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Jet lag? 10 useful tips for the next time you fly

Jet lag is a frequent flyer’s worst enemy: it’s the price we pay for the convenience of travelling across time zones. Thinking about your next holiday but worried about it? What if there was a way to ease those jet lag blues? From sleep apps to special diets, Skyscanner shares our top 10 tips and tricks on how to beat jet lag.

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1. Avoid alcohol and coffee

Indulging in free wine and cocktails is very tempting on long-haul flights – but trust us, it won’t do your body any favours. Alcohol can cause dehydration and make your jet lag symptoms even worse, so do the smart (or right) thing and ditch that glass of whiskey. The same goes for caffeine, which can interfere with your sleep patterns. Stick to drinking lots of water during your flight: it’s the first step towards beating jet lag.

Woman drinking champagne on a flight.

Champagne on the plane might seem like a good idea… but it isn’t.

2. Plan ahead

A few days before your flight, try gradually adjusting your sleep habits so you can start getting in sync with the new time zone. Schedule your bedtime one hour earlier than usual if you’re flying east, or one hour later if you’re heading west. Too lazy to figure out logistics? Download a free app like Jetlag Rooster, which creates a detailed sleep schedule based on your travel itinerary. With careful planning, you just might be able to dodge any jet lag woes.

Someone's hand reaching out of bed to turn off the alarm clock.

Adjust your sleep schedule before flying: your body will thank you for it.

3. Ditch those sleeping pills

Getting some shut-eye is essential on an overnight flight, but try to avoid taking any sleeping pills. Otherwise, you may end up still feeling drowsy when you get off the plane – not exactly ideal for your first day of vacation. But what if you can’t fall asleep, even with your earplugs and eye mask? Try switching off your TV screen, or any screen for that matter, an hour before you plan to sleep, or bring a lavender-scented travel pillow: this will help you relax and hopefully ease you into sleeping mode.

Close-up of an assortment of pills and capsules.

Leave your sleeping pills at home – they won’t help with your jet lag.

4. Embrace the new time zone

As soon as you board the plane, set your watch and phone to the new time zone and don’t look back. When you arrive, make sure to adjust your regular sleeping and eating schedule to local time as soon as possible. Forget about what time it is “back home”: the quicker you are to settle into a new rhythm, the less painful the transition will be.

Man checking his watch while standing in the street.

Get in sync with local time as soon as possible.

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5. Change your diet

If you’re travelling across several time zones, then you may want to try something a little more radical – like the Argonne Anti Jet Lag diet. Invented by a scientist in the 1980s, this diet suggests alternating “feasting” days (high-protein and high-carb meals) with “fasting” days (salad, soups), in the four days leading up to your departure. Who knew food could be used as a cure for jet lag?

Woman holding her phone and a bottle of juice in a grocery store.

Ready to tackle the anti jet lag diet?

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6. Consider melatonin

When it comes to fighting jet lag, many frequent flyers swear by melatonin. This natural hormone helps regulate your sleeping and waking cycles, and you can take it as a supplement to keep the effects of jet lag at bay. Usually it’s recommended for you to take melatonin at local bedtime on the day you travel, since it will help reset your internal body clock. You can get a bottle of melatonin at most drug stores in the supplement aisle.

Woman sleeping peacefully in bed.

Melatonin is the frequent flyer’s secret to a good night’s sleep.

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7. Don’t nap

So you finally arrive at your hotel after a long flight and all you want to do is pass out on your bed for a couple of hours, right? Bad idea: napping during the day will just confuse your internal body clock even more. If you really want to beat the jet lag, stay away from the temptation of a comfy bed and go for a brisk walk instead. The fresh air, sunshine and exercise will help keep you awake until you can finally succumb to blissful sleep in the evening.

Woman napping on a bed that is strewn with tech gadgets.

Resist the urge to nap, otherwise you’ll regret it later.

8. Be strategic

When booking your flight, it pays to be mindful of the time you’ll be arriving at your destination. If possible, try to book a flight that lands in the late afternoon or early evening. That way, you only have a few hours to kill before bedtime. It’s definitely a more appealing option than struggling with jet lag the whole day.

Woman working on her laptop and holding a credit card, with her luggage in the background.

Beat jet lag by booking a perfectly timed flight.

9. Create the right sleeping environment

It’s often hard to fall asleep in a new environment, so it’s important to create the right sleeping conditions on the first night you arrive. Before going to bed, put in some earplugs, lower the temperature, and make sure your room is as dark as possible. Darkness and cooler temperatures serve as a signal to your body that it’s time to power down, so this will hopefully allow you to get a good night’s sleep.

Woman awake in bed while her partner sleeps beside her.

Ditch those sleepless nights by creating the right environment.

10. Be kind to yourself

Despite your best efforts to conquer jet lag, you may still arrive at your destination feeling groggy, or just plain exhausted. Cut yourself some slack on the first day: don’t try to pack in a crazy tourist itinerary that will tire you out even more. And if you’re travelling for business, make sure to arrive at least one day before your meeting or conference. By giving your body the necessary time to recover, you’ll make your trip much more productive – and more fun.

Woman resting her head on her hands, with cups of coffee in front of her.

Don’t wear yourself out on your first day in a new time zone.

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Ready to try out these tips to combat jet lag for next time you travel? Book cheap flights, hotels and car rental via Skyscanner today, or download our free mobile app for easy browsing and booking on the go.

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Published on 28 September 2016 and updated in May 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

Adapted from an article originally written by James Teideman for Skyscanner

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