Jet lag: how to avoid it

How to get over jet lag: 14 tips for beating timezone tiredness

Jet lag: how to avoid it

Working out how to prevent jet lag becomes significantly easier when we understand how our bodies work. Our bodies are naturally programmed to do a number of things throughout a 24-hour period, such as eating and sleeping.

These built-in routines are known as circadian rhythms, and when we fly they’re thrown into disarray. Moving through time zones can play havoc with our bodies, leading to extreme fatigue along with indigestion, bowel problems, loss of appetite, and memory and concentration issues.

Sounds rough, right? Well, these are the most common effects of jet lag, but different people can be affected in different ways. And if your next question is “how long does it take to recover from jet lag?” then sorry to disappoint you keen travel planners, but there’s no fixed answer.

Jet lag doesn’t just affect different people in different ways. Jet lag effects can vary depending on our age, state of health, and stress levels.

Are certain countries worse for jet lag?

The expression goes that west is best, east is a beast, and it’s true. This is because you’ll end up trying to get to sleep when your body is actually waking up, meaning you’re forced to get up at what feels the middle of the night.

To put it another way, your body is better equipped to cope with a longer day than a shorter one. Studies have found that it takes a full day to recover from each time zone you travel through.

No matter where you’re going, we’ve got plenty of tips on how to survive a long-haul flight.

1. Relax your schedule

Knowing how to prepare for a long-haul flight can mean you start your holiday feeling fresh, rather than fatigued.

If you’re someone with a rigid schedule at home, try to relax that schedule during the days before your flight. Having a rigid routine of eating and sleeping will make it harder to adjust to new time zones.

If you’re flexible about such arrangements, you’ll start your trip abroad with a major advantage.

2. Get a good night’s sleep before you fly

People often end up having slept for just a few hours before a long flight – whether it’s due to pre-holiday excitement or a deliberate attempt to tire yourself out so that you’ll sleep through the flight. Big mistake. Getting a good night’s sleep before your flight will leave you better equipped to cope with jet lag.

3. Avoid arriving at night

If possible, opt for a flight which arrives in daylight. This will make it easier to stay awake – you’ll be much more tempted to get out and explore if the sun’s shining and you’ve got a full day ahead of you.

A more extreme solution? Only fly to destinations within the Greenwich Meridian – destinations with the most similar time zones to the UK.

Options include France and Spain, and (for the more adventurous) Togo, Ghana, and some parts of Antarctica.

4. Be plane savvy

You don’t have to be a plane-spotter to know that A350s and A380s are two of the best planes for anyone wondering how to beat jet lag.

Hi-tech humidification systems help the air retain moisture and LED lighting systems capable of creating 16.

7 million shades of colour simulate natural phases of the day, helping stave off jet lag. Another perk is an air purification system which renews the air every two minutes.

5. Split up the trip

Try and build in a stopover, so your body has more time to adapt to the new routine. This can also slash the price of your airfare. Skyscanner’s multi-city flight search can help you choose the perfect one-day break.

6. Avoid the bar

Tempting though it is to kick off your holiday with a pre-flight gin and tonic, the effects of alcohol at altitude will increase tiredness and cause dehydration, making it even harder to beat the inevitable jet lag.

7. Sleeping pills are a no-no

Relying on sleeping pills for long-haul flights is a bad idea. They’re not worth it. They’ll do nothing to assist your recovery from jet lag and will just leave you feeling fuzzy when you land. If you’re in need of some shut-eye, do it the natural way. Unlimited, free hot water is one of the best in-flight freebies, so why not bring your own herbal tea bags?

8. Say goodbye to coffee

Avoid caffeine-heavy beverages such as coffee, cola, and energy drinks. These artificial stimulants will affect your ability to sleep and increase jet lag recovery time. Your body functions best when it’s hydrated, so drinking lots of water is a great way to offset the effects of jet lag.

