Long Haul Flying – The Curious Benefits Of Jet Lag…

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If you type ‘jet lag’ into a search engine, pretty much every result you will see is about how to avoid or cure it. There are endless suggestions (of varying degrees of plausibility) on ways to minimise jet lag or to get over it more quickly, but they miss an obvious alternative – stop thinking of it as something to combat and enjoy your jet lag instead.

Enjoy jet lag???

At this point you could be forgiven for thinking I’ve fried what little brains I possess in a toxic mix of high altitude cosmic radiation and too much First Class champagne – but give me a chance to explain.

First though, a caveat. If you’re on a tight schedule and need to be more or less functional at specific times of the day for work, jet lag can be absolutely horrible. There is nothing remotely pleasant about your body being stuck 8 hours behind or infront of itself when you’ve got stuff you simply have to do.

If you have a more flexible work schedule though, or are on holiday, I think there can be some real benefits to jet lag once you decide to stop trying to fight it.

An example…

Last month I flew with Iberia to Shanghai from Madrid, which takes about 13 hours, departing at 12:05pm and arriving at 07:50am (both local times). Shanghai is 8 hours ahead of the UK, so by the time I got to my hotel it was roughly 2am to my body, but 10am locally. I hadn’t really slept on the plane, so I was tired and decided to go to bed.

A lot of the anti jet lag advice would argue this was a terrible error – that you should stay up, go for a walk and get some sunlight, etc, to help you adjust. At most, maybe have a short nap. But I was on holiday and really very tired so I just slept straight through to 17:00.

I went out for the evening and got back to the hotel about midnight, where it soon became obvious that there was no way I was going to sleep. Rather than trying to force myself to sleep (which surely never works), I enjoyed my view of the Shanghai skyline, read a book, ordered room service and caught up on some tv programmes I’d downloaded – it was basically just like a really enjoyable lazy day, but at night. Staying in an extremely comfortable 5* hotel with spectacular views definitely helped of course (courtesy of an old 5-night Marriott Travel Package)!

The best bit though, was being wide awake as the sun rose over the skyscrapers. I usually do everything I can to avoid early mornings, so being up at 5am (and actually feeling good rather than hating it) is rare for me and I really enjoyed the novelty.

I also loved being genuinely hungry at 6am for breakfast at the hotel and digging into all sorts of fantastic dishes. Normally, even if it’s included in my hotel rate or through elite status, I miss breakfast when I’m on holiday in favour of extra sleep. Even if I go, I don’t often want more than a coffee and some fruit or a yoghurt. This time, I got to enjoy a huge variety of freshly prepared chinese dishes, western cooked breakfast items, and surprisingly good continental options too – a real feast each morning.

Bottom line

I’m not saying jet lag is great (it can be awful if you need to work), but there can be benefits too.

It gives you a rare (if somewhat forced!) opportunity to change your routine and perspective. If you’re normally a morning person, maybe you’ve wondered what it would be like to be a night owl for a few days and jet lag can grant you that. For night owls, there’s the chance to enjoy the sun rise, to visit markets and temples early in the morning, beat the crowds, and see your destination in a way you never normally would.

How do you feel about jet lag?


  1. Jack doherty says

    Hmmm, so it appears the benefits are restricted to those that don’t normally see mornings, and/or don’t normally eat breakfast.


    • Joe Deeney says

      🙂 Haha, no not at all. 3 main points (which could, perhaps, have been clearer):

      1) Jet lag can be actively helpful for quite a few ‘classic’ tourist activities – say you wanted to visit Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo (when it was open), or see the sun rise from the top of a hill/mountain (eg. Christ the Redeemer in Rio) etc. There aren’t many people who enjoy getting up at 3-4am, but if you’re jet lagged and awake anyway, it’s no big deal at all. It definitely makes sense to schedule those activities for the 1st day or 2 of a trip rather than nearer the end.

      2) I think the main point is about enjoying a different perspective – both because of the general change from your usual routine, and because you get to see the destination in a way you otherwise might not. For night owls, it really can be a nice change of pace to wander round a city at dawn before it’s properly woken up, have a great breakfast, etc, when you’d normally be in bed. For early risers, it can be fun to be able to stay up late for once, rather than falling asleep at 9pm – particularly if you’re somewhere with great (late) nightlife, like Barcelona or Berlin, or want to wander round a night market.

      3) You’re on holiday – if you want to read a book and order room service at 3am, don’t feel bad or get stressed about not sleeping and ‘missing out’ on stuff the next day, just enjoy the chance to relax.

  2. RichT says

    Worked excellently for us in Vegas. Strolling down the strip at 5am, no crowds and some interesting people watching of those doing the “walk of shame”!

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