Prepare your runway: plan before you pack

Image of Professor Colin Espie
by Professor Colin Espie

If you're flying in for an important meeting or event, prioritize sleep when you're booking your flight times:

• avoid skimping on sleep to be at the airport at dawn;

• if you usually struggle to sleep on a flight, avoid flying overnight;

• if possible, arrive at your destination in time for a full night's sleep.

If you can influence the scheduling of your meeting, choose a time when you'd be awake at your point of departure, so that your internal body clock will be more alert. If you've flown west, meet in the morning, and if you've flown east, in the afternoon.

Choose a seat away from busy areas, if possible with extra legroom. Free websites like and list ratings of different seats on each plane for comfort and noise.

Before you fly across 5 or more time zones, start to gradually transition your body clock four or five days before you leave…

• Flying east? Start eating dinner, going to bed and setting your alarm an hour earlier each day

• Flying west? Eat dinner, go to bed and wake up later.

You'll recover from sleep loss more quickly if you're well rested before you fly. If you start with a sleep debt, it could make you more prone to jet lag.

Next: Flying high: on the day of travel

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