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How to beat jet lag

21 April 2016 ( 25 October 2018 )

Sometimes jet lag is simply unavoidable but there are a few steps you can take to avoid the worst effects and recover faster.

View from aeroplane window

Flying off on a trip abroad is always an exciting time, full of anticipation for the experience ahead. Unfortunately, travelling across different time zones can end up delivering a hefty dose of jet lag to go along with your holiday, disrupting the body clock and sleeping schedule to the point of feeling disoriented, exhausted and, sometimes, downright unwell.

It can be especially confusing if you need to take regular medication according to a strict timetable (the NHS suggests seeking advice from your GP prior to travelling if this is an issue that affects you).

Sometimes a little bit of jet lag is simply unavoidable, and it is always a good idea to factor in a little recovery time after a flight instead of planning an itinerary that requires energy and action right from the start. However, in order to avoid the worst effects, there are a few top tips you can adhere to in order to beat jet lag or recover fast.

1. Prepare for the flight

Getting some shut-eye at appropriate times on the flight can do you the world of good on arrival.

Some people attempt to change their sleep routines a few days before they fly - perhaps getting up earlier or going to bed later so that the change is not as much of a shock to the system.

Ensuring you are wearing comfortable layers or bringing an eye mask and ear plugs with you might help you doze off naturally.

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2. Consider a stopover

If it is possible to break up your journey en route, a stopover can stave off the worst effects of jet lag by allowing your body to gradually adjust to the changing time zones.

Even if you are unable to leave the airport, plan rejuvenating activities such as a refreshing shower to take any stress out of your long distance journey and giving jet lag less of an opportunity to really set in.

Top 5 reasons to book an airport lounge

3. Stay hydrated

Be aware that your complimentary glass of wine or coffee refills can cause dehydration, particularly when teamed with the plane's air-conditioning system, and dehydration can intensify the effect of jet lag.

Counteract this effect by drinking plenty of water - take an empty plastic bottle on board and ask the flight attendants to fill it up for you.

How much water should you drink a day?

4. Re-set your watch

Adjust your watch as soon as you get on the plane, particularly if your time zone is about to change dramatically. Getting into the mindset of your destination's timings will help you to figure out when you ought to be eating or sleeping.

A minimum block of four hours sleep when flying can be enough 'anchor sleep' to help you power on through the day without dropping off as soon as you reach your hotel room.

5. Eat light but eat well

Bring along healthy snacks for the flight so that you can eat when you choose to and you don't have to rigidly stick to the flight's meal times. Eating light meals will help your body clock adjust faster to the new mealtimes.

Otherwise you could find yourself tucking into a heavy dinner in the early hours of the morning as you move into another time zone.

Q I’m not fussed where I sit on a plane, but my partner is very choosy. What’s the best guide to aircraft seats, in your opinion?

If the airlines can squeeze another inch of space out of an aircraft they will, not just legroom but width too, so to work out the most comfortable seating on both short and long haul, then is the place to go. Part of TripAdvisor, it’s a comprehensive guide to aircraft seating, from Aegean to Xiamen Airlines.

There’s colour coding for ‘good’ and ‘bad’ seating (avoid seats by the toilets is stating the obvious), what you get in the way of Wi-Fi and power plugs, how near you are to the galley, etc. There are pictures of the plane’s interior and flyers’ comments, too.

Overall, it's an excellent site that covers most aspects of flying, from an overview if you’ve not travelled with the airline before to flight booking, check-in procedure and baggage allowance. Even airlines’ pets policy is covered – pit bull owners beware, you can’t take your pooch on Aer Lingus!

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.