Taylor Swift Is Right, “Jet Lag Is A Choice” – Here’s How To Beat It Just Like Taylor

After the Super Bowl, Taylor Swift tells Travis Kelce how proud she is of him, “I’ve never been so proud in my life. I can’t believe you. How did you do that?”

And he says, “How do you not have jet lag right now?” She’d performed in Tokyo and flown to see him play in Las Vegas. She shakes it off, “Jet lag is a choice.”

Taylor Swift is being roasted online because, of course, she took a private jet across the Pacific and that’s a lot more conducive to sleep. Of course it is! But Taylor isn’t wrong, you can avoid jet lag too.

It’s not primarily ‘private jet’ that helps with sleep. Taylor Swift is a machine. She runs on the treadmill every day singing her full tour setlist – “Fast for fast songs, and a jog or a fast walk for slow songs” and has a strength, conditioning, and weights program. She did three months of dance lessons to prepare for her tour. It’s rigorous and it’s grueling and she’s in shape.

You don’t have to have the physical regimen of Taylor Swift to avoid jet lag, either, though.

First, there are two base things you need to do.

  1. Adjust to the local time of your destination as soon as possible, generally as soon as you board your flight. That means eating on your new local time, and sleeping on your new local time.
  2. Stay up until bedtime at your destination the day you arrive. If you go to sleep at noon, you’re going to be off for days. You need to force yourself to power through.

Both of these can be challenging, but there are ways to make them much easier. You’ll enjoy your trip more, and it’s better for your overall health. Jet lag can make you stupid.

The Flight

Get on the plane and if it’s bed time in your destination, go to bed. If it isn’t, stay up. Plan your meals based on the new local time, too. That might mean eating before the flight rather than on it.

Short overnight flights, like flying Eastbound East Coast to Europe, can be frustrating. You leave at night (when it isn’t yet bed time at your local destination) and arrive in the morning and have a full day ahead of you, but to really take advantage of it you need to sleep.

New York, DC, or Boston to London or even Paris can take less than 7 hours. You want:

  • A fully flat seat in business class
  • All aisle access so no one is climbing over anyone else and waking them
  • Meal service to end quickly, and lights out quickly, so you can sleep.

The idea is to maximize the amount of sleep you’ll get. I don’t want to be woken for breakfast, it isn’t very good on most airlines anyway. And I bring my own noise cancelling headset. American Airlines flight attendants collect theirs way too early (except on a few test routes), often nearly an hour before landing.

Eat before boarding. Skip the main meal. Airlines can help when they certify seats for recline during taxi, takeoff, and landing and get through service quickly.

When You Arrive

Sleeping, and waking on local schedule at your destination, is the number one way to beat jet lag. Then stay up at your destination on arrival and go to bed as close to when the locals do as possible.

When I take an overnight flight to Europe or Asia that arrives in the morning, I take a shower and change clothes. If it’s sunny, take a walk. If my schedule allows I will take a nap. I will get up and make myself go out to dinner. This can be tough. I’ll be dead tired. Doesn’t matter. I want to go out, ideally a late dinner, so that I’m tired and fall right to sleep when I get back to the hotel.

If I have the time I’ll let myself sleep in the next morning, for me that means 8 a.m. Otherwise I’ll get up before 6 a.m. and will be more or less adjusted to the time right away.

But when it’s bed time, I go to bed. I have a tendency to get off of a long flight without internet and think I need to clear my mind, so I check in on e-mail and work and that just sets my mind racing with a million things. So it’s a bad idea.

When arriving at a destination late at night, I will avoid work when I arrive at the hotel. My only concession is that while making the trip from the airport to hotel I will clean out email. That’s why in most cities I’ll avoid public transit, I want to get in the back of a car, fire up an internet connection, and work for however long it takes to get to the hotel in a straight shot without transfers. In Tokyo it works better to take the Narita Express.

Putting It Into Practice

The two hardest things about jet lag are:

  • Sleeplessness. Going to sleep, you wake up a few hours later and are up throughout the middle of the night. That makes the coming day tough. And it makes staying up through the day tough, but a nap just makes the cycle even more likely to repeat.
  • Flexibility. If you don’t have to push through you won’t, but the best thing to do is to push through until bedtime in your local destination.

I find adjusting to Europe is easy. I go over, stay up until bedtime, maybe sleep in a little bit and I’m fine by my second day as long as I go out to a nice dinner the day I arrive. The same applies to South America after an overnight flight even without significant time change.

