Destination daylight: on arrival

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by Professor Colin Espie

Follow the sleep-wake and meal times of your local destination, as far as possible. Sunlight acts as a strong stimulant to promote alertness, while darkness switches on melatonin, the body's pro-sleep hormone.

• After a westward flight, stay awake while it's daylight and only try to sleep when it gets dark.

• After an eastward flight, stay awake but avoid bright light in the morning, and be outdoors as much as possible in the afternoon.

If you've arrived during the day and you really can't keep your eyes open:

• A jog or a walk will raise endorphin levels and suppress drowsiness.

• Take a brief nap – up to 40 minutes – enough to reduce sleepiness, but brief enough not to disrupt your nighttime sleep drive.

If you're staying at a hotel, order a wake up call in the morning, and even if you're taking a nap. You're more likely to sleep through your alarm if you're sleep deprived, because you'll be more likely to drift into very deep sleep.

If you have a regular wind down routine at home, maintain it while you're away. Take a favorite pair of PJs or a pillow – familiar objects will make your new hotel room feel more comfortable.

If you're in bed struggling to get to sleep, try these relaxation techniques:

Imagery: When you're in an unfamiliar bed, with unfamiliar sounds, picturing your favorite scene before you sleep can really help. The secret is to practice the same scene and sequence in advance, so that you can replay it easily in your mind.

Paradoxical thinking: One of the problems with jet setting is that you're aware that you're short of sleep and you try too hard to get to sleep. Use reverse psychology: tell yourself to try and stay awake. By telling yourself it's OK to remain quietly wakeful, the chances are you'll relax into sleep.

Next: Common questions

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