The Christmas holidays are a time when plenty of people are getting away and often taking long flights. And the last thing you want is for the first half of your overseas holiday to be ruined by jet lag.

So I asked someone who battles the dreaded time zone monster constantly, Qantas pilot Richard de Crespigny, for his hard-earned top tips.

The experienced pilot was hailed a hero back in 2010 when an engine exploded on the A380 he was flying, moments after taking off from Singapore.

Captain de Crespigny is often asked to tell the tale of how he stayed calm and reassured his panicked passengers. The pilot then somehow brought the plane home in one piece - a truly incredible example of keeping cool under pressure.

Not everyone who meets de Crespigny is aware of his claim to fame, of course, and he says what he's asked about far more often as a professional long-haul pilot is how he copes with jet lag - and whether he has any tips for beating it.

"Everyone asks pilots how we handle the time zone changes. Yes, it's tough, but after years of flying I have learned a few tricks to help me cope better with it," he says.

Here is his professional, hard-won advice. Apply these hacks on your next international trip and you'll be tapped into your new time zone in no time.


"My major tip is to try and get your body clock in sync with the sunlight of your new destination as quickly as possible," Captain de Crespigny says.


Get used to your new time zone the minute you board the plane. Picture: iStock
Get used to your new time zone the minute you board the plane. Picture: iStock

"So if you're spending a day in the aircraft to get to the other side of the planet, time your meal, your movies, your work and your sleep to match your new time zone rather than the one you've just left. The moment you take off, synch those four things with the destination you're heading to and you will be much better off when you arrive."


"Your rhythms are controlled by your cortisol, which is the catalyst to determine how much energy your cells produce. So your energy goes up and down with your cortisol levels, which rise and fall with the sun," he says.

"So when you land, you need to get out in the sun. To be fully normal, it can take one day for every hour of time zone change, but you can recall your circadian rhythm quicker than normal if you get out in the sun as early as you can."


"I also suggest to help you sleep on the plane get rid of mobile devices, as the blue light from them keeps you awake, or at least turn them down to a reddish light. Also don't have too much alcohol, and use the night shades and earplugs to block out the cabin lights and noise so when you wake up, you feel turbocharged."



Get moving the minute you land to recharge your body. Picture: iStock
Get moving the minute you land to recharge your body. Picture: iStock

"Once you land, move. I personally love to drop my bags off to the hotel then put on my running shoes and go for a nice long run. It's such a great way to see the sights of your new destination and it really recharges your body. I also find that it is great for my mind and I will take a notepad with me on my runs as I find that I have some of my best ideas while I'm out running."



Don’t fight it. If you can’t sleep get up.
Don’t fight it. If you can’t sleep get up.

"The number-one rule I have after flying for 30 years is this - when I'm tired, I sleep. And if I'm not tired, I stay up and I work. Try not to fight it. Just listen to your body."

Adam MacDougall is a former professional athlete, best selling author, host of The Health Hacker podcast and creator of The Man Shake