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How to Beat Jet Lag in Just Three Days

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Get Over the Jet Lag

Jet lag: it’s nature’s way of telling us that we shouldn’t travel long distances in a short amount of time. Nevertheless, New Zealand is so far away from most places that you’re likely to experience jet lag where ever you are travelling from. For that reason, we’ve put together a few tips on how to beat jet lag in just three days. Serious!

What psychologists call “circadian rhythm disorder”, jet lag is when our regular routines are thrown out of the window leaving our bodies fatigued. Jet lag can also cause indigestion, concentration issues, memory issues and bowel problems. Although jet lag effects people in different ways, there are ways to reduce the time you experience it by helping your body adjust with the new timezone. You’ll be sleeping at a different time and eating at a different time, despite you’re body not wanting to. It’s important to force your body into a new routine starting with the day you fly. That way, if you follow the tips mentioned below, you’ll be able to beat the jet lag in just three days!

For more information on flying to New Zealand, check out Prepare for a Long Haul Flight and Which Airport to Arrive in New Zealand.

Quick Tips to Beat Jet Lag

If you can’t be bothered reading our spiel below, despite us taking the time and energy to share awesome jet lag-beating tips with you, then just have a quick skim of these tips to help you beat the jet lag in just three days!

  • Split up the trip by booking a stopover. This will help you gradually shift your sleeping pattern instead of the instant shock to the system when you arrive in New Zealand.
  • Get a good night’s sleep before your flight. Staying up all night to make yourself tired enough to sleep on the plane only messes up your sleeping patterns further!
  • Do some exercises on the flight that helps with circulation and makes for a more comfortable flight. Most in-flight magazines have tips on what exercises to do.
  • As soon as you get on your flight, set your watch/phone to your destination’s timezone. This will help you keep track of when you should be sleeping on the flight (see below for more details). A word of warning, don’t do this before the flight! That would be a silly reason to miss your flight…
  • Avoid drinking coffee or alcohol. Instead, make use of the hot water supplied on the flight and use some herbal teabags.

Ethan Sykes on Unsplash© Ethan Sykes on Unsplash

It Starts with Sleeping on the Plane…

… But you need to know when and when not to sleep on the plane.

Getting over jet lag starts before you have even entered your new timezone. Start beating the jet lag by trying to stay awake in your destination’s daytime hours while on the plane.

We know sleeping is a good way to pass the time, but long-haul aircraft have a ton of entertainment features such as movies, documentaries, TV shows and games on the entertainment units. It’s easy to pass the time if you follow our tips in Prepare for a Long Haul Flight.

Or if You’re Dead Keen, Start the Shift Before Your Flight

Because you sleep best in your own bed, however, you’re more likely to have a smooth shift in sleeping patterns if you start going to bed a little bit earlier (or later) than normal even before departure.

Gus Ruballo on Unsplash© Gus Ruballo on Unsplash

Choose the Right Seat

This is where booking your flight early pays off! When it comes to the part of your flight that you want to sleep, make sure you can by picking a good seat. (And no, we are not talking about business class).

If you’re not needing the bathroom every two seconds, pick a window seat. Long-haul flights often come with pillows and blankets, so propping up a pillow next to the window is usually a more comfortable position for sleeping than resting your head on the stranger’s shoulder next to you.

Additionally, you don’t want to sit where there is a lot of foot traffic. Next to the lavatories is an obvious place to avoid. Similarly, if you are a light sleeper, avoid sitting at the back of the plane where there is the most movement.

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Don’t Drink Coffee or Alcohol

We’re not trying to take all the fun out of life, but these drinks do more harm than good when trying to manipulate your sleeping patterns.

Caffeine stays in the system for several hours which can screw up with your desired sleeping time later. Note that caffeine is still in de-caffeinated drinks, tea and chocolate. We should also mention that although taking advantage of the free alcoholic drinks on the flight seems like an awesome idea to help you get some shut-eye, due to the altitude and cabin pressure, alcohol will just leave you waking up much groggier than usual. That’s probably not how you want to be feeling when starting your gap year.

What Should You Drink on a Long-haul Flight?

It’s important to stay hydrated so drink plenty of water, especially as the cabin usually dries you out with the crazy amount of air conditioning. To help you sleep, you may want to ask for some hot water and bring some herbal teabags on the flight with you. (Remember to declare these if you are bringing any food into New Zealand though. More information can be found in Arrival Advice: Biosecurity and Customs in New Zealand).

Wikipedia© Hbcloud at Wikipedia

Gear Up for Some Extreme Sleeping

Unless you are some super-being, it’s not likely that you’ll get a “good” sleep on the plane. However, there are ways to improve your sleep despite being surrounded by crying babies, smelly humans and that annoying kid kicking the back of your seat. Apart from choosing a good seat as we discussed above, you can also invest in a good travel pillow. These things are a life-saver when trying to sleep on a plane even if they look ridiculous. Also, make sure you pack plenty of layers in your carry-on to keep warm. If you’re cold, you won’t go to sleep: simple. In addition, make sure the clothes you are wearing are comfortable – leave the skinny jeans and pencil skirts in your check-in luggage (or at home, you know…).

Other items that may help you sleep include earplugs, eye mask, and a blanket. The latter is usually provided on the flight for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for more pillows and blankets if you need.

Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash© Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

Keep Busy When You Arrive in New Zealand

If you arrive in New Zealand and it’s daytime, then it’s important to keep busy. If you are feeling tired, maybe you shouldn’t do anything too important but just go for a walk, visit a museum or go on a tour that isn’t too demanding.

For those arriving in New Zealand on a working holiday, if you have the energy and the adrenaline of being in a new country has kicked in, use the first couple of days to perhaps open your New Zealand bank account, apply for an IRD number if plan to work in New Zealand, start finding a car or book your bus pass

Try with all your might to stay awake until 9pm New Zealand time. If you wake up in the middle of the night, resist the temptation of playing on your phone or being active. This will only keep you awake.

Keep this routine of going to bed after 9pm every day for a couple of days, as well as following the tips mentioned above, you’ll beat the jet lag in just three days!


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

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