9. Set your watch

When you get on the plane, set your watch to the time of your destination to get yourself psychologically aligned. A warning: don’t get clever and do this beforehand, unless you want to end up with the world’s most ridiculous excuse for missing your flight.

10. Keep on movin’

Move around regularly and do exercises to keep the blood flowing. And if you’ve ever wondered how to avoid DVT, you should know that good circulation is key.

Investing in a pair of flight socks will minimise the risk of DVT and improve circulation (a slowing of which is one of the most common effects of jet lag).

Who cares if they look horrendous? This isn’t a fashion show.

11. Eat right

A more extreme tip is to start eating three meals a day in line with the new time zone, even if that means cornflakes at 11pm. And if you’re the type of person who enjoys a suppertime snack anyway, it might not be such a burden.

12. Hunt for the sun

Get as much daylight as you can. Daylight makes you feel better. Unless you’ve been up all night. Which is never, ever a good idea before a long flight.

13. Get some exercise

Do some exercise to boost your endorphins and stretch out the kinks which develop on long haul flights. These days, almost all airline magazines will have a section dedicated to simple exercises for long haul flights.

14. Catch up on sleep

Try to get as much sleep as you normally would in a 24-hour period – make up any shortfall with a (short) snooze on the day of arrival if necessary.

So you’ve worked out how to beat the jet lag and you’re ready to explore the world. Here are some other tips to help you get the most your big adventure ✈️

How to survive a long haul

Follow our 10 survival tips for long flights to emerge refreshed, relaxed and ready to start your holiday when you touch down…

The best suitcases for long-haul flights

Is your luggage up to the long-haul challenge? We’ve got some of the best suitcases that are up to the task.

Excess baggage fees: How to avoid annoying extra charges

Nothing kills your holiday mood faster than excess baggage fees at the airport. Follow out tips to avoid unexpected charges.

Skyscanner is the world’s travel search engine, helping your money go further on flights, hotels and car hire.


How to Avoid Jet Lag: Prevention and Remedies

Jet lag: how to avoid it

For seasoned globetrotters, jet lag is an all-too-familiar part of international travel—the fatigue, the disorientation, and especially that pesky inner alarm that wakes you up at 4:00 a.m. and sends you stumbling back to bed before dinnertime. While there’s no real cure, the advice below explains how to avoid jet lag and which remedies are most ly to help.

What Is Jet Lag?

Jet lag is a physical reaction to a rapid change in time zones. It affects most travelers, including seasoned flyers flight attendants and pilots. Common symptoms include disorientation, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, dry eyes, headaches, irregular bowels, and general malaise.

Note that flying from, say, New York City to Santiago won’t produce jet lag in the true sense because both cities are in the same time zone—but the effects of the long flight might feel quite a bit classic jet lag. In these cases, you’re just tired from the flight, and a good night’s sleep and perhaps some exercise will set things right.

On long flights—especially red-eye flights—you often lose several hours of sleep time, which can set you back considerably even without the jarring time change. If you live by a regular schedule (up at 7:00 a.m., in bed by 10:00 p.m.

every night), watch out. Jet lag hits those with rigid body clocks the hardest.

Parents should be sure to bring along books and toys your child can play with on his or her own, in case the jet lag hits you differently than it does your little ones.

A general rule of thumb to keep in mind before any long trip is the 1:1 ratio: Allow yourself one day to recover for every hour of time difference that you experience. Some people find that they recover from jet lag more easily when traveling west instead of east (or vice versa).

How to Prevent Jet Lag: Before You Go

Treat your body well before you fly. Although it may be tempting to stay up all night before your flight in order to more easily fall asleep onboard, you should do the opposite.

Jet lag can hit you harder if you’re tired, sick, or hungover. Be sure to get a good night’s sleep before you board your flight. Exercise, sleep well, stay hydrated, and stay sober.

The worst thing you can do is get on a long flight with a hangover.

Some travelers to exercise right before they go to the airport. (This can actually help you sleep better on the plane.) Once you’re at the airport, avoid the escalators and moving sidewalks. Instead, walk and take the stairs on the way to your check-in area and gate connections.

