Jet lag is a common complaint after a business trip abroad or long overseas holiday.

But, it turns out, you only have yourself to blame.

Ahead of Qantas’s record-breaking New York-Sydney flight, the Australian airline has invested in research into offsetting the effects of jet lag on the body.

Qantas and the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre have been studying the effects and most common causes of jet lag as they prepare to take on the world’s first 20+ hour flight. The centre will be responsible for monitoring and analysing the sleep and behaviour of those flying the ‘Project Sunrise’ Dreamliner service to better combat flight-fatigue for passengers, crew and pilots.

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However, the biggest takeaway from the research so far is that the top causes of flight discomfort are all at the control of the passenger.

Out for the count: here are out six tips for avoiding the 'lag'. Photo / Annie Theby
Out for the count: here are out six tips for avoiding the ‘lag’. Photo / Annie Theby

The most common factors in jet lag are due to passenger behaviour and bad travel habits.

Surveying 500 passengers on long-haul flights, they found that the best strategies for minimising lag are not commonly practised.

Yu Sun Bin a sleep specialist from the Charles Perkins Centre recently divulged their top findings in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald.

Here are six tips to better shut-eye when flying long-haul:

1. Get outside

Natural light is one of the biggest regulators for the human body clock. There’s no better way to adjust your body to a new time zone than a bit of fresh air and sun on your skin.
“We know that going outdoors for sunlight at the destination is one of the most important strategies for syncing the body clock, but only 47 per cent of passengers made the effort to do it,” said Bin, told the Herald.

2. Dry skies

Almost a third of passengers admit to drinking alcohol to help nod off on long flights. However, even a couple of drinks might actually heighten the risk of jet lag.
“It might make us fall asleep faster but beyond a certain point, it also disrupts the quality of sleep and causes dehydration,” Dr Bin said.

3. Eat light, travel light

Heavy food in pressurised cabins can not only have undesirable effects on the digestive tract of passengers, but it can also affect the quality of sleep.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce who commissioned the university’s sleep research as part of Project Sunrise says he has taken a lot of the advice for his own travels. “On board, I try to choose the lighter meal options, and get plenty of sleep” he recently told the Australian Financial Review. Although he admitted there’s no harm in “binge-watching a box set.”

Prepare: Adjusting bedtime by as little as an hour can help. Photo / Joyce Romero
Prepare: Adjusting bedtime by as little as an hour can help. Photo / Joyce Romero

4. Move while you can

There is little room and scarce opportunity to take a leisurely stroll in a plane cabin, however a well-timed stretch can help stave off seat discomfort and help adjust your body clock to the approaching time zone.

5. Get holiday ready

One of the most effective, but least practised strategies to minimising jet lag is changing sleep routine ahead of travel. According to the research centre adjusting one’s bedtime by even an hour (forwards or backwards depending on time at destination) can have huge benefits for adapting to a new time zone.

6. Bring something comfy

Lastly it always helps to bring something to make you feel more at ease in your seat, particularly on a 20-hour flight. Flying in your own pair of pyjamas is a common tactic to help travellers sleep better on planes.

“You can always spot our most frequent flyers – they’re the ones who’ve changed into their PJs before the aircraft has pushed back from the gate,” said Joyce.

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