Depending on where you board your flight to Ireland (at least from the US) you will have 5 to 11 hours of flight time.
Within an hour of take-off beverage service begins. About 60-90 minutes after that you'll have meal service. Following that is coffee or tea.
By this time your flight is nearly half over and the lights are dimmed to allow you to rest.
About 90 minutes before landing the lights come back up and a light breakfast is served.
Simple math will tell you that, between all the meals and service, you have between 2 and 5 hours to try and rest before you land in Ireland. No matter how you look at it, that's not a lot of time.
If you're traveling with kids the small blessing is that children can sleep anywhere, so they will likely be much more rested than the adults. Great for their attitudes, but otherwise not too helpful.
Resting During Your Flight to Ireland
Sleeping on a flight is a skill not everyone has. Use these tips to help you arrive in Ireland somewhat rested.
- Do your best to get 8+ hours of sleep at least 3 nights before you leave. Technically you can't “save up” excess sleep but it certainly is more helpful than not having enough sleep before you leave.
- Decaffeinate. Put down the sodas and coffee and pick up water. Not only will being well hydrated help you fight jet lag, but removing stimulants from your body will make it a bit easier to sleep when you have the chance.
- Set your watch and phone to the local time in Ireland. It's helpful for your mind to at least know what time you're acclimating to- even if your body argues.
- Eat light. Try to avoid fats, which can keep you awake; carbs, like pasta or bread, may help you sleep. I recommend skipping the in-flight dinner.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Try to drink at least 16 oz of water before your flight, and an 8 oz glass for every hour you're in the air.
- Wear shoes that can slip off and comfortable clothing. It is possible that your feet may swell when you fly and tight clothing may not be comfortable enough to allow you to relax.
- Bring the tools you need: ear plugs or ear phones and a sleep mask will help you shut out the noise and lights around you. I've not found a travel pillow that works well; the trtl neck support is the best thing I've found for sleeping on a flight.
- Even if you can't sleep, do your best to relax. A quick 45 minute nap is better than nothing.
Tips for Waking Up Before You Land
- As the flight attendants prepare to serve breakfast, get up. Walk around. Stretch. Go the the bathroom.
- Eat breakfast and drink some water.
- Don't rush to get off the plane. Take your time and allow your body to adjust to being back on land. (Let everyone else rush to immigration and baggage- and wait for the plane to be unloaded- and rush to car rental- and wait in lines. Get used to the relaxed pace of Ireland upon landing!)
Tips for Adjusting to Ireland Time & Fighting Jet Lag
- Get active! The best way to adjust your inner clock is to keep moving.
- Eat a good meal. Your body's fuel is food and sleep. And when you can't sleep you need to eat.
- Do not drive more than 1.5 hours if you pick up a rental car when you arrive. Driving while drowsy is dangerous.
- Don't go to bed too early – you'll wake up in the middle of the night – but don't stay up too late.
- Set an alarm the next morning. Yes, you'll likely be tired, but the sooner you make your body adjust to the local time, the quicker jet lag will fade.
- Fuel yourself for the day ahead. Don't skimp on breakfast.
On Your Return to the US…
Prepare for a long day. The eastern part of the US is 5 hours ‘behind' Ireland, the west coast has an 8 hour difference.
If you can plan a day after returning from your vacation to re-acclimate to your local time before returning to work, school, or other activities.