Sep 12, 2023

6 Game-Changing Tips to Successfully Avoiding and Beating Jet Lag


Karin Svensson

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Whether you’re jetting off for work or fun or simply visiting friends and family, there's something magical about traversing the globe, discovering new cultures, and basking in the beauty of our planet. 

But, there's also that not-so-magical part that can leave us feeling a bit 'off' after a long-haul flight: the dreaded jet lag.

To help you understand jet lag, we’ve included some of our top game-changing tips to successfully avoid or beat the feeling altogether!


What is jet lag?

Have you ever felt exhausted after you’ve landed from a long-haul flight? You were probably experiencing jet lag.

Jet lag is a disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm — the 24-hour internal clock in our brain that regulates the sleep-wake pattern — that typically occurs when you travel on a plane across two or more time zones. 

Jet lag can last from a few days to several weeks, depending on the individual person. It also tends to be worse when travelling east, as this is usually when a greater number of time zones are crossed.

How does jet lag happen?

Essentially, jet lag means that your body is out of sync with the typical daylight-night-time schedule of your new destination. 

It can take time for your body to fully adjust to the new environment that it’s in, which can be difficult if you’re not planning on staying in the destination long. Some people find that just as their body is getting used to these new surroundings, it’s time to fly back home.

What causes jet lag?

Plane travel can make jet lag much worse because your body moves at a faster pace than your brain and circadian rhythm can process the time change — the more time zones you cross, the more severe the jet lag tends to be. 

However, there are a few reasons why plane travel can seem to make jet lag worse than other modes of transport:

  • Reduced physical activity — Aeroplanes aren’t exactly the most spacious of places to be in, especially for long periods of time. But sitting for hours on end can actually make you feel worse. If you can, get you and stretch your legs around the cabin or do some in-seat exercises to keep the blood circulating properly in your body.

  • Cabin pressure and humidity — The cabin pressure and humidity levels in aeroplanes can affect your body's comfort and hydration. These conditions can contribute to feelings of fatigue and discomfort during long flights, making it harder for your body to cope with the additional stress of jet lag.
  • Lack of sunlight — Sunlight is a crucial factor in regulating our circadian rhythm. Flying quickly across time zones may result in exposure to daylight at times when your body isn’t used to it, further disrupting your internal clock.

  • Different meal times — Meal service on flights can be served at any time, which may not always align with your regular eating routine. This disruption can affect your body's internal clock and digestion, exacerbating jet lag symptoms.

How long does jet lag last?

How long jet lag can last and how you’re affected by it varies from person to person, but it also includes where you’re travelling to and how sensitive your body is to time changes. Essentially, jet lag can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

  • If you’re travelling east — People typically tend to experience worse jet lag when travelling east because there are more time zones to get through. If you’re travelling east, you can expect a lot more difficulty when trying to fall asleep at night, and it’ll take your body a little longer to adjust when you’re travelling.

  • If you’re travelling west — You may wake up earlier than you actually want to, but it won’t take your body as long to adjust when you’re travelling west.

Jet lag symptoms will usually occur within a day or two after travelling across time zones, and the further you travel, the worse your symptoms are going to be.

What are the symptoms of jet lag?

When jet lag hits, it can be quite a rollercoaster for your body. From fatigue to difficulty sleeping, digestive issues, and more, there is a wide range of symptoms that can affect your mental and physical health:

  • Fatigue — Jet lag can leave you feeling utterly exhausted and fatigued. Your body's internal clock is still synchronised with your home time zone, so even though it might be daytime at your destination, your body feels like it's the middle of the night.

  • Lack of and difficulty sleeping — Despite being tired, falling asleep and staying asleep can be challenging. Your body's sleep-wake cycle is out of sync with the local time, leading to insomnia or fragmented sleep.

  • Irritability and mood swings — Jet lag can mess with your emotions, leaving you feeling cranky, irritable, or moody. You might snap at people more easily or find yourself getting emotional over little things.

  • Brain fog — Jet lag can fog up your brain, making it harder to think clearly, concentrate, or make decisions. Your mental sharpness may take a hit, and you might feel a bit forgetful.

  • Digestive issues — Your digestive system can be thrown off balance by jet lag. Changes in meal times and eating patterns can lead to issues like indigestion, bloating, and irregular bowel movements.

  • Changes in appetite — Jet lag can mess with your hunger cues, causing changes in appetite. You might not feel hungry when it's mealtime or experience hunger pangs when it's way past your usual eating hours.

  • Disorientation and confusion — Jet lag can leave you feeling disoriented and confused, especially during the first days after arrival. You might find yourself questioning what day it is, what time it is, and even where you are!