Adjust your habits before you leave. For example, if you’re traveling from the East to the West Coast of the U.S., you’re facing a three-hour time change and you should try to adjust your internal clock. A few days before you leave, try to stay up a little later than usual, and sleep in a little longer.

If you become accustomed to falling asleep at 12:00 a.m. and waking up at 8:00 a.m. on the East Coast, it will be the same as falling asleep at 9:00 p.m. and waking up at 5:00 a.m. on the West Coast, getting you one step closer to the time zone you’ll be in.

Traveling west to east, do the opposite: Get up and go to bed earlier.

During the Flight

Perhaps the best way to avoid jet lag while in flight is to treat your body well. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated fluids. Dehydration has been shown to amplify some of the symptoms of jet lag, making you feel even worse. Don’t be afraid to ask your flight attendant for extra water.

Set your watch to the time in your destination as soon as you take off so you can start training your brain on the new schedule.

If you’ll be arriving in the morning at your destination, it’s a good idea to try to sleep on the flight. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing, and pack a neck pillow, eye mask, ear plugs, or noise-canceling headphones in your carry-on to help you block out the distractions around you. To help you get more rest in flight, see our tips for sleeping on planes.

Meanwhile, if you’ll be arriving late at your destination, you might want to avoid anything more than a brief nap on the plane; that way you’ll be tired enough to sleep when you arrive. Queue up a few movies on your seatback screen, read a good book, and get up your seat at regular intervals to walk and stretch.

You can also do exercises toe raises, isometric exercises, stomach crunches, and shoulder shrugs right in your seat. This keeps your blood flowing and prevents it from pooling at your extremities, a common phenomenon in pressurized cabins.

If you’re in a window seat, consider putting up the shade to let natural light in; it’ll help keep you awake.

When You Land

Stay awake until the evening when you arrive.

It’s painful, especially if you didn’t manage much sleep on the plane, but you’ll have an easier time on the rest of your trip if you can stay awake at least until the early evening of the first day.

Walking around outdoors and getting some natural light can help adjust your body’s circadian rhythms. You’ll also want to continue to keep yourself well hydrated.

Jet Lag Remedies: Medication and Light Therapy

Melatonin is a chemical in the body that helps regulate sleep cycles. It can be taken in pill form, and many travelers swear by it for fighting jet lag.

However, as popular as melatonin is, it’s also controversial.

Studies have indicated that incorrect melatonin usage can make you feel even more fatigued, and its dosage isn’t regulated, so be sure to read all instructions and consult your physician before taking the product.

One widely available homeopathic remedy is the aptly named No-Jet-Lag. The company claims the chewable tablets address all jet lag symptoms, and offers testimonials from flight attendants and other frequent flyers. A bag of dried cherries is another natural remedy that some travelers use, as these are a good source of melatonin.

Some travelers use sleeping pills, antihistamines, and motion sickness pills to induce sleep on planes and at hotels after arrival. While they work for some, others are left feeling miserably groggy.

Be sure to try any over-the-counter sleep aids at home before your trip—you don’t want to find out you’re allergic to any ingredients while you’re trapped on the airplane. wise, melatonin can cause nightmares in some people—also not fun at 30,000 feet.

Always consult your doctor before trying any remedies, as some herbs can interact with prescription medications.

If all else fails, try an alternate therapy. Light therapy has become a popular treatment for jet lag. At its heart, jet lag means you’re step with the rising and setting of the sun, so exposing yourself to light at the appropriate time can theoretically help you align your body with your new time zone.

Unfortunately, the jury’s still out on the effectiveness of this. The debate centers on precisely which kind of light is best—natural, artificial, bright, or dim. One study even found that flashing light might be best.

Some researchers and enthusiasts recommend avoiding light on flights by wearing sunglasses onboard and in the airport, then simply spending 15 to 20 minutes in direct sunlight without sunglasses as soon as possible after landing.

