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Home / Travel Clinic / Jet Lag / Top 5 tips to avoid jet lag

Top 5 tips to avoid jet lag

Find out how you can avoid jet lag before and after you reach your destination

Landing in your new holiday destination should mean excitement for most, however jet lag can leave many feeling the exact opposite once they reach the hotel.

Jet lag disorder occurs when you travel across time zones, typically via air travel, and your internal body clock becomes out of sync with the local time of your destination. This is because your body aligns with the 24 hour day-night cycle, making you feel alert in the day and tired at night. This is known as your sleep wake cycle, one of your body’s many circadian rhythms.

When you fly across time zones however, your body won’t be accustomed to the day-night cycle of the new location. It will continue to trigger the relevant hormonal processes to the day-night cycle of your previous location, meaning your body will operate as if it were the time there.

Your body will feel like it's the middle of the night, even when it’s daytime at your new destination. This can cause several adverse effects, with symptoms of jet lag including daytime sleepiness; poor sleep and insomnia; mental and physical discomfort as well as digestive issues (as your digestive system also operates on a similar cycle!).

Jet lag often fixes itself as your internal body clock starts to realign to the new day-night cycle, however this can still be inconvenient if you’re only abroad for a short time and don’t have the time to adjust to the new time zone.

How do I get over jet lag?

Thankfully, there’s many things you can do before, during and after the flight to help beat jet lag and prevent it interfering with your travel plans. Keep reading to find out 5 of the best travel tips for combatting jet lag at euroClinix.

Woman asleep on sun lounger with an open book on her face.

1. Adjust your sleep schedule

One of the best ways to avoid jet lag is to adjust your sleep schedule before you even get on the plane. This means going to bed and waking up at the times you would normally if you were already in your destination time zone.

However, this can be tough to do if you’re travelling from west to east, as you’ll effectively be losing sleep each day. How well you can change your sleep schedule will depend on your daily schedule in the lead-up to your check in. You should always ensure you’ve had a good night’s sleep before flying.

During your flight, you should also try to adjust to your new time zone. If it’s nighttime at your destination whilst you are in the air, you should try to sleep overnight on the plane. If you have difficulty sleeping on aeroplanes, use an eye mask to block any light and earplugs to limit noise disturbances. You could also change your watch or clock on your phone to match the timezone of your destination. This will not only help you keep time as soon as you land, but will help you adjust your sleep schedule in the air.

Doing these things will help your body to quickly adapt to the new timezone once you land, or even prevent it before you even get there. When you land, you should avoid giving into the sleepiness.

If you’re struggling with jet lag, you should also avoid taking long naps as this will prevent your body from aligning with the new sleep-wake cycle.

Man lying in bed reaching out to mute alarm clock.

2. Get lots of daylight exposure

Light is the most important factor in regulating your sleep-wake cycle. Your body clock, sometimes called the ‘master clock’, senses the change in daylight and signals the body’s response. When it’s light, your master clock sends signals to generate alertness. When it’s dark, the master clock instead signals your pineal gland to release melatonin which helps to induce sleep.

This is why it’s important to get plenty of daylight exposure. Sunlight has the most powerful influence on your circadian rhythm, ahead of artificial light. If you land and it’s daytime, make sure to take the time on your first day to explore around where you’re staying and in the local area. This will reinforce the time change to your internal clock and you will adjust more quickly.

If you don’t have access to daylight, you could try bringing a light therapy lamp or lightbox to where you’re staying. However, natural light will have the greatest influence.

Woman looking out of an aeroplane window.

3. Stay active

When you’re trying to avoid jet lag, one of the best things you can do is get some exercise. A light workout at your hotel or a walk around the airport during a layover can help your body adjust more quickly to the new time zone. This will also maximise your daylight exposure and help you feel more alert, even if you don’t feel up to moving. The fresh air will also help with any other jet lag symptoms.

You should also try keeping active on the plane, especially if it’s a long distance flight. If you can, you could try doing some gentle stretches or walking on the plane. Not only will this help maintain good circulation, but will prevent stiffness which can make the other effects of jet lag worse.

Elderly woman stretching in aeroplane seat.

4. Be mindful of your diet

What you eat and drink is also important in preventing jet lag. In general, you should aim to eat light and healthy meals as jet lag can affect your digestion. Eating clean will help prevent any constipation, diarrhoea or general nausea.

It’s important to stay hydrated when you’re travelling, and that means drinking water and plenty of fluids. Dehydration can make jet lag symptoms worse.

However, you should avoid alcohol or caffeine as they can both affect your regular sleep patterns as well as worsen jet lag. They both affect your brain in particular ways that could disrupt your sleep, which is critical when you’re already in a situation particularly prone to disturbances.

When you eat can also influence your sleep-wake cycle and body clock, and research has found that jet lag can be alleviated by keeping regular meal times.

Girl holding a coffee cup and yawning.

5. Take Melatonin

Some of these lifestyle changes can be difficult to manage for some, so there are several medicinal sleep aids available.

Over-the-counter options such as herbal supplements, like valerian root, or antihistamines can help induce sleep when you need to. However, a much more natural and successful treatment is Melatonin.

Melatonin supplements, often prescribed under the brand name Circadin, contain the hormone of the same name which your body produces in the evening before you sleep. When you’re jet-lagged and can’t get to sleep, your body won’t be producing any Melatonin naturally. Therefore, taking Melatonin tablets a few hours before you need to go to bed will naturally induce sleep. It will also help to realign your sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythm, unlike other sleeping pills.

You can purchase prescription Melatonin online at euroClinix. Our service is confidential, safe and simple. Because Melatonin can cause some side effects, our online consultation is free and will help our doctors ensure it is safe for you to take. Your treatment is then delivered right to your door, so there’s less hassle and no need to rush to a pharmacy before your flight.

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Caroline Fontana Written by our editorial team Last reviewed 14-03-2024
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