Returning from Europe I get tired by 7 p.m. or so for the first couple of days back home. But it’s no big deal.

Coming back from Asia doesn’t prove much of a challenge for me unless I take a flight that gets me home early in the day. It makes staying up until bed time hard. That’s when I need to follow the practice of taking a nap and going out to dinner even when I’m home.

I find going to Asia much harder than anything else, since being 12 hours off my body thinks it’s the exact opposite of local time — wants to sleep during the day, wants to be up at night. And the older I get the harder it is.

There’s the usual advice, none of which has much mattered for me — especially to drink lots of water and to avoid alcohol and coffee.

If I’m going to Asia then I will need a full day to adjust. I might be sleepless that first night. The solution is to power through the next day (allowing myself a nap) so that I’m exhausted at local bed time on day two.

Routine matters a lot. Begin to get into the local time as soon as possible. Set your watch to the new time right away. Plan your sleep schedule based on when you want to sleep at your destination — don’t sleep the last several hours of a flight if you need to sleep on arrival for instance. And try to time your meals closer to when you’ll be eating at your destination.

And a good business or first class experience on the way over makes this all much easier.

So How Does Taylor Swift Do It?

She would have been exhausted after her performance. That makes it easy to get some sleep. Having a bed on the plane helps, but that’s within reach. Beds on chartered private jets aren’t usually going to be as comfortable as the new Emirates first class on their Boeing 777, or on the Singapore Airlines Airbus A380. A decent business class seat is fine. Book using miles.

Then get up, and stay up. You want to be tired at bed time! She’d have had enough time to come down from the tour, the flight is still grueling even with a bit of sleep, and she landed back in the States late afternoon. She could go to bed, and even sleep in, to be ready for the Super Bowl where all eyes were on her as much as the teams.

Jet lag for her – and for anyone that wants to be strategic about it – is often a choice. She’s still in her mid-30s. It gets a little bit harder as you get older, but that means following a stricter regimen matters even more.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Sleep as long as possible , eat and drink as long as possible , and then jump rope as long as possible. Ah …. refreshed .

  2. I’ve never had much problem with Europe. However, Japan is a different situation since it basically flips night and day. Japan has at times been problematic. When my daughter lived in a rural part of Japan, she had a larger multi bedroom apartment. I intentionally took naps of 2 to 3 hours during the day and then went to bed at regular time, but would always wake up about 3 AM, I went ahead and got up and started my day. Never fully switching my sleeping habits. Now that she lives in a traditional apartment in Tokyo, we are using hotels and have to be gone during the day. So the last few trips I have fully flipped my sleeping schedule. Made it tough for the first week on both sides of the ocean. I think the length you were there makes a difference also whether your body fully changes its rhythms. If she was there three or four days, she may have been able to keep a schedule that didn’t flip.

  3. I don’t get how she managed to stay up past 5am Super Bowl night and chugged drinks all evening / night (she previously said alcohol was her no no during touring)

    She landed 330 afternoon before. Sleeps whatever…

    Woke up sometime before midmorning to get on plane for 330 game.

    Then Monday morning gets up to fly to LA.

    Some sort of recovery.

    Then Wed on flight to Australia. Lands what late Thurs?

    Friday evening on stage.

    I’d love to see someone break down optimal strategy for this step by step.

  4. @HRoman: When I flew to Japan, it was a last minute trip so I was relegated to the rear of economy. It was January and our ORD-NRT flight was delayed for 2 hours so we departed ORD just after dark. Which it remained for the entire 14 hour flight. I was too uncomfortable to get any sleeep on the flight – it was rough. Anyhow, we landed at 19:30 (still dark) and I got to my Ginza area hotel at about 10 pm. By the time I was in my room, I hadn’t slept in like 26 hours or so. I passed out and was awake and fresh as a daisy for our 8 am meeting the next morning. No jet lag at all! Yes, I felt like Superman.

    OTOH, flying back home 3 weeks later was a totally different story and lost my Superman status…

  5. “Jet lag is a choice”…. when you’re 30.

    When you’re 60….not much of a choice anymore.

