Fabulous holidays in far-flung destinations are everyone’s dream. The only drawback is that the jet lag can be a drag. Crossing time zones means, unfortunately, that your body’s natural sleep rhythm is disrupted, which causes jet lag. The more time zones you cross (regardless of how long the flight is), the more likely you are to suffer from jet lag. And travelling east, rather than west, is always harder on your body clock. Our list of top 10 tips for avoiding jet lag will ensure you start your holiday relaxed and refreshed, whether you’re jetting off for some winter sun, or catching up with faraway relatives over the holidays!
1. Give your internal clock time to adjust
Prepare yourself for the time zone change by adjusting your sleeping and eating times 4 to 5 days before you depart. Eat your meals and go to sleep 15 minutes later (or earlier, depending on which way around the world you are travelling) each day. This will give your body time to adjust, and reduce the shock when you arrive in your destination.
2. Book an overnight flight if possible
If you can, choose an overnight flight. Enjoy your dinner at the usual time, and you’ll be better able to sleep on the plane. (And follow our tips below on how to make sure you get a good night’s sleep!) Flying through the night means that you’ll arrive in the morning or the afternoon at your destination, making it easier to adjust your body clock after arrival.
3. Stay hydrated
Drink plenty of water! You’ll need to stay hydrated to combat the effects of the cabin air conditioning. It’s also worth packing some travel-size lotion for your hands and face, perhaps a facial spritz, and some lip balm to keep your skin well moisturised.
4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine should be avoided at least 12 hours before getting on the plane. Not only is it dehydrating, but it will also prevent you from sleeping. A nice glass of something can feel like a great way of celebrating the start of your holiday, but the effects of alcohol are strengthened in the air. Even if you think it will help you sleep, the quality of the sleep will be poor and you won’t feel rested.
5. Wear comfortable clothing
This sounds obvious, but hold off wearing your fancy holiday gear until you arrive. On the plane, wear comfortable, stretchy cotton clothing, and bring something such as a shawl or travel blanket to keep you cosy if the cabin air is cool. A pair of travel socks or slipper socks are ideal.
6. Bring a sleeping kit: travel pillow, eye mask, ear plugs and blanket
Bring a comfortable travel pillow, perhaps add a spritz or two of lavender (which encourages sleep) and an eye mask. Some travellers also like to wear ear plugs, to block out the noise on the plane. A blanket or shawl will keep you toasty warm and help you sleep.
7. Consider sleep aids or melatonin
If you’re worried about being able to sleep on the plane, consider talking to your doctor or pharmacist about a sleeping aid or melatonin (which is a hormone that regulates sleep patterns). Everyone reacts differently to different medications, so don’t use it for the first time on the flight. Make sure you have your doctor’s approval before you take any kind of medication or sleep aid.
8. Try breathing exercises
There are several useful breathing and meditation exercises which aid sleep which may help you get a good night’s kip on the plane. Research some before you leave, and try them out to see which one works for you. A popular favourite among regular travellers is a breathing and counting exercise: breath in through your nose slowly to a count of 7, then breath out slowly through your mouth to a count of 7. This is also useful for nervous travellers.
9. Soak up the sunshine
As soon as you arrive, try and spend as much time outside on your first day as possible. The light (and, hopefully, sunshine!) will help your body adjust to the new time zone. If possible, try and get some exercise – even a gentle jog or a stroll can help your body cope with the change in rhythm.
10. Stay awake until bedtime at your destination
If possible, try and stay awake until bedtime – even if it’s earlier than your usual bedtime! – in your destination. If you just can’t make it through, take a nap, but try not to sleep for more than an hour, and avoid napping after about 4pm. This will help you slot into the new time zone more easily.