How To Overcome Jet Lag

Last updated on : May 06 2023

How to beat Jet Lag - Stop Jet Lag symbol with airplane and compass

Article Summary

Jet lag is a condition that occurs when your internal clock is not quick to adjust to a new time zone, holding on to its biological schedule for several days. 

Luckily, while you may not be a position to eliminate jet lag, you can minimize its effects with some simple strategies when traveling across multiple time zones - click on the links below to learn more.  


A. Symptoms of Jet Lag

B. Causes of Jet Lag

C. Risk Factors for Jet Lag

D. Tips to Help Overcome Jet Lag


Frequently Asked Questions


Jet lag is a condition that occurs when your internal clock is not quick to adjust to a new time zone, holding on to its biological schedule for several days. 

You relate to that feeling, don't you? You get off the plane excited and with much anticipation after a long flight only for fatigue or lethargy to hit you in the face. Or it's in the middle of the afternoon, but your body is screaming to you, "Hey, it's time to sleep," or it's late in the night, but you want to stay awake?

Luckily, while you may not be a position to eliminate jet lag, you can minimize its effects with some simple strategies when traveling across multiple time zones.

A. Symptoms of Jet Lag

Jet lag symptoms typically occur within a day or two of travel if you've flown across at least two time zones.

The more time zones you cross, especially towards the east, the longer these symptoms are likely to last and be more severe. Usually, for every timezone you pass, you'll need around a day to recover.

Jet lag symptoms may vary from physical to emotional, including:

  • Stomach issues including constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, and nausea
  • Feeling unwell
  • Anxiety and confusion
  • Dehydration
  • Headache and memory loss
  • Difficulty in functioning at your optimal level and concentration
  • Unsettled sleep such as early waking, excessive dizziness, or insomnia
  • Mood swings

    In some cases, one may also suffer heartbeat irregularities and a high rate of susceptibility to illness. Babies and children can also experience the same symptoms as grownups.

    Travelers do not necessarily need a medical checkup for jet lag, but if you fly frequently and struggle with jet lag continuously, seeing a sleep specialist will be of much benefit to you.

    Looking out an aeroplane window

    B. Causes of Jet Lag

    The following are some of the possible causes of jet lag.

    Sunlight influence

    Sunlight is a crucial influence on your internal clock. Sunlight has this effect because the regulation of melatonin, a hormone that assists in synchronizing your internal clock and sleep patterns, is influenced by light.

    The retina, a cell at the back of your eye, transmits light to your hypothalamus. At night when there is a low light signal, the hypothalamus alerts a small organ in the brain called the pineal gland to release melatonin. During the day, the opposite takes place, with the pineal gland producing less melatonin.

    Exposing yourself to light in a new time zone may ease your adjustment to the new time zone if you do the timing correctly.

    Interference with your internal clocks

    Circadian rhythms, which regulate your sleep-wake cycle, get out of sync with your new local time any time you cross multiple time zones.

    For instance, assuming you board a flight from New York at 4:00 p.m. on a Monday and arrive in Paris at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday, your body clock will convince you its 1:00 a.m., so you are ready for bed at the time when Parisians are waking up.

    Your sleep-wake cycle, along with other body functions such as bowel and hunger remain out of step with the rest of Paris since it takes your body a few days to adjust.

    C. Risk Factors for Jet Lag

    The factors below are likely to aggravate jet lag or make you more susceptible to the condition:

    Change in altitude

    The link between jetlag and environmental levels of oxygen is evident.

    The airplane's cabin pressure is lower than the pressure at sea level. Therefore, the brain gets less oxygen when flying. These lower levels of oxygen can result in a higher risk of severe jet lag symptoms.

    Oxygen modulation therapy could be of use in minimizing the effects of jet lag, according to researchers.

    Alcohol and caffeine

    If you consume alcohol or caffeine during or before the flight, it may worsen jet lag symptoms, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

    Alcohol or caffeine can accelerate dehydration alongside disruption of sleep since alcohol increases the need to urinate. Your quality of sleep while under the influence of alcohol and caffeine will also be lower. And the hangover effect of alcohol can worsen travel fatigue and jet lag.

    As a result, it is advisable to drink water while flying.

    Avoid sitting for a long time.

    Also, sitting awkwardly for a long time is a risk factor to jet lag. If you can lie down, stretch out, and sleep during your flight, you are less likely to suffer jet lag.

    Frequent travels

    Frequently traveling is also a risk factor for jet lag since you are always in different time zones. Your body has a hard time establishing a steady circadian rhythm.

    Passengers sleeping on an aeroplane

    D. Tips to Help Overcome Jet Lag

    You can overcome jet lag by using the following tips:

    Create a flexible schedule

    To start your holiday feeling fresh rather than fatigued, you need to adapt your body's rhythm a few days before departure.

