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How To Beat Jet Lag

Unfortunately, time travel has yet to be realised. The average sane human can’t just beam themselves to the future where cocktails on a white beach in the Indian Ocean await. Instead, travelling to foreign lands demands tiring long haul flights, racing between airports and across time zones and, notoriously, jet lag.

Jet lag is, basically, the tiredness and confusion you feel after a long aircraft journey. It occurs when the body’s internal clock is disrupted after crossing two or more time zones (east–west or west–east). Good news is: it’s temporary, and there are ways to minimise the symptoms.

The speed at which the body adjusts to the new time zone depends on the individual; some people need several days to adjust, while others experience just a little shake-up. The basic recovery rate is one day per time zone crossed.

DID YOU KNOW

If you’re in the UK flying to Africa, you won’t experience jet lag since there is only a 1/2 hour time difference, depending on daylight saving. Travellers from the USA to Africa encounter it more severely, and it can kick in even a few days later after landing. If you’re coming from Australia, flying west to Africa, the impact will most likely be more severe on the trip there, than when going back home, since generally, jet lag is more severe when travelling east versus west.


Take a look at this handy infographic

Jet Lag Demystified

So, before your next trip consider the following:

  • Adjust your sleep cycle – If it is daytime at your destination when you arrive, try and stay awake until nighttime and get a good night’s sleep to reset your clock. Follow the time pattern of your destination. You should adjust to your new time zone within a couple days.
  • Take Melatonin – Struggling to fall asleep? Studies show this wonder hormone can help people fall asleep at doses of 0.3 mg. For jet lag, take between 0.3–0.5 mg on the first day of traveling, shortly before bedtime. It’s sold as a nutritional supplement, no prescription needed.
  • Plan ahead – Begin adjusting to your new schedule before travelling. Go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier, or the reverse, slowly working your way toward the new time zone – but no more than an hour per day.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine – They diminish the quality of sleep and can worsen symptoms.
  • Pace yourself – Don’t plan anything too strenuous on the day you arrive if possible – ease into new time zones slowly.
  • Use bright light therapy - Exposure to sunlight helps regulate our circadian rhythms. If you can’t get the sunlight,  there are light boxes and visors. Studies show that exposure to bright artificial light decreases sleepiness and improves reaction time. It’s most effective at changing the body’s circadian rhythm when used first thing in the morning (to help you wake earlier, if you’re travelling eastward) or before bedtime (to delay sleep, if you’re travelling westward).

Got Passport, Will Travel

The Techy Solution: Try the Jet Lag App

Jetlag App helps combat all jet lag symptoms so you can enjoy your trip and be alert all day long, by helping to restore your sleeping pattern. It’s suitable for adults and children. Click here for more.

Try the Jet Lag App


Business Travel

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Written by Tamlin Wightman

Tamlin Wightman is our writer supreme, with over five years of experience working as a travel photojournalist under her belt. She's lived on an island, eaten with lions, sailed catamarans in the Indian Ocean and tracked wild dogs with Kinglsey Holgate.
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  • Judy Guffey

    Not sure much is going to help….Honolulu to New York (just under 10 hours. 3 1/2 hour layover. Just under 15 hours New York to Jo’burg. Oh, my…but it’lll be worth it!

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