It's important to remember that jet lag is a temporary condition that usually gets better as your body adjusts to the new time zone. Be patient with yourself, and give your body the time it needs to adapt to the new schedule.

How can you get over jet lag?

While there’s no magic cure for jet lag, there are a few ways that you can treat some of its symptoms:

  1. Get some sunlight — Exposure to sunlight helps reset your body's internal clock, so spend time outdoors during the day, especially in the morning. This signals to your brain that it's time to be awake and alert.

  2. Control your sleep environment — Make your sleep sanctuary as cosy as possible. Create a dark, quiet, and comfortable environment to promote restful sleep. Consider using earplugs, an eye mask, or blackout curtains if needed.

  3. Avoid heavy meals — Opt for light, balanced meals that won't burden your digestion. Heavy or spicy foods and caffeine close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep and make your symptoms feel even worse.

  4. Try to adjust your schedule a few days before — If you know you'll be travelling across multiple time zones, try gradually adjusting your sleep and meal times a few days before your trip. Go to bed and wake up closer to the schedule of your destination to ease the transition.

  5. Avoid heavy activities — While it's essential to stay active, avoid overly strenuous or exhausting activities immediately after arriving at your destination. Give your body time to acclimate before diving into intense workouts or adventurous endeavours!

  6. Nap strategically — Short naps can be your allies in the fight against jet lag. Take brief power naps — around 20-30 minutes — during the day to recharge, but avoid long naps, especially in the late afternoon or evening, as they can interfere with night-time sleep.

Remember, it takes time for your body to adjust to a new time zone. Be patient with yourself and give your body the opportunity to adapt naturally. Jet lag is temporary, and you'll likely start feeling more like yourself after a few days!

How to avoid jet lag

Avoiding jet lag requires some forward thinking, planning and self-care. To help keep jet lag at bay, you can prepare by:

  • Choose your flights wisely — If possible, opt for flights that arrive at your destination during the evening or night. This way, you can go to bed shortly after arriving, which helps your body adjust to the local time more easily.

  • Stay hydrated — Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your flight. The low humidity in aeroplane cabins can lead to dehydration, which can worsen jet lag symptoms.

  • Sleep on the plane — If your flight aligns with your usual sleep time, try to get some rest on the plane. Bring a travel pillow and an eye mask, and consider using noise-cancelling headphones to create a sleep-conducive environment.

  • Avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol — While it might be tempting to indulge in coffee or alcoholic beverages during your flight, they can disrupt your sleep and dehydrate you. Moderate your consumption to ensure better rest and hydration.

  • Stay comfortable during travel — Dress in comfortable clothing and choose a seat that allows you to stretch your legs and move around easily. For maximum comfort and support, our Trtl Pillow relieves stress on your spine and muscles so you can remain relaxed and at ease for any flight! Staying comfortable during the flight can contribute to better rest and overall well-being.

  • Get natural light exposure — After arriving at your destination, seek natural light exposure, especially during the morning. Sunlight helps regulate your body's internal clock and aids in adjusting to the local time zone.

By implementing these strategies, you'll give yourself the best shot at avoiding jet lag and enjoying your trip to the fullest.

Can melatonin supplements help with jet lag?

Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate our sleep-wake cycle, and taking it as a supplement can signal to our body that it's time to sleep, making it easier to adjust to a new time zone. 

Combining melatonin supplements with other strategies like getting natural light exposure, staying hydrated, and gradually adjusting your sleep schedule will give you the best chance of overcoming jet lag and enjoying your trip to the fullest. If you have any existing medical conditions or take other medications, it's always wise to consult with a healthcare professional before using melatonin supplements.

Can you experience jet lag when you're travelling within the same time zone?

While it's less common, it is possible to experience jet lag when travelling within the same time zone, often known as "social jet lag" or "daylight saving time jet lag." 

Although there are no rapid time zone changes, factors like irregular sleep schedules, sleeping in unfamiliar environments, stress, excitement, and time changes (e.g., daylight saving time shifts) can still disrupt your usual sleep-wake patterns and lead to jet lag-like symptoms. 

While the effects are typically milder and shorter-lived compared to crossing multiple time zones, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, managing stress, and practising good sleep habits can help minimise any potential disruptions to your sleep and overall well-being.

Get holiday ready with Trtl Travel

No matter where you’re jetting off to, you want to do it in comfort. At Trtl Travel, our travel pillows will leave you feeling refreshed at your destination, whether it’s a quick trip of a few hours or a long-haul flight.