Jet lag is the bane of modern travel, and anyone who’s suffered from it more than a few times will have their own personal method for trying to avoid it. Unsurprisingly, there’s no golden bullet for avoiding jet lag altogether. However, there are several things you can do to decrease its impact on your trip...
But first, in order to better fight the beast, it helps to understand what jet lag actually is. Infrequent fliers may think that they’re experiencing jet lag, when all they’re really going through is some bad travel fatigue. Understanding how to tell the difference between the two will give you more insight into how to fight it: jet lag has nothing to do with the length of your flight, and everything to do with how many time zones you cross.
As humans, we have what’s known as a circadian rhythm – physical and behavioural changes that follow a roughly 24 hour cycle and respond mainly to light and darkness. When we upset this rhythm, by doing something like travelling to a different time zone, it throws our body into turmoil.
So what does that mean when it comes to beating jet lag?
Prevention is the best cure
There are certain things you can do before you get anywhere near a new time zone to reduce the effects of crossing it.
Get some extra shut eye. Most of us don’t get nearly enough sleep in our normal lives, but it’s especially important that you’re well rested before you fly.
If you're really keen to hit the ground running, consider tweaking your sleep routine before you depart. If you're travelling east, get up and go to bed earlier – get up and go to bed later if you're travelling west.
If it's possible, a stop over during your flight can help you to gradually adjust to the time difference, reducing the likelihood of ending up suffering with jet lag.
During your journey
There are a few things you can do during your actual journey that will help you beat jet lag: Hydration is important, so make sure you have plenty of water but avoid caffeinated or alcoholic drinks as they will only dehydrate you further.
You might be tempted to take a sleeping pill to help you get some rest on the flight, but chances are that will only leave you feeling worse. Instead use an eye mask and ear plugs to help you relax and avoid too much screen time if you want to sleep.
At your destination
Activity is one of your best tools to combat jetlag, and exposure to daylight will usually help you adapt to the new time zone faster. If you arrive at your destination during daylight hours, spend some time gently exercising outside and try to stay awake until as close to a normal local bedtime as possible.
Your body will be craving sleep and will try every trick in the book to convince you a quick nap is a good idea. Try setting yourself some rules before you fly about when you’re allowed to fall asleep. A good guide is to try to get as much sleep in every 24 hours as you normally would. A minimum block of four hours’ sleep during the local night – known as 'anchor sleep' – is thought to be necessary to help you adapt to a new time zone.
What's your top tip for beating jet lag?