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They who claim they never suffer from jet lag are either marvels of human creation, or big fat fibbers. For the rest of us mere mortals, with body clocks to throw us askew, here are seven top tips for swerving the lag.
Remember the mantra, ‘West is best, east is a beast’
The reasoning behind this lyrical rhyme is that most travellers find an eastward flight results in late-morning wake-ups and an inability to sleep come nightfall. The west seems a little less troublesome, but can still have you waking at 5am and wanting to nap again by dusk.
To minimise these potentially holiday-ruining sleep patterns, book an afternoon flight if you’re travelling west and a morning flight if you’re heading east. Then, if you’ve travelled eastwards to your final destination, get strict and wake yourself at a reasonable hour. If travelling west, avoid the 5pm shut eye and plan something to do between 5 - 7pm.
Not the most inconspicuous activity to practice while standing between passengers in the aisle, but stretching before bedtime will help you slip into sleep.
Stretches that target body areas where we hold the most tension, such as the shoulders, neck, hands and chest stimulates blood flow, relaxes the muscles and prepares the body for sleep. Beneficial yoga positions such as downward dog may be impractical, but simple neck rolls and spinal twists combined with deep, conscious breathing will massage your internal organs, increase your inner calm and relieve anxiety.
Get some sunshine. Pronto
Once arrived, avoid the temptation to head straight for your bed and seek some outdoor sunlight instead.
Sunshine is a natural stimulant and will encourage the brain to wake up. It’ll also regulate your biological clock, which, if you’ve ever noticed yourself naturally awaken milliseconds before your alarm shrills, is as good as accurate anyway. Get as much light exposure as you possibly can, anything more than 30 minutes will help. And don’t worry if you’re bound for the UK, overcast light is also beneficial for alleviating the urgency to sleep.
Adjust your watch
There’s a reason why the pilot informs you of the time at your destination while you’re still taxiing down the runway, it’s because he’s simultaneously adjusting his own watch. Set the new time before take off and it’ll do wondrous things to curtail jet lag.
The theory behind this one is that every time you glance at your watch, you’re preparing your subconscious for what time it’s going to be. Manipulating your body clock as early as the runway will give it a clear (albeit shrewd) heads up that things are about to change.
Ha! We hear you guffaw - unlikely. As if getting a full night’s sleep on a red eye flight is achievable. However, here’s a three step ‘RED’ plan to increase the likelihood:
Routine: Follow your usual bedtime ritual. Wash your face, brush your teeth. Or whatever it takes to trick your mind into thinking it's following the usual wind-down.
Eat: Choose the carb-heavy meal option and load up on stodge. Starch causes a surge of insulin, but the lack of exercise needed to burn excess sugar results in fatigue.
Darkness: Take an eye mask and cut out any light source. Fool the brain into thinking it’s night time.
Get a better night’s sleep without taking any medication by wearing Re-Timer light therapy glasses. Australian made, these intelligent specs use green and blue light to realign your body clock.
Because your body naturally produces the sleep hormone melatonin at night, when you fly, your melatonin isn’t produced at the right time for your new schedule. Wearing the Re-Timer glasses for periods of time before and after your flight suppresses melatonin production and promotes better sleep. As feather light as regular sunglasses, they’re sleek, nifty and a handy addition to your holiday list, but they will add a few hundred dollars to your trip.
Download the Entrain app
Now pay attention, because this one’s scientific. Long haul flights cause your circadian rhythms to be all out of whack (FYI, circadian rhythms are biological rhythms that repeat themselves roughly once a day). No one wants that.
Entrain uses a series of light and dark schedules to help you adjust to low light and bright light in order to get your body clock functioning in the right time zone. In layman’s terms, you ease your way into a new time zone by conditioning your body correctly using light trickery. Currently available on App Store and Google Play.
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