Travelling across several time zones can send your internal body clock into meltdown and leave you feeling tired, ill and out of touch with your surroundings. Here are eight simple tips to avoid jet lag...
Before you travel
If you leave everything to the last minute, you’ll be getting to the airport feeling frazzled and find it hard to relax on your journey – this will just make the fatigue caused by jet lag even worse. Try and get yourself packed and organised a couple of days in advance and get plenty of sleep the night before your trip – it will mean you’re less tired when you get to your destination.
2. Try to adjust your sleep pattern
If you’re a ‘cup of cocoa and lights out at 10.30pm’ kind of person, try going to sleep gradually earlier or later depending on what the time difference is going to be. Doing this will help to trick your body into gently detaching itself from a set bedtime routine, andit will reduce the shock of the time difference when you arrive on your holiday.
3. Avoid alcohol and caffeine
Yes, it sounds like a bit of a killjoy way to start your trip, but if you drink alcohol (which dehydrates you and disturbs sleep) or feed your coffee habit (which also affects your sleep patterns) you’re just asking for trouble when you land. Try and be good by choosing water or fruit juice, and save your more decadent drinking for when you’re enjoying your jetlag-free holiday.
If you’re going to be arriving during the day, make sure you try to nap while on the plane, as this should help you stay awake until your bedtime in the new time zone. Even if you’re arriving at night, try to stay well-rested during the flight so you’re relaxed enough to sleep when you reach your hotel.
5. Change your watch
As soon as you get on the plane, adjust your watch or phone time so you can get used to the new time zone. It will help you prepare yourself mentally for the change.
When you arrive
6. Don’t nap!
This is the worst thing you can do and will pretty much guarantee you continue to feel ill for at least the first day or two of your trip. Resist the urge to sleep until as close to your new bedtime as possible and it will help you wake up fresh the next day.
7. Get outdoors for a walk
Daylight and exercise are proven to help your body adjust to the new surroundings more quickly. It will also help keep you awake.
8. Eat at the right time
Even if it feels strange having breakfast when your body still thinks it’s early evening, do it. It’s the quickest way to force your body to accept the new time zone.
A note on medication
Some people try to combat jet lag with things like sleeping pills or hormone medication – but these aren’t really proven to have any positive effect on jet lag. It’s probably better to focus on adjusting your behaviour than experimenting with a medication that might make you worse instead of better.