Helpful tips to ensure you leave your jetlag on the plane
Whether you’re arriving at your destination or coming home, travelling forward in time or back, jetlag is something all travellers want to avoid.
While it can be much of a conversation piece, the truth is the insomnia, exhaustion and stress that can come with jetlag can quickly extinguish any post-holiday buzz or even affect your plans during your trip.
But there’s good news: it’s not just a luck of the draw – there are many steps you can take to leave your jetlag on the plane. Follow these expert tips for how to avoid jetlag.
Why does jetlag occur?
Jetlag happens because our bodies don’t stop working just because we’re on a plane. Your circadian rhythm, the ‘internal clock’ that controls your daily eating habits, sleep patterns and your suprachiasmatic nucleus (a group of brain cells that controls a lot of your bodily functions) do such a good job controlling your body that they continue on this pattern even when you enter a new time zone. This means your body now must adjust to a new set of waking hours, sleeping and eating patterns – and it doesn’t really like to do that.
How to avoid jetlag when travelling
Frequent travellers often have their own tried and true ways of how to avoid jetlag. Some health professionals suggest travellers start adjusting meal times to suit the destination up to four days before leaving. But if having breakfast at 11pm seems a little over the top, there are a couple of simpler things you can do instead to avoid jetlag.
#1. Drink your liquids, just not alcohol
While it may seem counter-intuitive, your body will thank you for resisting the urge to have that glass of wine on the plane to help you sleep. Drinking alcohol at altitude can not only increase the effects of a hangover, but it also makes it harder for your body to adjust to a new time zone. Sadly, drinking water on its own won’t prevent you from suffering jetlag, but it will help to stop dehydration and fatigue.
#2. Plan ahead to stay ahead
Planning your movements ahead of time is a smart and effective way to stop jetlag in its tracks.
- Taking a long-haul flight? Opt for a flight time that lets you arrive in the evening, so you can head straight to your hotel to sleep at the right time in your new time zone.
- Try to sleep on the plane if it’s night time at your destination: travel pillows, noise-cancelling headphones and eye masks can help
- Reset your watch at the beginning of your travels to the time zone of your destination, and start readjusting your body clock right away
#3. Don’t sleep too early
The greatest temptation of the jetlagged is to fall asleep too soon. If you arrive at your destination before your usual bedtime or in the morning, try to stay awake until a suitable sleeping time and avoid naps. This can be a bit of a challenge for the first few days, but the quicker you force your body to adjust, the better you’ll feel.
Other helpful ways to avoid jetlag
- Get plenty of rest before you travel
- Consider arriving a few days early if you have an important business meeting or event to attend
- Stay hydrated after your flight as well
- If you arrive at your destination during daylight, get outside for some sun and exercise
- Some travellers find melatonin supplements helpful, but always chat to your doctor for advice first
Looking for more travel health and wellbeing advice? Find it here.
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