Is there a jet lag cure?
Jet lag occurs when your normal sleep pattern is disturbed after a long flight and can last for a few days until your body adjusts to the new time zone.
Unfortunately there isn’t a jet lag cure as a treatment doesn’t exist. Sleeping tablets may be helpful if you are having issues sleeping but the NHS advises they should only be used if symptoms are severe and for a short period as they can be addictive. There may not be a cure for jet lag but there are ways you can reduce the effects.
What are the symptoms of jet lag?
- Difficulty sleeping at usual bedtimes, waking up early morning and overall poor quality of sleep
- Difficulty concentrating and functioning to your usual capacity
- Difficulty staying awake during the day and overall general tiredness
- Mood swings and increased irritability
- Stomach problems such as constipation
How to prevent jet lag
Although jet lag can’t be fully prevented, there are ways reduce the effects and help improve your chances of a quick recovery.
Pre-flight jet lag preparation
- A bit of clever planning can help reduce jet lag. A couple of weeks before you are due to fly, start gradually changing your sleep routine by getting up an hour or two earlier or later depending on the time of your destination.
- Get plenty of rest, especially before bed to help improve your chances of a quality sleep. Check out some of our recommended sleeping techniques here.
- Good overall health can help reduce jet lag symptoms so try to exercise and eat healthily on the lead up to your trip.
During the flight
- Depending on your plane this can be easier said than done, but try keep active by stretching and moving around the cabin.
- Try to sleep on the plane in line with your destination. You can use sleeping aids such as eye masks and ear plugs to help improve your chances of sleep.
- Drink plenty of water and keep alcohol/caffeine consumption to a minimum.
- Avoid wearing clothes that are tight or restrict movement, it’s important to stay comfortable while flying.
- Adjust your watch while on the plane so you psychologically prepare for your new time zone.
Post-flight jet lag preparation
- It’s important to change your sleep schedule to your new time zone as soon as possible. Make sure you set an alarm in the morning to prevent oversleeping.
- Many believe that natural light therapy is the perfect jet lag cure. Exposure to sunlight helps to regulate our circadian rhythm, which is essentially an internal body clock that runs in the background of the brain and cycles between sleepiness and alertness at regular intervals, also known as a sleep and wake cycle. Once you have landed try to get outdoors during the daytime to expose yourself to the sunlight.
- Try and consume foods that are natural sources of melatonin such as cherries, pomegranate, olives, grapes, broccoli, cucumber, nuts and seeds. Melatonin helps control daily sleep and wake cycles, therefore consuming foods that are rich with melatonin can help reduce jet lag symptoms.
- Check your accommodation has suitable sleep conditions. The environment in which you sleep in can have a positive or negative effect on your sleep, especially the temperature of the room.
If your trip is only going to be a short stay, say 2 to 3 days, then it might be worth staying on ‘home time’ to help keep your body clock on its usual routine, therefore reducing the chances of jet lag when you return. If you are a frequent flyer it might be worth seeking advice from a sleep specialist. A specialist can work with you to develop a sleep programme that will help reduce the symptoms of jet lag.
Although there isn’t a cure for jet lag, as you see there are plenty of things you can do to help reduce your chances of experiencing extreme jet lag.