Want to know how to avoid jet lag? Most people just haven't got time to lose days of their holiday or return to work with jet lag, but the fact is, if you want to travel halfway across the world for a relatively short period of time, it's going to catch up with you sooner or later. We've put together tips for long-haul flights and airport tips for getting through fast and easy, but how do you avoid jet lag? These are our tips for jet lag to help you keep the dreaded time-zone trauma at bay.
7 Tips for Jet Lag
1. Beat Jet-Lag at Its Own Game
Jet-lag is just the set of symptoms we feel when our normal sleep patterns are interrupted, so it's entirely possible to start doing this bit by bit before you leave. Some people like to set their watch to the destination's time zone and altering their meals and sleeping patterns in the few days before they fly, others set alarms to get used to being awake in the middle of 'our' night.
These tactics, while undoubtedly effective for some, are unfortunately not compatible with many lifestyles, and are probably best attempted only if you've got plenty of free time before your trip, and willing travelling companions...
2. Fly by Night
Flying out at night is usually a better option for beating jet-lag, as it's better to get as much sleep as you can before you arrive - but, of course, this approach only applies if you're one of those lucky people who can sleep soundly on a plane. Otherwise, just try to get as much shut-eye as you can before heading to the airport.
The reason that travellers are advised to 'top up' on sleep before taking a long-haul flight is simple: on arrival, being well-rested makes it easier to stay awake until night time in the new time zone, which will help to adjust more quickly to its rhythm. If all else fails, you can simply do as many holidaymakers have done for years, and rely on the excitement of being somewhere new to keep you up 'til sunset!
3. Try a Jet-Lag App
A new smartphone app called 'Entrain' (available free via iTunes) has been developed using mathematical formulae to help travellers to adjust to a new time-zone as quickly as possible. It's free to download, and so far, users have reported some impressive results. The app relies upon the fact that exposure to sunlight is the main stimulus for the body to start waking up. Once programmed with information on your current time-zone and on that of your destination, it can tell you a series of steps to take that will reduce your experience of jet-lag.
4. Wear an Eye-Mask
Alternatively, you could go for a more tried-and-tested and one of the best ways to avoid jet lag, low tech approach. Eye masks have been standard issue on flights almost as long as we've been taking them, so make the most of this familiar little freebie by blocking out the light when you should be sleeping. If you can keep your environment dark for long enough to get a few hours' sleep, you're likely to do better at fighting jet-lag.
5. Stock up on Melatonin
Some travellers swear by melatonin - a naturally-occurring hormone that the body produces at night time. It can be acquired fairly cheaply in tablet form, and taken a few days prior to departure to help adjust the body's internal clock as desired. Doctors are divided on how well, if at all, melatonin works, but studies have found it to be more effective than a placebo, and its widespread usage by airline staff suggests it can be beneficial. Sleeping pills are not advised as a method of beating jet-lag, as they cause un-natural sleep that is of limited benefit to the body.
6. Stay Hydrated
If you allow yourself to become dehydrated while travelling (note: drinks such as caffeine and alcohol can cause this), you're likely to suffer more badly from jet-lag symptoms. Using strong coffee as a pick-me-up or booze to make you sleepy may also confuse your body further, so don't fall into the trap of using them to trick your body into staying awake or sleeping when you want it to.
7. Remember the East-West Rule
You may have heard the saying 'West is best, East is a Beast', and where jet-lag is concerned, this is largely true. So, if you're travelling to the United States or another destination that's due West of the UK, the good news is that jet-lag symptoms won't affect your holiday too badly, as it's generally felt more severely when you travel West to East. Not so great then, if you're travelling to the Far East - or, indeed, on your return from the West.
For most people, jet-lag remains an inconvenient part of the travel experience, but by taking these jet lag tips on board, you may find you can keep it at bay on your next holiday.
If you found this post on how to avoid jet lag helpful, you may want to read more of our Before You Go articles. Also check out our travel blog for additional inspiration and travel tips to make your holidays hassle-free!
Written by Abi Silvester, a London-based writer and editor with a passion for great food, fine wine, coffee and cats; always planning my next trip! @absinthecityTop