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How to beat jet lag when crossing time zones?

Tired of the pain of long-distance travelling? Jet lag is every traveller’s worst enemy. You can’t avoid the blues, but you sure can minimise the symptoms. Let us share with you 10 ways to beat jet lag exhaustion so you can sleep and eat better while abroad.

1. Adjust your body clock to the local time

Try to adjust your bedtime accordingly a few days before departure.

You’ve booked your flight, packed your bags and got your itinerary mapped out. Now all that’s left to do is get your body prepped before leaving on your dream trip. Try to get your body clock adjusted as close to the local time as possible a few days before your departure by going to bed earlier or staying up later depending on whether you are flying east or west. It may feel a little odd for a bit, but your body will thank you for it when you actually arrive.

Read more: 10 tips to survive long-haul flights in comfort: travel smart!

2. Begin your trip healthy and well-rested

Even if you intend to sleep through the flight, leaving home exhausted isn’t a great way to start your trip. If you find yourself unable to doze off on the plane after beginning already sleep-deprived, you’d end up in a much worse state upon arrival! Furthermore, being out of sorts right from the get-go isn’t good for your natural immunity and increases your chances of catching a bug from a fellow flier in the confined spaces and recycled air of the airplane cabin.

3. Gear up for your flight

Being able to sink into slumberland and make an entire 10-hour flight disappear is THE dream for most travellers, and one of the best ways to avoid subsequent jet lag. If you aren’t a natural plane sleeper, though, then having the right gear on you could make a world of a difference. From the most comfy neck pillow and noise-cancelling earphones to soothing lavender oil, spare no expense when it comes to getting a good rest on the plane.

4. Keep hydrated

Nothing hydrates you like water, so stay away from alcohol and caffeine while flying.

Being dehydrated from dry plane air is only going to weaken you further and add to your jet lag, so be sure to down plenty of water throughout your flight. Avoiding diuretic drinks that contain caffeine and alcohol will also help your body retain whatever water it already has, so resist the urge to make the most of the free-flow trolley offerings and stick to plain old water.

And yes, that includes staying away from coffee even if you are trying to stay awake! Though it may give you an instant pick-me-up, the extra espresso jolt is likely to further mess up your already confused body clock.

Read more: 10 things you can’t pack in your carry-on luggage

5. Don’t nap

You’ve arrived at your destination all groggy and grumpy, and all you want to do after check-in is fall into bed and grab a few winks of sleep. It’s painful, but do whatever it takes to avoid naps and stay awake till an appropriate local bedtime hour! Though a half-hour session of shut-eye may sound insignificant in the grand scale of things, chances are you will oversleep and drag your jet lag woes through the night and into the next day.

6. Stay active

Start having fun immediately upon arrival so you forget about your jet lag.

If you can’t have that life-saving espresso nor that heavenly nap, how do you keep the sleepiness at bay? We have a whole variety of suggestions for you – start with a nice, rejuvenating hot shower, then strap on your walking shoes and start exploring the city right away. There’s nothing like a fresh environment, climate and people to keep your mind buzzing, heart pumping and feet moving so you forget your tiredness and reap the beneficial effects of exercise. Before you know it, time will have flown by in a pleasant flash and bedtime will have arrived.

7. Soak up the sun

Jet lag is caused by a mismatch between your natural body clock and the external time zone, which is in turn influenced by the sun’s position in the sky. Help your body make the switch faster by exposing yourself to sunlight in the local day time on the first couple of days of arrival.

8. Eat at the right time

Even if you’re not hungry, eat as the locals do.

Jet lag’s effects aren’t limited to tiredness – they transcend into your stomach too. As your natural eating schedule is messed up, you may find yourself hungry at odd hours, which in turns keeps you from sinking into good sleep at the right time. To help combat these effects, be sure to time your meals right and eat as if you were already adjusted to the local time zone.

9. Eat the right food

Try to avoid fatty, greasy, and overly salty foods when you are in the clutches of jet lag as these may further upset your stomach and keep sleep at bay. Also, eating the right foods at the right time helps adjust your body clock as well – you’ll want to have a protein-rich breakfast and carb-rich dinner. Consuming lots of water-rich fruit and vegetables would also aid in hydration, and keep you well-stocked in nutrients so you’re less likely to fall ill in this crucial period.

10. Consider supplements

If all else fails, certain supplements may ease the way for you when you travel. Melatonin, for example, is one of the most studied medications taken to combat the effects of jet lag as it acts as a ‘signal of darkness’ and helps promote sleep at times when the body would not usually do so. However, be sure to consult a doctor before taking any new supplements for the first time.

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Published in October 2016 and updated in March 2020. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

Adapted from an article originally written by James Teideman for Skyscanner