Travel news

7 ways to beat jet lag that don't involve sleeping pills

Not in first class? No problem.

By Amber Elias
How to cure jet lag fast

One of the worst parts about travelling is jet lag, and unless you're lucky enough to sit up the front of the plane, it's almost unavoidable.

Jet lag happens when your body becomes fatigued from travelling across different time zones. Your internal clock and circadian rhythm (which controls your sleep) is disrupted, and the effects can negatively impact your trip.

So how long does jet lag last? As a general rule, allow one day for every hour of travel for your body to acclimatise to your new destination. There is no cure for jet lag, but with some tips and tricks you can reduce the symptoms quicker.

7. Adjust your watch to the time zone you're going to

This one might sound obvious, but it really does help your body adjust to your new destination. By altering your eating patterns to suit your arrival location, you'll sleep better and reset your circadian rhythm and metabolism.

6. Get outside as soon as you land

Unless you land at night, getting outside into the sunshine will help readjust your body's melatonin levels (the hormone that makes you feel sleepy). Melatonin production peaks when it's dark so by getting out into the light, you'll trick your body into staying awake.

5. Avoid devices and stimulants on the plane

If you're landing at night and hope to go straight to your accommodation and sleep, avoid watching movies, looking at your phone or listening to loud, energetic music in the hours before you land. By slowing calming your body and mind down by avoiding stimulants, you'll give yourself a better chance at falling asleep immediately.

4. Drink a special drink

1Above is a specially formulated drink that contains natural bark extract, which one 2008 study found reduced the length and severity of jet lag. The drink also contains electrolytes, and essential B vitamins to help reduce swelling and the risk of deep vein thrombosis, plus it will hydrate you faster than plain water.

3. Switch to your new time zone before you go

If you're really serious about beating jet lag on your fist day, switch to your new time zone a few days before you're due to depart. You can gradually start adjusting your clock forward or back a few hours, and change your meal times as a way of gently introducing a change to your body clock.

2. Use eye drops

Recycled cabin air can make our eyes, mouth and throat feel parched and scratchy, because of the low humidity. But dry air isn’t the only reason to reach for eye drops. A new study by the University of Edinburgh looked at how a group of retina cells in our eyes can directly communicate with the body’s internal clock. The study demonstrated the retina contains vasopressin-expressing cells, which are vital in resetting your circadian rhythm which is disrupted when travelling. The researchers hope that by developing eye drops that can manipulate vasopressin, they might cure jet lag. Fingers crossed.

1. Fast before and during your flight

Another way to get ready for a different time zone is by adjusting your eating schedule so it's in sync with your new destination when you arrive. This idea came from Harvard, whose researchers theorised you could fast to beat jet lag. Put simply, this means fasting a minimum of 12 hours before the time you'd eat breakfast at your new destination. This technique does require a little bit of maths though. The researchers reasoned that because food is essential, depriving your body of it can help influence your circadian rhythms just as much as light and darkness. You should continue to drink water throughout the flight, as dehydration is not helpful here.