How to Avoid Jet Lag

One of the things that challenge many travellers is jet lag, particularly over long distances. Unfortunately for us in Australia to see most of the world involves ‘long haul’ travel. It is not uncommon for people even travelling within Australia to be affected by jet lag as you may cross 4 time zones in one flight. For example there is three hours time difference between Sydney and Perth in the summer months. The medical term for jet lag is desynchronosis, which seems apt. I quite like the term discombobulated as well, as that this how you feel – out of synch and out of sorts. Over many long haul flights over the years, I have learnt to manage jet lag to some extent would like to share some of my tips I have learnt along the way.

A definition of jet lag
Jet lag is considered a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, which is a disruption of the internal body clock. It not only impacts on sleep patterns though, it can have a whole range of other lovely symptoms including anxiety, constipation, diarrhoea, confusion, dehydration, headache, irritability, nausea, sweating, and the list goes on.

How to manage jet lag – in transit

  • One of the first things we do when we get on a flight, any flight, is we change our watches and devices to the time at the destination. This serves two purposes: we arrive and slot into the daily routine of the destination e.g. knowing what time to catch buses and trains; by changing as soon as we settle in on the flight it saves us a ‘job’ at the other end – it makes life easier.
  • Stay hydrated. Avoid drinking alcohol and too much caffeine on the flight, make sure you drink lots of water. Air conditioning is very dehydrating, particularly on aeroplanes, so keeping hydrated will help you avoid a headache at you arrival destination.
  • Don’t overeat on the flight. Most of the time airline food is pretty awful anyway so we don’t have a problem with this one.
  • Try adjust your sleep time to reflect time time at your destination. If it is 3am on your watch, try and get some sleep. If you can’t sleep then try to relax, listen to some quiet music and meditate.

When you get there

The best thing to do once you arrive is to try and settle in to the new time zone. If you arrive in the morning, grab a good breakfast then get outside and be active. If you are on holidays go out and orient yourself to your new surroundings. If you have to go to a business meeting or conference, try at least to have a walk before you head off to work. If you are lucky enough to be staying in a hotel with a sauna, then make good use of it. A sauna before an evening meal will help you not only have a relaxing dinner (make sure you drink lots of water ), it will also help you get a good night’s sleep.

The sooner you can adapt to your new environment the less chance there will be that you will have the negative side effects of jet lag.

There is an app for that
A friend shared an article with me today, which prompted this post: Can you beat jet lag with a smartphone app? The  Entrain app for iPhones has been developed by mathematicians at the University of Michigan. “Entrain works by helping to regulate the internal body clock through custom schedules of light and dark. The app lets a person know when they should be exposed to the brightest light possible and when they need to be exposed to a dark environment.” Given we are Android users we won’t be checking this app out soon, which calls to mind another post I wrote about app development a while ago.


MedicineNet Jet Lag Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, and Prevention (accessed 12 April 2014)