flying to Japan from Europe or the Americas you’re going to have to travel a long way. We’ve managed to position ourselves so that Europe, North America and Japan are almost 1/3 of the world away from each other (depending of where you are in North America because that is a fat continent).

What is Jet-lag?

For those that don’t know jet-lag occurs when you travel through over 2 or more time-zones and throws your natural body-clock out of whack. You feel tired and hungry at weird times of the day, and it can really impact your travels.

This is because your internal clock or “circadian rhythm” (which is when our body tells us when to eat and sleep) becomes desynchronised with the external clock. So although it might be 10pm in Japan and you should be getting ready for bed and sleeping, your body (if you’re from the UK like me) thinks it 1pm and you should be wide awake and eating lunch.

It can take you up to day to recover from just 1 time zone (1hr) difference, so when you travel to Japan that could take about 9 days to recover! And THEN you have to go home and do it all over again!

How to Reduce Jet-lag

  • Begin to Adjust Your Time to Japan/Home
    Prepare to get prepared at least a week in advance! If you’re travelling east to west start going to bed later, changing the time you go to bed by 30mins every night. And if you’re going west to east, go to bed earlier.
  • Change Your Clock on the Plane
    Once you’re on the plane and heading over there change your clock to match Japan’s time. If it’s day time try to stay awake, but if it’s night try and sleep! Even if they’re serving food this is very important and it will help you in the long run. (I’ve tried this and really does work! Although it does mean you miss out on some good in-flight movies).
  • Drink Lots and Lots and Lots and Lots of WaterCabin pressure on planes can cause dehydration, making jet-lag, and general health, a lot worse. Make sure you buy a bottle of water in the airport before you fly (after security) to take with you on the plane. They do hand out cups of water on the plane but you will need to drink lots of water and the cups they hand out isn’t very much. Make sure you drink plenty before, during, and after your flight! (I do this every time I fly and it does make a difference).
  • Move AboutWhen you have to stay awake on the fight try and move about to keep your blood circulate. But don’t exercise before you sleep (even after the flight) as this can stop you from sleeping. Boeing has some good in-seat exercises. (I’ve used this trick and it does help reduce jet-lag and makes you feel better, although they might look silly, it’s worth it.)
  • Give Yourself a Day to Adjust
    This isn’t just from jet-lag but for getting used to the area, where things are, how things work in Japan. Don’t jump straight into travelling and sight-seeing and running around, you don’t want to make yourself sick.
There are other guides on the internet with a lot more suggestions. These are a mix of those and my own personal tips.
How to Not Get Bored on a Flight
I am amazed at the number of times I’ve been on a flight and people haven’t brought anything besides a fashion magazine. Then they have to sit there for 2hours+ doing nothing! Often short connecting flights won’t have movies, or you might not find any movies you want to see. In that case I suggest you pack in your hand luggage:
  • A book or two (think about the return flight)
  • Portable video game (not your phone)
  • Small laptop/tablet with films/TV you want to see
  • Music
  • Japanese study (Memrise can be used offline if you download the course beforehand)
  • Note pad and pen/pencil (for drawing/writing)
Just be aware that there might not be any charging ports on the plane, and probably not at any connecting airports (unless you’re lucky). So always bring something that doesn’t need to be re-charged (like a book)!

Do you have your own advice for long flights? How do you get over jet-lag? Please leave your comments, thoughts and experiences.

Previous Japan Hack – Preparing for Japan

Next Japan Hack – Sightseeing in Tokyo – Where to Go & What to Do

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