19 tips on how to avoid jet lag
Whether it’s an overseas business trip, or your big annual summer vacation with the family, there’s nothing more disappointing than having the first half of your holiday ruined by a bad bout of jet lag. There is no proven cure for jet lag, but you can take some steps to reduce its effects, so if your dream destination is a long-haul flight away, here are our 15 steps on how to avoid jet lag.
What is Jet Lag?
Jet lag is a temporary condition that occurs when your circadian rhythms that control simple bodily functions such as sleeping and eating patterns are disrupted when you move to a different time zone.
Jet lag has the most effect when crossing three or more time zones, and is generally worse when flying east, because your body is better equipped to gain time rather than lose it. Confusion in your internal body clock can cause daytime fatigue, insomnia, memory and concentration issues, digestive problems, and issues with your mood.
We’ve all been there, and unfortunately there is no fixed recovery time – it affects everyone differently. Some factors thay might affect include age, state of health, and stress levels.
Before Your Trip
- Avoiding jet lag can start as early as when you are booking your flights. If you have obligations to attend on your trip, such as a business conference or social event, try to book your flight a day or two in advance to allow time to adapt to your new time zone.
- If possible, book a flight that arrives at your destination late afternoon or early evening local time. This will give you time to eat, unpack and get settled, but also means it won’t be too long before you can go to sleep.
No matter where you’re headed for your vacation, packing a few items that can aid your sleep will be invaluable.
If you have any medical issues that require monitoring, such as diabetes, visit your doctor in advance of your trip to plan a strategy for while you’re away.
- Check with your airline to see if they provide a neck pillow, blindfold, ear plugs and a blanket. If not, bring your own packed in your hand luggage. It can also be good to pack a book or Kindle for the flight, and a pair of headphones.
Travelling across multiple zones
- If you’re going to be travelling across multiple time zones, you can prepare for this in the week leading up to your flight by tweaking your sleeping pattern slightly. If you’re going to be travelling east, the best option on how to avoid jet lag is setting your alarm a little earlier and head to bed before your usual time.
- Likewise, if you’re travelling west, stay up a bit later and hit the snooze button in the morning. It might not feel like a huge difference, but your body will adapt more readily to the time difference when you arrive on holiday.
- It is wise to choose a comfortable, loose-fitting outfit for the airplane. If you’d prefer, take some pajamas in your hand luggage to change into once you get on the plane - you’ll thank yourself when it helps you fall asleep.
- Never forget to buy a big bottle of water when you’re through security at the airport! Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for yourself on a long flight.
- If you’re not a fan of plane food, stock up on some light, healthy snacks as well.
On the Flight
- Once you have boarded your flight, set your watch to the time of your destination, so you can begin adjusting to the new sleeping and eating patterns in advance. If it’s night time where you’re going, try and get some shut-eye, and if it’s daytime, try and stay awake.
- When everyone is on the plane, ask a flight attendant if there are any spare seats or rows – if it’s not being used, you might be able to make the most of the extra space and have a more comfortable journey.
If you’re trying to catch some sleep, make sure you’re wearing some comfy clothes, and put your blanket, eye mask, earplugs and neck pillow to use! Try listening to a calming playlist if you’re having trouble relaxing.
- If you’re attempting to stay awake for the flight, try to keep your mind engaged and use the time in a productive way. If you’re on a business trip, get some work done, or finally read that book you’ve had since last Christmas! You can also make the most of the flight by watching a movie– there are usually plenty of good movies to choose from.
- Look after yourself on your flight, and you will reap the benefits by the end of your journey.
A great way on how to avoid jet lag is to get up and stretch every couple of hours. Not moving around for a long time can increase jet lag symptoms.
This also reduces your risk of developing blood clots, which are made more likely by long periods of sitting.
- Basic toiletries such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a hairbrush will help you feel more refreshed when you wake up from your in-flight snooze. Moisturizer and lip balm are essential for keeping your skin hydrated too!
- It may be tempting to take advantage of the bar – after all, you are on holiday!
However, we only recommend drinking a glass/cup. Alcohol at such high altitude will actually increase tiredness and cause further dehydration, making jet lag even harder to cope with. Y ou’re also far more likely to wake up with a killer headache – not a good start to your trip.
- Also avoid caffeinated or sugary drinks – just drink plenty of water! If you prefer, you may be allowed to bring your own herbal teabags, which could help you get to sleep.
At Your Arrival
- Once you arrived at your destination a way on how to avoid jet lag, will be sticking to the patterns of the local time zone.
If it’s the middle of the night, go to bed. If your flight lands during the day, try and keep yourself awake until at least close to your normal bed hour at home.
- Daylight is the most powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock, so get out into the sunshine by taking a gentle walk to explore the area – If it’s warm, take a refreshing dip in the pool!
- If you really are desperate to sleep, take a short nap in the late morning or early afternoon, but no longer than one or two hours. Set an alarm to wake you up again! Over sleeping during a “short nap” is the worst thing you can do when acclimating to the new time zone.
The First Days
- The first night of your trip is the most crucial part of jet lag recovery. So it’s essential that you get a good sleep.Eat a light meal a few hours before bed, and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and any other stimulants.
- If you’re finding it difficult to relax, take a hot bath to ease your sore, post-flight muscles and use candles, relaxing music or an audiobook to help you wind down. Ensure your room is a good temperature for sleeping by tweaking your air conditioner, and get into bed by 10 or 11 PM.
- Turn off your phone and any other devices for at least an hour before bed to avoid stimulating your brain, and request a wake-up call (or two) on your first morning.
- Some simple exercise or some quiet yoga and meditation will do wonders for making you feel more in tune with your body after the confusion of changing time zones. Check if your hotel offers any yoga or pilates classes that you can attend.
- If you have the luxury of a slightly longer holiday, take the first day or two to relax and adjust. Save the big adventures for a little further in.For the first few days, stick to a healthy balance of activity and relaxation. Take short walks to get to know your surroundings, indulge in some local food, or spend a day sunbathing at the beach.
Don’t forget to apply these same tips on how to avoid jet lag to your return journey.
Wherever in the world you’re going, if you’re skipping time zones be sure to take some extra time to look after yourself and take some measures to reduce the impact of jet lag!
Who knows, maybe you will find out the perfect destination for your next amazing vacation!