Ways to defeat jet lag


Image (c) Steve Craft/Corbis

Until a few years ago I’d never suffered jet lag as most of the long flights I had taken were north-south. That all changed with my first trip to the good old US of A, and the combination of serious delays on my changeover at Heathrow meaning no chance to grab any food before the next leg of the journey, extreme discomfort on the plane (next time, I swore it would be business class, but in fact managed to go in first!) and ‘difficult’co-passengers led to my being knocked out for a couple of days on my return.

But now you know what to do next time?

Extraneous factors aside, jet lag is nasty, especially if you´ve got to work or otherwise be productive upon landing. So here is the best of the current advice gathered from cyberspace (but without any of the more weird ‘cures’…)

  • Three or four days before your flight start alternating between light and heavy eating days, ending with a light day on day of flight.
  • Have caffeine ONLY between 3 PM and 4:30 pm those same days (coffee, tea, chocolate, etc.)
  • Choose the right flight time. Clearly you can’t always control this but if you do have a choice, a day flight would be best for those who can’t sleep on planes (I know, me neither) whereas those lucky travellers who can sleep anywhere may as well fly at night. You have to get your body localized. Start on the plane by adjusting your watch to the time at your destination and acting accordingly.
  • Limit the booze on the flight (even if it’s free) . We have no argument with a little wine with your meal but leave it there. Drink loads of water. A good side-effect of this tactic is that all that water will mean you have to keep getting up and walking around too, which is also good advice.
  • When you get there don’t hit the hay until it’s night-time where you are, regardless of your arrival time. It isn’t easy but you’ll thank us for it. Keep moving, get fresh air, whatever. Don’t cave before 9 p.m. – if you just cannot avoid it take then take a nap but for more than 60 minutes. In the opposite case make yourself go to bed by midnight even if you aren´t feeling sleepy. 
  • If you wake up in the small hours don´t let your body try to convince you that it’s time to wake up. Get back to sleep. But don’t lie there thrashing around either – if it all seems hopeless keep the room dark but get up and read or something, you´ll soon feel tired again.
  • Get active and get some sun! Check in and then get out and about. Sunshine is a great help so get some rays (if applicable).
  • Keep a positive head on your shoulders and even try to ignore it. It’s probably no coincidence that jet lag is worse when you are coming back from a trip. Keep active and keep your spirits up even when you’re back to reality. on board your flight, set your watch to the local time of your destination. This gives you a head start into the time zone adjustment so that “change” doesn’t all hit you when the flight attendant tells you what the local time is when you arrive.
  • If you need to be at your peak, whether on arrival or upon your return, you may need something more effective than a double espresso. Give Modafinil a try. Modalert (modafinil) is a Eugeroic or in simpler terms, a wakefulness promoting agent – which is what you are looking for right?

Have you tried these methods? Do you have any other anti-jet lag tips? Whatever, we want to hear from you!

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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One comment

  1. Thanks for the tips. I travelled from the UK to Oz from last Sunday evening , arriving Tuesday am. It is only last night that I managed to get a decent ish sleep and feel okay today.

    Trying to keep awake for a full day when you touch down around 6:30am on a journey > 24 hrs is difficult.

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