Long haul flight travel tips: How I accidentally discovered the secret to avoiding jetlag

Jetlag can feel like you've undergone a treacle infusion and had a trip switch installed that turns off your brain at moments of even the mildest stress. At best, it fills you with dread while you're on that long flight home, about what lies in wait. At worst, you simply don't want to live any more.

Over the years, I've followed every rule to try to circumvent its vile clutches, all without success. I've worked out and had a massage before getting on the plane, booked stopovers and put myself on the schedule of my destination in advance, eating breakfast at 11pm and dinner at 9am. I've even tried to "earth" myself after the journey home, by standing around for so long barefoot on the grass verge of my busy city centre street, I was warned I was in danger of being locked up.

But then a solution finally came in the most unlikely of places: in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

I had the last meal of my trip one evening in, I must point out, a pretty upmarket restaurant, but spent the whole of that night in the bathroom, throwing up and suffering crippling bouts of diarrhoea. It was with enormous trepidation that I boarded the plane the next morning, horror when I took my seat in the middle of the middle row, and then sheer misery as I clutched a sick bag and got up and down every few minutes to use the toilet on the long, long (oh so long!) flight.

Uncannily, however, there was a silver lining after my arrival home. To my amazement, I suffered not the slightest hint of jetlag. I looked up the research and found lots of it commending flying without eating, and drinking only water, as a great technique for dodging jetlag. The theory is that having food sit in your stomach that can't be properly digested at altitude is always a bad idea.

Since then, I've never had a scrap of food on a plane. I tell myself we're only eating out of boredom anyway, and if I glance at my neighbours' meals, I always try to do so with disdain to outwit my own hunger pangs. I think of the cash I'm saving on budget airlines that no longer supply meals, and I concentrate fiercely on how my willpower, in refusing all alcohol, is so superior to everyone else's.

And if I happen to travel in business class, I try to go to sleep immediately so I won't see what fine fare I've paid for that I'm missing out on.

But the benefits far outweigh the cost. Arriving anywhere feeling great with no jetlag? It's an outcome far sweeter than … er … treacle.

See also: Is jetlag worse when you fly non-stop from Australia to Europe?

See also: Eleven ways to help you survive a long-haul flight

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