7 ways to beat jet lag

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Friday, 15 January 2010.
Tagged: guides, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle, tips

7 ways to beat jet lag

Having returned home from a long-haul flight from overseas, I have to admit jet lag has taken over my life! Since the plane touched down at the airport four days ago, I've been so tired that I simply HAVE to have a nap every afternoon just to cope! I'm wide awake at 2am, then nodding off at mid-afternoon, as many a long-distance traveller can testify!

Long haul flights, lack of sleep

I've heard that coming back is worse than going and I can certainly vouch for that. Australia is a long way from anywhere and I spent almost 25 hours in transit with fits of broken sleep on the long hauls - barely five hours from London to Singapore, then three hours from Singapore to Sydney. For me, with the cramped seats, noise and interruptions, sleep comes slowly and fitfully.

So four days back home and I'm fighting the jet lag - that combination of fatigue, out-of-whack circadian rhythms and sleep deprivation.

7 tips

I've been doing some checking to see what you can do to minimise that awful jet lag. If you do much international travelling then these 7 tips may help:

  1. Try to select a flight that departs in the evening so you can enjoy a meal and then sleep (if you can ever get to sleep on a plane!)
  2. Or plan your arrival at your destination for the late afternoon or evening, so you can climb into bed soon after you get to a new time zone.
  3. Try to sleep on the long sectors. Wear an eye mask and ear plugs, keep warm with a blanket. Pop a mild sleeping pill if you find this helps.
  4. The day before you depart set your watch for your destination's time and try to delay or bring forward sleep to match.
  5. When you arrive, spend time outdoors in the sunshine if you can to re-set your internal clock. This suppresses the production of melatonin, a hormone which tells the body when it's time to sleep.
  6. Do some gentle exercise like walking or swimming.
  7. This is a situation where moderate doses of caffeine can help you stay awake through the day to make it to your new night time sleep. Avoid drinking caffeine (coffee, energy drinks) at least 4 hours before you plan to sleep.

If all this fails (as I've sometimes found), just go with the flow and grab a nap, if you can, until your body adjusts.

Have you found any other tips that help?

Related information

Some people swear by melatonin tablets to get over jet lag and get to sleep faster. I've taken them for a week AFTER I return but haven't found much difference. The US NIH has classified them as "generally safe in recommended doses for the short term". You can to read the full report here.

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Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby has the answers! She is an accredited nutritionist, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Nutrition for Life  is a new update on all the things you've read or heard about. Think insects, collagen, vegan eating, Keto dieting, vitamin B12, fast food and cafe culture.  It has plenty of colour pictures and is easy to dip in and out of. Grab your copy NOW!