You step off the plane into a sunny morning and all you want to do is fall asleep. One of the worst things about long haul travel is the jet lag but there are some steps you can take to make the effects much easier to deal with, making your holiday more enjoyable from the very start.

What is jet lag?

When you travel through time zones your body clock, which is also known as your circadian rhythm, is disrupted. Your body works on its own time frame so that you can fall asleep and wake up at the right times of the day, and when this is disrupted it can make you feel quite unwell. Symptoms of jet lag include disturbed sleep, headaches and exhaustion to name a few. Your circadian rhythm is regulated by the amount of daylight you are exposed to and changes to this body system can disturb your temperature, alertness and even your blood pressure. When you travel it is not the length of time you spend in the air but the direction of the flight that causes jet lag. Flying east or west means that you will travel through a time change of one hour for every 15 degrees travelled. This means that travelling north or south will not result in jet lag as the time zone does not change for the person travelling. It is important to note that your body finds it harder to adapt to a shorter day rather than a longer day, therefore, travelling from west to east makes jet lag worse. So how can you combat the grogginess? We have taken a look at some of the best advice on how to beat jet lag.

Beat jet lag

Before you travel

Change your sleep routine

The first thing you can do to make jet lag easier is to change your sleep routine before you leave. If you are travelling east then you will need to get up earlier and go to bed earlier, when travelling west, get up later and go to bed later. If you have the luxury of being able to do this until you have the correct body clock for your destination when you arrive and you will find the time change much easier to deal with. Of course not everybody can completely change their sleep pattern as work and other commitments may not allow for this time, but even changing it a bit can be helpful.

During your journey

Have a Stopover

If you have a stopover during your flight you will find that your body will be able to adjust to the time differences in a stages and you will feel less tired when you get to your destination. Take advantage of stopover time to keep your body clock adjusted to the time zone in your destination.

Sleep on the Plane?

Whether you sleep on the plane or not is a matter of personal choice but if you decide to have a nap then it is a good idea to only do so at times that will maintain your new body clock. Try to eat and sleep to the times for your new location, this will help your body adjust to the new time zone much quicker when you land. So, if it is night at your destination then try to sleep on the plane and if it is daytime at your destination try to stay awake and use the time to relax. To make sleeping on a plane easier and psychologically help to create your new body clock, take pyjama bottoms and a sweater and change when it is time for sleep. If you also pack a pillow and a blanket you can get more comfortable and feel more like it is bed time, helping to combat any environmental insomnia you otherwise have

Plane travel tips

Plug in?

Studies have shown that the type of light given off by handheld gadgets can keep you awake as it stimulates the body clock in the same way that sunlight does, this won’t help you sleep, although if you need to stay awake this might just help you out. Fortunately if you need to use your phone, there are a variety of apps that apply a red filter to your devices, shielding you from the light and making it easier to sleep.

Avoid alcohol

Dehydration is a real issue when you are in the air as the air quality is different and more drying than on the ground, drinking alcohol can make this problem much worse and lead to feeling unwell. If you want to sleep it can also lead to sleep disruption and feeling groggy on waking.

Avoid caffeine

We know how hard it can be to get yourself moving in the morning, especially if you have a very early flight, but caffeine is probably not your friend if you are moving across time zones. Even if your flight is in the evening it is advisable to avoid caffeine for the whole day. This is because caffeine remains in your system for a long time, the effects lasting up to 14 hrs in some cases, and drinking coffee, even early in the morning, can disrupt sleep into the evening. The last thing you need is something else for your body clock to fight against.

Once you get there

Get some sun

Once you arrive you should get natural daylight to help your circadian rhythm shift to where it should be. The time of day is very important, if you have travelled west then make sure you get daylight during the morning hours and avoid the sun during the afternoon. If you have travelled east spend time in light during the afternoon and avoid daylight in the morning. This will help to shift your body clock naturally.

Beat jet lag

Get anchor sleep

Make sure you get at least four hours of sleep in one block during the local night time. This will help you adapt to the new time zone, but also try and get as much sleep as you would usually get within a 24 hour period.

Stay on home time for short trips

If it is possible and you are only going for a few days you might be able to stay on ‘home’ time. Get up and go to sleep as you would usually and enjoy your holiday.