  6. As you get older, “jet lag” is worse because you don’t sleep as well. Everyone is different, but I believe the vast majority of passengers will NOT get more sleep flying business class with a lie-flat seat. I think at least 90% of the people who don’t sleep well in coach will not sleep well in business class.This is particularly true if you enjoy any of the other amenities of business class: like a real meal, with real food and wine. Try it for yourself and find out. I feel about the same after a long haul business class flight as I do a long haul coach flight (that said, I have never completely passed on an int’l long haul dinner). With travel to Asia/Australia, when I return, my sleep schedule is equally messed up for 2 or 3 days regardless of which class I travel in.

  7. I have to agree that jetlag is a choice. When I came back to LAX from Southeast Asia during my working career, I would go to work on the first day back. It was tough staying awake in the afternoon but I sucked it up. A few days of that and a weekend would put me on schedule. Since I have retired I use jetlag to catch up on sleep. It is a luxury for me to be able to sleep eight to ten hours in a day without resorting to over the counter sleep aids.

  8. I agree with all of it, but to me the real key is Ambien. I take it on the plane when I want to sleep. I take it the first couple nights, because even if I am dead tired when I go to bed, I wake up in a couple hours and don’t get a good night sleep if my body clock of off, but Ambien lets me get a solid 6 hours on the plane and a solid 7 hours the first couple nights. It essentially eliminates jet lag for me. Without it, I am a zombie for three days.

    Living in Colorado, I eschew connecting flights to Europe through the East Coast because there isn’t really enough time to get a good sleep, and if you take Ambien, you are going to be very groggy when you arrive. I always take a direct flight from Denver to London, Paris, or Frankfurt, or go through Chicago. If all I can get is a flight through NY or Washington Dulles, I just don’t go.

    Going trans-pacific, all the flights from the west coast leave very late in the evening, and it is often mid-afternoon at or earlier at the destination. I find it difficult to stay up four hours into a four hour flight, so sometimes I try to take a brief nap, watch a movie, and then take an ambien and sleep. Usually works like a charm.

  9. Agree with Gene and Thing 1. It MAY BE a choice if one is young, in your 30’s; but not when one is over 60 and without other medical issues. Everyone reacts differently, so can’t make a generalized statement that “jet lag is a choice”. Nope.

  10. Some good tips, for sure.

    But also, I’m with Rupert— pharmacology, used responsibly, is a fine strategy. I mostly fly the East Coast to Europe and take an immediate-release Ambien when the plane doors close (faster effect and shorter duration). When I come home I take the CR, so I don’t wake up at 3am. 2 nights, 3 max.

    I was actually nervous about asking my Dr for them—she was new to me, and I didn’t want to seem like a ‘drug shopper’. I asked for rxs of 3p every 30 days and even that created a little backlog stash.

  11. Sure timing flights helps, but if that zombie feeling surfaces, I find closing my eyes for 15 minutes will overcome the sensation. Perhaps it just tricks my body but I find that better than fighting it.

  12. Yeah Taylor, it’s a choice. I mean just fly your private plane in and then right out after your show, no need to adjust. Duh.
    Then after lecturing people to make do with less, pay some company some cash for your indulgences, they call them carbon offsets or something, them you can sleep soundly on your private jet, knowing you’re a really good person. It’s so easy, people!

  13. A tip re waking up at 3AM: Part of your daily rhythm is linked to your blood sugar levels. If you have low blood sugar in the middle of the night you will wake up. The same problem can happen if you are not changing time zones but you’ve had extra alcohol, particularly a nightcap. The alcohol will put you to sleep, but your blood sugar will drop a couple of hour later because alcohol is quickly metabolized. So when flying redeye or if you’ve been drinking alcohol before bed, take a tablespoon of honey (or one of those honey packets) before going to bed. The honey is a much slower burn than alcohol and can extend your sleep while maintaining blood sugar levels longer. If you wake up at 3AM, have some honey, if available, plus a glass of water, but do not drink more alcohol because you will just dehydrate yourself. It may still take you a half hour to go back to sleep. Don’t turn on the TV because then you will be adding mental stimulation. Do something monotonous and repetitious, like playing solitaire on your pad or phone. Don’t play stimulating action games.

  14. Taylor didn’t really need to adjust since she was coming from East asia, to the west coast, she was in prime time during the after party, being late afternoon in asia. Then, flying back to australia, which is only an couple hours off from Tokyo, she was better just waking in the afternoon and sleeping early in the morning in Vegas.

