top of page

International Sleep: Why is it Harder Flying East than West?

Mainly, this is because it is easier to stay up and go to sleep later than normal, than it is to go to sleep much earlier than you normally would. For example, if you have flown West (say, from London to New York) arriving in the Big Apple at 9pm, you will probably find it easy to go to sleep because your internal body clock is registering the time as 2am.

However, if you were taking the same journey heading East and arrived in London at 11pm, you would find it difficult to sleep as it’s only 6pm in New York!


Try to get a flight later in the day, ideally any time from 5pm. This means you would arrive in New York from 8pm. Once you’ve cleared security, picked up your bags and made it into the city, you’ll have lost two hours and be feeling exhausted. When you get to wherever you’re staying, you can get straight into bed and hopefully sleep soundly.

This is a much better option than getting a morning flight, which would see you arrive in New York in the early afternoon – or worse – the morning! This would mean staying awake for the entire day until bedtime, which is not good when you’re already tired from travelling.


On the return journey, go for a non-stop daytime flight. The disadvantage to this approach is that you’ll lose a day of your time in New York to travel. But the advantage is that you’ll arrive in London in the evening. The exhaustion from the journey, combined with the fact that it will probably be dark on your arrival, will give you the best change of a good night’s sleep. This is much better than arriving at 6am and having to stay awake all day.

The night-time options from New York leave very little time for sleep; due to the jet stream flights can be as short as five hours and 13 minutes. This departure time will see you arrive in London early in the morning, meaning you face a sleepless day when you’re already exhausted.

Why not try the jet lag-busting method used by the US military on your next flight?

NB: This article is for information purposes, and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, or have symptoms which prevent you from sleeping well, you should contact your medical practitioner.


bottom of page