Jet Lag Apps

Several smartphone apps have been developed to help travelers avoid jet lag.

Enter your flight details into Timeshifter (iOS | Android) or Entrain (iOS | Android), and they’ll create a suggested schedule of when to sleep, avoid caffeine, or expose yourself to bright light to prepare for the time change. Another option is the Uplift app (iOS | Android), which uses biorhythmic acupressure to help you reset your body clock.

Dietary Tactics to Prevent Jet Lag

The so-called “jet lag diet,” an alternation of feasting and fasting for three days leading up to a long-haul flight, was very popular a few years back. Recent research suggests that fasting for 12 to 16 hours before breakfast time at your destination is an effective simplification of the original diet—as long as you’re willing to ingest nothing but water on your long-haul flight.

If can’t or don’t want to fast, restrict your diet to foods that are easily digested and not too rich.

If you’re trying to stay awake in order to get your body in step with the local time zone, caffeine can be useful—but don’t go overboard.

While it might seem tempting to guzzle several cups of coffee when your eyelids begin to droop, you could end up wide awake at 1:00 a.m. Be sure to implement all dietary changes in moderation.

Looking to Combat Jet Lag? Try Some of Our Favorite In-Flight Relaxation Remedies

What are your best tips to prevent jet lag? Share them in the comments below.

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Molly Feltner, Caroline Morse Teel, and Margaret Leahy contributed to this story.


Jet Lag: How to Cope

Jet lag: how to avoid it

From the WebMD Archives

For frequent fliers and international travelers, the symptoms of jet lag are all too familiar. Disturbed sleep, daytime fatigue, difficulty concentrating and functioning, and even stomach problems are a fact of life.

Fortunately, while you may not be able to eliminate jet lag altogether if you’re traveling across multiple time zones, you can lessen its effects with some simple strategies. First, it helps to understand what jet lag is and what causes it. Then, WebMD offers 11 ways to cope with jet lag and still enjoy your travel.

Jet lag can occur any time you travel quickly across two or more time zones. The more time zones you cross, the more ly you are to be sleepy and sluggish — and the longer and more intense the symptoms are ly to be.

Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder, but not temporary enough for many travelers. If you’re flying from San Francisco to Rome for a 10-day trip, for example, it may take six to nine days to fully recover.

That’s because it can take up to a day for each time zone crossed for your body to adjust to the local time. If you’re traveling east to west, from Rome to San Francisco, jet lag could last four to five days — about half the number of time zones crossed.

Jet lag is generally worse when you “lose time” traveling west to east.

If you’re an older adult, jet lag may hit you harder and recovery may take longer.

Jet lag happens because rapid travel throws off our circadian rhythm — the biological clock that helps control when we wake and fall asleep. “Cues such as light exposure, mealtimes, social engagement, and activities regulate our circadian rhythm,” says Allison T.

Siebern, PhD, a fellow in the Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center. “When you cross time zones, it disrupts those, and your internal clock and the external time are desynchronized.

Your body needs to get on the rhythm of the new time zone.”

Other aspects of air travel can aggravate the problem.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007 found that air cabins pressurized to 8,000 feet lower oxygen in the blood, making passengers feel uncomfortable and dehydrated.

And people don’t move around as much as usual on an airplane. “These can increase symptoms of jet lag and further disrupt your circadian rhythm from re-synchronizing,” says Siebern.

Some of these strategies may help prevent or ease jet lag:

“If you’re traveling east, start moving your bedtime earlier,” says Avelino Verceles, MD, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the school’s sleep medicine fellowship. “Shift it a half-hour earlier each night for several nights before you leave.”

If you’re traveling west, do the opposite. You can also try moving your mealtimes closer to the time you’ll be taking them at your destination.

Change your watch when you get on the plane.“This is mostly psychological,” says Siebern, “but it helps you get into the mind-set of what you’ll be doing in the place where you’re going.”