    If you're flying east, for instance, sleep a few hours earlier than usual. Create a flexible eating habit as well to make it easier to adjust to the new time zones.

    Avoid alcohol and caffeine, and drink plenty of water or juice.

    In planes, the air is usually dry, resulting in increased dehydration. Get a glass of water every once in a while to maintain a healthy level of hydration.

    Alcohol, on the other, may seem enticing since it helps you fall asleep, but its effect is very brief. It leaves you dehydrated, thus making it harder to adjust to your new time zone later. The same case applies to coffee and black teas.

    Tip: Consider taking an insulated bottle with you as it keeps your water fresh for up to 24 hours.

    Try melatonin

    Most people aren't big fans of supplements. However, melatonin is of great help when trying to adjust to jet lag. Melatonin, a natural hormone produced by your brain, helps in telling your body to go to sleep. It enables you to get to your sleeping phase quickly. A dosage of 0.5mg is usually enough.

    Avoid late-night arrival

    Opt to board a flight that arrives at day time if possible. Arriving at your destination during the day helps make it easier to stay awake, you can walk out and explore.

    Pro tip: Ensure that you fly to destinations that are within the Greenwich Meridian, which is those with similar time zones as the UK. France and Spain are some of the options and for the adventurous, Ghana, Togo, and parts of Antarctica.

    Adjust your watch

    To get aligned psychologically, set your watch to your destination time when you get on the plane. Avoid doing it beforehand to escape the world's most ridiculous excuse for missing a flight.

    Take it easy for the first few days.

    It is advisable to get used to the first few days of your new location slowly to get used to the environment and time zone. So, relax until the third day or so to go on an adventure.

    Long flights may take a toll on your body, especially if you are flying from a cold area to a hot one. To acclimatize, you will need a few days.

    Don't eat too much

    Have you wondered whether airplane food influences your jet lag? Well, this is often the case. Both on the ground and air, for instance, a diet rich in carbohydrates can make you feel fatigued and heavy.

    When flying towards the east, consider snacks such as burgers, pasta, and potatoes, whereas when traveling towards the west, choose a lighter meal to help you stay awake.

    Plan a stopover

    If your wallet allows and you have plenty of time, schedule yourself a stopover, especially for long-distance flights to the east. An overnight stay can do wonders in your fight against jet lag.

    While on this stopover, take time to explore, eat some tasty meals, and visit the area before making your next flight. You will realize that you will quickly adjust to the time change and will have had an adventure along the way.

    Exercise a little

    Exercise can stretch out any kinks that develop along with a long flight, as well as boost your endorphins. Most airlines nowadays have a dedicated section for simple exercises due to long trips.

    Say no to sleeping pills.

    Depending on sleeping pills is a bad idea, and they are not worth it at all. They do not help in recovery from jet lag and leave you with a fuzzy feeling after landing. If you need some eye-shut, consider the natural way.

    One of the best in-flight freebies is unlimited free water, so why not carry along a whole packet of herbal tea bags?


    Unfortunately, there is no single trick that you can use to avoid jetlag. With the tips featured above, your jetlag will be so mild that you will barely recognize it. However, that doesn't mean that the symptoms will disappear completely.

    Staying awake and not cozying up in bed for two or three days will be of much help in getting over your jet lag. The aftermath will be plunging into your new adventures and enjoying your trip, shopping, business meetings, or any other activity that made you fly. To avoid jetlag altogether, you can take a flight to similar time zones in which you live.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Here are the questions most frequently asked by our readers.

    1. What is jet lag?

    Jet lag is a physiological condition when your body's natural circadian rhythm is disrupted due to long-distance travel across time zones.

    2. What are the symptoms of jet lag?

    The most common symptoms of jet lag include fatigue, insomnia, headaches, irritability, and digestive issues.

    3. How can I prevent jet lag?

    You can do several things to prevent jet lag, including adjusting your sleep schedule before you travel, staying hydrated, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine.

    4. What can I do to minimize the effects of jet lag?

    You can minimize the effects of jet lag by getting plenty of sunlight and exercise, staying hydrated, and taking short naps when needed.

    5. Should I take sleeping pills to help with jet lag?

    It is not recommended to take sleeping pills as they can have adverse effects and worsen jet lag symptoms.

    6. How long does it take to overcome jet lag?

    It can take several days to overcome jet lag, but it varies depending on the individual and the flight length.

    7. Can I use melatonin to help with jet lag?

    Yes, melatonin can effectively reduce the symptoms of jet lag. Still, talking to your doctor before taking any supplements is essential.

    8. Is there anything else I can do to overcome jet lag?

    Some other tips to overcome jet lag include staying on local time as soon as you arrive at your destination, avoiding heavy meals before bedtime, and using relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga to help you sleep better.

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