The debilitating symptoms of jet lag can sometimes be enough to put you off travelling altogether, especially if you’re travelling with little ones.
Unfortunately, there’s no sure-fire way to cure the symptoms, but we’ve reached out to some of the best travel and sleep experts for their top tips.
Check out the remedies below and try out a few to see which works best for you and your family.
Jules Sowder – The Better Sleep Guide
“To minimise the impact of jet lag, it’s beneficial to do some advance planning for sleep. Begin by adjusting your sleep schedule before travel takes place. In anticipation of your new time zone, start by changing when you go to sleep and awaken by 15 to 30 minutes each day in the days prior to your trip.
“Talk with your healthcare provider about this strategy and seek advice. As you adjust your sleep schedule, focus on getting the best possible restorative rest. This includes not consuming alcohol or caffeine, as well as limiting stimulating activities in the hours before your adjusted bedtime.”
Jeff Mann – Sleep Junkies
“One useful jet lag tip is the idea of ‘anchor sleep’. If you have the flexibility in your travel schedule, preserving with at least some of your regular sleep timing will spare you the worst effects of circadian rhythm disruption.
“You can attempt this by breaking up your normal seven or eight hours sleep into two chunks. One half, your anchor sleep, stays in the same time-zone of your origin country. The other chunk is flexible ‘catch-up’ sleep or nap-time that can fit into the social time clock of your new destination.
“This way, your circadian rhythm will not have to undergo a complete time shift – plus, your body clock will require less re-adjustment when you fly back home.”
Martin Reed – Insomnia Land
“You can help prevent the symptoms of jet lag by gradually adjusting your sleep schedule before you leave. If you are travelling east, begin moving your bedtime earlier by about half an hour each night until it roughly matches when you will be going to bed on your trip. If you are travelling west, begin moving your bedtime later by about half an hour each night until it roughly matches when you will be going to bed when on your trip.”
Lisa Artis – The Sleep Council
“As the body clock’s natural cycle is slightly longer than a day, we find it easier to adjust travelling west, back in time, as it lengthens our day, whereas travelling east shortens it. Difficulties with jet lag can be cured by using light. You need to re-set your body clock. Use 4am (departure point time) as a guide. Exposure to bright light just before this time will delay your clock when going east; exposure to light a couple of hours after that time when going west will advance it.”
Abigail King – Inside the Travel Lab
“Don’t try to beat it, embrace it! Make the most of being up in time to see the sunrise or having more energy than you thought possible after the sun goes down. Do everything you can to sleep on the plane and after that, enjoy whatever happens. If you’ve travelled far enough for jet lag, you’ve travelled far enough to make the most of things.”
Kathy Lewis – Extravitality
“Your body has many peripheral clocks which help to regulate your circadian rhythm, some of which are in your digestive system. While your master clock (in your brain) is trigger by sunlight hitting your retina, your other body organs rely on routine and internal stimuli to synchronise to a new time zone. Hence, they tend to take longer to sync as the process is much slower. So, make sure you consume food at the destination time, and not at your home time.
“When travelling, it’s best to eat light. Heavy meals which are high in fat and protein are uncomfortable during long periods of sitting and take longer to digest, keeping you up for longer. In contrast, meals which are high in carbohydrate with a moderate amount of protein have been found to make us sleepy. You may notice that if you fly long haul overnight, your airline will serve small meals consisting of protein and carbohydrate. For example, salmon and rice. This is because they want everyone to fall asleep!
“Also, avoid alcohol! Although it might help to get you to sleep quicker, it will impair the quality of your sleep, stimulate the need for you to go to the bathroom more frequently, and will prevent you from getting a continuous, deep sleep.”
Flavia Gray – Ships & Champagne
“One of the things I always do is to change my watch to the time of my destination as soon as I embark the flight. Usually, I am flying west, so a morning flight from the UK means it is still the middle of the night where I am headed. I tend to try to sleep a couple of hours into the flight. Wherever you are flying to, my advice is to ensure you get some sleep on the flight. Although the best advice is not to drink alcohol or caffeine, I find a nice glass of champagne usually sends me off for a couple of hours.
“People have this terrible habit of referring to the time back home when they are away. Forget about it! You will only delay the time it takes for your mind to adjust.”
Richard Jolie – Vision Support Services
“Though tempting to grab a phone, laptop or tablet to amuse yourself mid-flight, it can be more beneficial to put the electronic devices ‘to bed’ and invest time in reading a book, instead. Reading a book ensures that the brain works hard to take in information whilst eye movements follow the words across the page; in itself a hypnotic, repetitive action that can cause someone to drift off.
“When choosing to take a pillow aboard a flight, look out for ones designed to enrich sleep. Higher thread counts, sumptuous materials and fillings suitable for the specific sleeper, such as synthetic options for allergy sufferers, can all aid a person in drifting off – wherever that may be!
“Some people may consider having a nightcap or sneaky tipple to help them doze off whilst flying, however, it can actually disrupt the quality of sleep so we’d recommend sticking to water, decaffeinated drinks and even herbal teas such as chamomile or valerian root. Many flight operators offer free hot water so it’s worth taking along herbal teabags to encourage a short nap during a long flight.”