Try to sleep on the plane if it’s nighttime where you’re going or stay awake if it’s daytime — but don’t force it. “It can be difficult to force yourself to sleep and that can cause frustration, which can then prevent sleep,” says Siebern. “If that happens, just try to rest as much as possible.”

If you need to be on top of your game for an event at your destination, try to arrive a few days early, so your mind and body can adjust.

Drink water before, during, and after your flight to counteract dehydration. Avoid alcohol or caffeine a few hours before you plan to sleep. Alcohol and caffeine can disrupt sleep and may cause dehydration.

Get up and walk around periodically, do some static exercises, and stretch on the flight. But after you land, avoid heavy exercise near bedtime, as it can delay sleep.

Melatonin naturally secreted in our bodies helps regulate our circadian rhythms so that we sleep at night. But the jury is still out on the effectiveness of the supplement melatonin to combat jet lag and aid sleep. Some research shows that it can reduce jet lag on flights both east and west, but other research has not shown a benefit.

Verceles suggests taking 3 milligrams of melatonin an hour or two before bedtime at your destination, and plan to sleep for 10 hours. “This takes into account the one or two hours needed to absorb the melatonin and allow it to enter the bloodstream, as well as 10 hours for sleep,” Verceles says. “Ten hours may be a generous overestimate, but it’s better to allow more sleep time than less.”

Melatonin appears to be safe if taken short term, but its long-term effects are not known. If you want to try melatonin, check with your doctor first.

Exposure to sunlight helps regulate our circadian rhythms. ”On westward flights, get bright morning light at your new destination, and avoid afternoon and evening light exposure,” Verceles suggests.

“On eastward flights, avoid early light exposure in morning and get as much light as possible in the afternoon and early evening.

The light helps shift your body’s circadian clock, so that you feel rested and wake at appropriate times at your destination.”

Commercially available light boxes may also be helpful in coping with jet lag if used at appropriate times, but Siebern advises consulting with a sleep specialist first.

“You want to make sure the light isn’t too intense or shifting your circadian clock in the wrong direction because this can increase the duration of jet lag,” she says.

“And light boxes are not advised for some people, such as those with cataracts or bipolar disorder.”

Some frequent fliers swear by jet lag diets — such as eating a heavy diet for a few days before travel and fasting on flight day. No diets have been proven effective for preventing jet lag, however. “We do recommend not eating a high carb or fatty diet close to bedtime because that can be disruptive to sleep,” says Siebern.

A bath can ease sore muscles from travel and help you relax and wind down. The drop in your body temperature when you get a bath may also make you sleepy.

An eye mask or earplugs may help you sleep on the plane and at your destination. Try to eliminate distractions in your room at bedtime, such as light shining in through a window.

It’s usually not necessary to get treatment for jet lag, but if these strategies don’t work for you, your doctor may prescribe or suggest medications to take temporarily to help you sleep or stay alert when necessary.

If you fly frequently and jet lag is a problem, consider seeing a sleep specialist — a physician or psychologist who has specialized training in sleep medicine.

“There are a number of ways that sleep specialists can help with shifting your body’s circadian rhythm toward your new time zone, such as with light therapy, melatonin, or prescription medication that can help with jet lag symptoms,” Siebern says.


Muhm, J.M. New England Journal of Medicine, July 5, 2007; vol 357: pp 18-27.

Buscemi, N. BMJ, Feb. 10, 2006.

Herxheimer A. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2002; (2): CD001520.

Mayo Clinic: “Jet lag disorder.”

Allison T. Siebern, PhD, fellow, Insomnia and Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, Stanford University School of Medicine, Sleep Medicine Center, Redwood City, Calif.

CDC: “Jet Lag.”

Avelino Verceles, MD, assistant professor and director, sleep medicine fellowship, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: “Your Guide to Healthy Sleep.”