  15. Jet lag is getting worse for me as I get older, and I sometimes cross 13 time zones flying from Hawaii to Europe. But last time I used the Timeshifter app, and it really worked. For about 5 days prior to departure, it tells you when to wake and sleep, when to make melatonin, when to wear sun glasses, etc. I adjusted very quickly.

  16. Honesty I heard about the Timeshifter app and gave it a try on a recent trip from DFW to MAD. I was really impressed. It starts adjusting your sleep schedule a couple of days earlier… which may mean waking up really early, or going to sleep really late. It goes so far as suggesting when to drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages and even avoiding wearing sunglass at certain times.

    All and all I was super impressed. I flew economy so sleeping wasn’t the best, but I ended up doing really well. I agree Asia is way worse, so I hope TimeShift will help for those trips too.

    Well worth checking out.

  17. I fly a few times a year in coach non-stop from the West Coast to Europe. I can’t sleep on the plane at all.

    I follow Gary’s advice, with the exception that I take a 2-3 hour nap upon checking into the hotel (which is usually early afternoon), and then power through and go to sleep any time after 9 that feels right – usually 11ish.

    I then have zero jet lag for the rest of the trip. That afternoon nap is crucial to getting through the day.

    I’m 68 years old, but that has been my consistent sleep pattern for about 30 years of travel.

  18. So based on all this, I assume many rock bands have bad jet lag after concerts, travel, banging groupies, doing drugs, and partying all night.

    “I wanna rock and roll all night and party every day” – KISS

  19. Gee. All it takes is a private jet and some lines of coke, and you too can beat jet lag, just like Taylor!

  20. I will also add the Timeshifter app helped for trips to Australia and Japan. Though the advice given wasn’t all that demanding schedule wise – evening flights into australia from the west coast arrive in the morning so you’re ‘on time’ by sleeping during the flight.

  21. I’d probably buy out First class on Emirates or Singapore and skip the private jet if I was Tailor Swift
    Just keep my cabin secure with my security team

  22. @jns yes thanks i see the Asia time compatibility with the midday to early morning schedule on the West Coast. Basically a 4am Tokyo wakeup, 10pm Tokyo bedtime for Super Bowl day/night.

    Though not a whole lot of sleep Monday morning before flying to LA on Monday and the light exposure plays with things trying to stay on Asia for the Australia trip.

  23. @dwonderment – flying commercial loses the flexibility of departure time which is probably a big factor in avoiding the jet lag

  24. @ Greg
    When you are that young and fit I’d say comfort and getting sleep is what matters most
    I would think there must be a commercial flight that could work
    But plan B if I would charter I’d have my own bed onboard
    Michael Jackson would ship his beds to some hotels prior to arrival
    Must be nice 😉

  25. Let’s not forget cabin altitude and humidity and the role they play in this. A 4,000 foot altitude and 30% humidity factor rule over 8,000 and maybe 15 to 20.

    Private jet beds can be luxurious BTW. I’ve seen them but never experienced them alas.

  26. Let me simplify this. Do whatever you want. Eat whatever you wish. Nap away. Run a marathon. Just take melatonin at bedtime and all will be fine.

    Melatonin is my best friend. The rest of this advice is fine if you don’t want to use it. But you should. When flying over more than three time zones, which I do twice a month, I chew them at bedtime like a 5 year old at a candy shop. And I’m happy.

  27. @Stuart: Yes, drugs are the easy and effective answer. Better living through chemistry. Melatonin doesn’t work for me; I take 2 Benadryl at bedtime for the first 3 or 4 days. Falling asleep isn’t usually my problem, it’s waking up in the middle of the night Benadryl ensure 7+ hours of uninterrupted sleep. Worked like a charm on our trip from NYC to Sri Lanka (10.5 hr time change).

  28. Thing 1 is correct. In my 20s I had no difficulty adjusting to new time after 1 day on the ground. But almost impossible when you hit your 50s.

    Experts say it takes 1 day per hour of time zone change to adjust. So 10 days for a trip from West Coast to Japan/Europe.

  29. Jet Lag City here I come.
    Leaving AKL Sunday the 18th @ 13:20, arriving MIA same day @ 16:45. A DFW stopover of 3hrs is part of the journey. BTW sleeping on planes is not my bag.

  30. I wish the airlines would accommodate these suggestions by serving (or at least offering) the appropriate meals for the time at the destination. A flight LAX-JFK at 9am should offer lunch, for example. Currently you are forced to have breakfast.

Comments are closed.