Christine Sarkis – SmarterTravel
“The best luck I’ve had beating jet lag is by using tools that use light exposure to help adjust your body’s circadian clock. There are apps out there that help you adjust your light exposure over a series of days before your trip, eye masks with pulsating lights to put you to sleep and wake you up, and even travel-size bedside gadgets that use light to help you adjust to new time zones.
“On the lower-tech side, I’ve found that a hot shower and a sleeping pill on the first night of my trip helps me adjust to the new time zone more quickly.”
Paul Coulter – SleepyPeople.com
“A good technique for some people is to take a hot bath before bedtime, to help them to wind down and relax. There’s also a scientific reason behind this, as the drop in temperature that you experience as you get out of the bath helps to make you sleepy and tell the body that it’s time for bed,
Gary Leff – View from the Wing
“When it’s bedtime, I go to bed. I have a tendency to get off of a long flight without internet and think I need to clear my mind, so I check in on e-mail and work, and that just sets my mind racing with a million things. So it’s a bad idea.
“When arriving at a destination late at night, I will avoid work when I arrive at the hotel. My only concession is that while making the trip from the airport to the hotel I will clean out my emails. That’s why in most cities I’ll avoid public transit, I want to get in the back of a car, fire up an internet connection, and work for however long it takes to get to the hotel. That doesn’t work everywhere (Tokyo) but it works in most cities.”
Brian Jones – Simply Holiday Deals
“Though it can be tricky with limited options, choosing healthy food and drinks goes a long way towards conquering jet lag. Avoiding sugar, alcohol and coffee is key, as they all lead to dehydration. Drink plenty of water and eat sandwiches, salads and wraps, as opposed to heavy meals and desserts.
“As soon as you board the plane, eat and sleep at times according to your destination. While it may be bedtime at home, switching to local time is better, in the long run, to avoid jet lag. When you arrive, don’t go to sleep until after dark, to increase your chances of adjusting quickly to the time zone.
“When you arrive, the best thing to do is find some sun and exercise, so try to book a flight arriving during the day. Go for a walk on the beach, have a swim, or hire a bike to get your circulation going again. This will also keep you awake, so you can go to bed according to local time.”
Dave Anderson – Jones Around the World
“When it comes to battling jet lag, my most important tip is simply to force yourself to stay awake (or fall asleep) at the time zone you’ve arrived into. I’ve also taken an OTC sleeping pill like Tylenol PM or Melatonin, and that always helps me. The key is getting back onto a normal sleep cycle as fast as possible, as well as drinking tonnes of water (which is always a good thing).”
Greg Geronemus – SmarTours
“Get some sun. When you arrive at your destination, walk outside in the sun as much as possible. The key to stopping jet lag right off the bat is to spend the first day in your destination outdoors. The light will help you adjust your body’s clock, and walking will keep you awake. Have breakfast in an outdoor cafe, do some sightseeing, take an interest in your surroundings; you’ll notice that you’ll feel okay when you’re out in the sun.”
Marina Manasyan – Barcelona Eat Local
“My number one tip to tackle jet lag is to drink plenty of coconut water! Yes, as simple as that! It is no secret that keeping your body well hydrated helps to fight the symptoms of jet lag, and in contrast to water or sugary drinks, coconut water, beyond keeping you hydrated, naturally fights headaches and tiredness (thanks to its high potassium content) while lowering blood pressure.”
Heather Sanchez – Hawaiian Airlines
“Hydrate, exercise, and eat wholesome foods. I’ve been using this formula for over 17 years and find it’s a sure fire remedy to get my body acclimated to a new time zone. Essential and lavender oils are also a great way to refresh the senses and promote healthy sleep.”
Bryan Herb – Zoom Vacations
“Drink water: lots of it! The air on board an aeroplane is very dry, which leads to sore throats, dry skin, chapped lips, etc. In addition to making you look haggard as you de-board, dehydration compounds the effects of jet lag. Drinking water will help, but avoid booze and coffee while on board. Let’s be honest, aeroplane coffee never tastes that good anyway!”
Linden Schaffer – Pravassa
“The best way to combat jet lag and its effects has to do with your exposure to light, which gets your body’s circadian rhythm back on track when hopping between time zones. In order to reset your internal clock, you need to experience outside environmental factors and schedule your exposure to light. Seeing the sun rise and set in your new destination will quickly signal the body’s natural melatonin production and help you overcome jet lag faster.”
Sasha Naslin – The Alternative Travel Guide
“During the flight, due to dehydration and extremely dry air in the aeroplane, the body loses a huge quantity of water. Drinking plenty of water on board helps to feel better on arrival, but not sufficiently.
“My formula is to rehydrate the entire body both from inside and outside. Taking a hot bath does magic to me after a transcontinental flight. Thanks to it, I don’t feel the symptoms of jet lag the next day and I adjust easily to the new time zone. And, of course, I keep drinking plenty of water on arrival as well.”
At the end of the day, we all deal with jet lag a little differently. However, with so many top tips, fingers crossed there’s a method of coping with it for everyone!