© 2010 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


Jet Lag & Sleep

Jet lag: how to avoid it

Whether you're a “Road Warrior” who has piled up thousands of Frequent Flier Miles, or someone who is planning a vacation to a distant location, you are ly to experience the phenomenon of “jet lag,” which can have a profound effect on your sleep and alertness.

Every day, millions of travelers struggle against one of the most common sleep disorders — jet lag. For years, jet lag was considered merely a state of mind.

Now, studies have shown that the condition actually results from an imbalance in our body's natural “biological clock” caused by traveling to different time zones. Basically, our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called “circadian rhythms.

” These rhythms are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake.

When traveling to a new time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it's actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night. This experience is known as jet lag.


Some simple behavioral adjustments before, during and after arrival at your destination can help minimize some of the side effects of jet lag.

  • Select a flight that allows early evening arrival and stay up until 10 p.m. local time. (If you must sleep during the day, take a short nap in the early afternoon, but no longer than two hours. Set an alarm to be sure not to over sleep.)
  • Anticipate the time change for trips by getting up and going to bed earlier several days prior to an eastward trip and later for a westward trip.
  • Upon boarding the plane, change your watch to the destination time zone.
  • Avoid alcohol or caffeine at least three to four hours before bedtime. Both act as “stimulants” and prevent sleep.
  • Upon arrival at a destination, avoid heavy meals (a snack—not chocolate—is okay).
  • Avoid any heavy exercise close to bedtime. (Light exercise earlier in the day is fine.)
  • Bring earplugs and blindfolds to help dampen noise and block out unwanted light while sleeping.
  • Try to get outside in the sunlight whenever possible. Daylight is a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock. (Staying indoors worsens jet lag.)
  • Contrary to popular belief, the type of foods we eat have no effect on minimizing jet lag.

According to experts, stress or the potential for stress is another problem that can lead to sleeplessness. Two common travel related stress conditions are the “First Night Effect” and the “On-Call Effect.

” The first condition occurs when trying to sleep in a new or unfamiliar environment.

The second is caused by the nagging worry that something just might wake you up, such as the possibility of a phone ringing, hallway noise or another disruption.

Try these tips on you next trip to help avoid travel-related stress and subsequent sleeplessness.

  • Bring elements or objects from home a picture of the family, favorite pillow, blanket or even a coffee mug) to ease the feeling of being in a new environment.
  • Check with the hotel to see if voice mail services are available to guests. Then, whenever possible, have your calls handled by the service.
  • Check your room for potential sleep disturbances that may be avoided; e.g., light shining through the drapes, unwanted in-room noise, etc.
  • Request two wake-up calls in case you miss the first one.

Sleep Environment:

The most common environmental elements affecting sleep are noise, sleep surface, temperature or climate, and altitude. Your age and gender also play a part in determining the level of sleep disturbance caused by these factors.

One study found that women are more easily awakened than men by sonic booms and aircraft noise, while other research indicates that men may be more noise sensitive. Children are generally insensitive to extreme noise levels.

However, this high threshold declines with age.

  • NoiseWe have all experienced that dripping faucet, the barking dog or that blaring stereo next door that has kept us awake. Indeed, experts say the intensity, abruptness, regularity, intrusiveness, familiarity and regularity of noises all affect sleep.Noises at levels as low as 40 decibels or as high as 70 decibels generally keep us awake. Interestingly, however, the absence of a familiar noise can also disrupt sleep. City dwellers may have trouble falling asleep without the familiar sounds of traffic. Or a traveler may find it difficult to sleep without the familiar tick, tick, tick of the alarm clock at home.Some noises, although annoying at first, can gradually be ignored, allowing sleep to follow. Studies show people can get used to noises such as city traffic in about one week. However, important noises, a parent's baby crying, a smoke alarm or even one's own name being called, are not easily assimilated and generally snap us awake.Experts are also studying the ability of certain sounds to induce sleep. “White noise,” such as caused by a fan, air conditioner, or radio static, can often block out unwanted noise and encourage sleep.
  • Sleep SurfaceLittle research is available and not surprisingly on how much sleeping surfaces affect our slumber. For the most part, we know people sleep better when horizontal and not cramped by space. As with noise, however, women and more mature people appear more sensitive to variations in sleep surfaces.
  • Temperature/ClimateThe point at which sleep is disturbed due to temperature or climate conditions varies from person to person. Generally, temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit and below 54 degrees will awaken people.
  • AltitudesThe higher the altitude, the greater the sleep disruption. Generally, sleep disturbance becomes greater at altitudes of 13,200 feet or more. The disturbance is thought to be caused by diminished oxygen levels and accompanying changes in respiration. Most people adjust to new altitudes in approximately two to three weeks.


