Tips to help you combat jet lag symptoms & disturbed sleep while you are travelling

Whether it’s for a holiday, a work trip or visiting far-away family, catching a long-haul flight and travelling to a distant location should be exciting. But, if you’re travelling into different time zones, there may be no escaping jet lag. 

While you can’t prevent jet lag, there are things you can do to prepare for your trip and avoid experiencing jet lag too severely or for too long. 

What is jet lag & what causes it?

Jet lag is a common travel health problem that occurs when you travel across multiple time zones. 

Your body has its own sleep schedule (your circadian rhythm) that helps signal when it is time to sleep and when to stay awake. When you catch a long flight, this natural sleep pattern becomes interrupted, and you may then have trouble staying awake or falling asleep. This is because your body’s clock is still synced to your original time zone. 

What are the main symptoms of jet lag? 

The main symptom of jet lag is disturbed sleep or difficulty staying awake during the daytime. You may also experience: 

• Tiredness and exhaustion 
• Poor sleep quality 
• Concentration and memory problems 
• Headaches
• Lack of appetite 
• Digestion problems 
• Nausea 
• Constipation

How long can jet lag last?

Jet lag usually occurs within a day or two if you’ve travelled across at least two time zones, and it may take you a couple of days to recover from. 

You might find that your symptoms are likely to last longer the more time zones you’ve crossed, and people often find jet lag is worse when you travel east, where you would need to fall asleep earlier than you normally would. 

What can I do to prevent jet lag?

Before your trip

• Start slowly adjusting to your new time zone before you travel by going to bed an hour earlier or later each evening. Start this a few days before you get your flight 

• Get plenty of rest the night before you travel

During your flight

• Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water 
• Keep yourself active by stretching and moving around the cabin (if possible) 
• If you’d like to sleep on your flight, try sleeping when it would be night time at your new destination 
• Use an eye mask and ear plugs to help you sleep 
• Avoid caffeine or alcohol on the flight, as these can disrupt your sleep cycle further 

How can I ease jet lag symptoms once I arrive? 

While jet lag can’t be prevented completely, there are things you can do to help minimise the effects on you. Once you arrive at your destination: 

• Try to match your sleep schedule to your new time zone as quickly as possible 
• Set an alarm to stop yourself from oversleeping in the morning 
• Try not to nap throughout the day 
• Go outside during the day – natural light will help your body clock to adjust to the new location 

If you’d like to access treatment to help adjust to a new time zone, the Boots Online Doctor Jet Lag Treatment Service* could help. After completing an online consultation, a clinician will review you answers and provide advice and prescribe treatment if appropriate.

How can I overcome jet lag when I return from my trip?

Once you arrive home, it may take a few days for you to shake off jet lag. Just as you did when you first arrived at your destination, try to shift your eating and sleeping habits back towards your normal schedule. 

If your trip is short (less than three days), try to eat and sleep at the same times you would at home, to avoid your body clock from attempting to adjust to a new location.