  • BehavioralModifying your behavior and taking sleeping pills are both commonly accepted measures used to minimize certain sleep disorders.As mentioned, certain behaviors can help your body better adjust to new time zones and surroundings. Although there are no guarantees to a fast and sound sleep, simple adjustments in your behavior when traveling may help you get the quality of rest needed to start the day refreshed.
  • Sleep AidsAccording to NSF's 2002 Sleep in America poll, 15% of the respondents reported using either a prescription sleep medication (8%) and/ or an over- the- counter (OTC) sleep aid (10%) to help them sleep at least a few nights a month. While pills do not resolve the biological imbalance caused by jet lag, they may help manage short-term insomnia brought on by travel. Be sure to discuss the use of sleeping pills with your doctor before you try them. Sleep medication can cause side effects.
  • MelatoninOne OTC product receiving a lot of attention lately is melatonin. Melatonin is a naturally secreted hormone in humans that affects the body's circadian rhythms. There is some evidence that when administered during the day, melatonin increases the tendency to sleep, but at night, the amount of sleep is unaffected. Currently, melatonin is largely available only in health food stores and is not regulated. Therefore, melatonin is, at present, an experimental approach to sleep problems and travelers should consult their physicians before using it.


Top Tips for Avoiding Jet Lag: Before, During, and After Your Trip

Jet lag: how to avoid it

Ah, jet lag: that general sense of exhaustion that accompanies air travel.

Travel east and you find yourself staying up late, unable to sleep, and sluggish in the morning. Travel westward and you experience the reverse, bounding bed earlier than you want and exhausted after dinner.

There’s no way around it. Travel is tough on sleep.

Why do we have jet lag?

Jet lag is a result of your body’s circadian rhythms being sync with the new biological schedule of your destination.

Although it most commonly occurs with the distances travelled by plane (putting the jet in jet lag), it can occur whenever you travel somewhere where the external environmental cues differ from the ones from whence you came. For instance, if you stay in the same time zone but travel way north or south during the extremes of summer or winter, the sun will rise and set much later or sooner than you’re used to and induce jet lag.

While jet lag affects, or doesn’t affect, everyone differently, there are a few general rules of thumb. Traveling east is harder than traveling west, and morning larks and adults over age 50 typically experience symptoms more intensely.

Tips for avoiding jet lag

Fortunately, you can make things easier on yourself by taking a few precautions to minimize symptoms of jet lag.

Follow these tips before, during, and after your trip to avoid jet lag.

1. Schedule smart

That’s right – before you even book your flight, there’s much you can do to avoid jet lag.

  • Travel time: If you’re traveling far enough that the trip will take several hours, opt for a departure time that suits your sleep schedule. If you’re able to sleep while you fly, go for a red-eye so you can sleep overnight and make the transition as seamless as possible. If you’re not able to sleep on a plane, choose a flight that arrives early enough for you to get to your final destination, into bed, and sleep to get a full night’s rest.
  • Seat selection: Choose a window seat so you can lean against it and not be woken up by other passengers who need to use the restroom. Consider upgrading your seat for more legroom so you can stretch out and recline.
  • Trip purpose: If you’re traveling for an important event, work or personal, try to arrive at leat a day ahead of time if you’re going to be traveling 2 or more time zones. This will give you extra time to adjust your mind and body to local time.

2. Adjust your sleep schedule ahead of time

In the days before your trip, gradually adjust your schedule to the timezone of your destination.

  • Experts recommend adjusting your sleep by 1 hour each day per time zone traveled. If it’s helpful, you may take melatonin at night to help you fall asleep faster. Jet lag calculators this one can help you plan your sleep schedule before and after your flight.
  • Besides sleep, we also tend to eat according to schedule, so adjust that as well according to the time zone of your destination (e.g. moving dinner up earlier or later).
  • You could even adjust your clocks and strategically use the lights in your house to mimic the conditions of where you’re traveling.
  • The night before your trip, go to bed even earlier, just to ensure you’re as well-rested and as less stressed as possible while dealing with the hassles of travel.

3. Use common sense

Besides adjusting your schedule, do what you can to act healthy in the days before your trip.

  • If possible, don’t travel when you’re sick, hungover, or already tired and stressed out.
  • Exercise and eat well to avoid putting yourself in one of those conditions, and limit your caffeine and alcohol.
  • Pack ahead of time to minimize stress.

1. Make yourself comfortable

The more comfortable you are on the plane, the easier it will be to sleep or rest.

  • Wear comfortable, loose clothing with layers so you can adjust as needed depending on the conditions of the plane.
  • Bring along a sleep mask or ear plugs so you can block out distractions from the plane and other passengers.
  • Pack a neck pillow or blanket to make sleep easier if that’s in your travel plan.
  • Download a white noise app and listen on your headphones.
  • Take a few strolls up and down the aisle, periodically point and flex your feet and toes, and stretch out your arms and legs if possible.

2. Watch what you eat (and drink)

Be thoughtful about what you put in your body while you fly, as it can impact your ability to sleep and stay healthy during your trip.

  • Drink 8 ounces of water for every hour you’re flying. The low humidity inside an airplane dries everyone out. Bring along plenty of water so you can stay hydrated and stave off sickness.
  • Don’t overdo it on the alcohol and caffeine. Neither of these is a friend to sleep, and air travel affects how your body reacts to these substances. Limit alcohol to one drink at the most, or avoid it altogether.
  • Bring along a few healthy snack packs to munch on if you get hungry.
  • Avoid sleeping pills. With all the differences in humidity, environment, they may make you groggier than expected.

3. Sleep strategically

Unless you’re traveling overnight, you should avoid sleeping for longer than 30 minutes.

  • Power naps are ideal for daytime flights because they’re long enough to refresh you and short enough to keep you from falling into deep sleep and waking up even groggier than before.
  • Recline and stretch out your legs if you sleep upright, or lean forward onto the tray table.
  • Keep your seatbelt buckled over your blanket and clothes so flight attendants don’t wake you up.
  • Change the clock on your watch, phone, and other electronics.

1. Stick to your new sleep schedule

Once you arrive at your destination, stay awake or go to sleep according to local time.

  • If you arrived at night, go to sleep once you reach your destination.
  • If you took a redeye or arrive earlier in the day, avoid napping altogether or limit it to under 2 hours.
  • If you travelled westward, you may take melatonin a few hours before bedtime. One study found that 0.5 mg dose taken on the first day can be enough to offset symptoms of jet lag.

2. Meet the sunshine

Sunlight helps reset your circadian clock, so your brain can relearn when it’s night and when it’s day.

  • If you arrived in the morning, spend an hour outside walking. The sunshine and exercise will give you an energy boost.
  • If you travelled westward, spend some time in the late afternoon outside.

3. Sync your social clock

Being social with people at normal local time hours will help your brain recognize and adapt to local time.

  • Eat when other people eat (but still keep it easy on the caffeine and alcohol for the first day or a few depending on how far you traveled).
  • Know that it will take time to recover. Traveling east can take 1 full day per time zone traveled, while traveling west can take as many days as are equal to half the number of time zones traveled.