Jet lag is when your normal sleep pattern is disturbed after a long flight. Symptoms usually improve within a few days as your body adjusts to the new time zone.
Symptoms of jet lag
The main symptoms are sleep-related. They include:
- difficulty sleeping at bedtime and waking up in the morning
- tiredness and exhaustion
- finding it difficult to stay awake during the day
- poor sleep quality
- concentration and memory problems
Ways to reduce jet lag
Jet lag can't be prevented, but there are things you can do to help reduce its effects.
Before you travel
Some things you can do before travelling include:
- getting plenty of rest
- relaxing before going to bed and follow good sleep practices
- gradually change your sleep routine - start going to bed and getting up an hour or two earlier or later than usual (in line with the time of your destination)
- avoid eating large meals, exercise, using electronic gadgets, or drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks before bedtime
During your flight
During your flight you should:
- drink plenty of water
- sleep if it's a normal time for sleeping at your destination
- use an eye mask and earplugs if they help you sleep
- keep active by stretching and regularly walking around the cabin
- avoid drinking too much caffeine or alcohol - they can make jet lag worse
After you arrive
After arriving you should:
- change your sleep schedule to the new time zone as quickly as possible
- set an alarm to avoid oversleeping in the morning
- go outside during the day - natural light will help your body clock adjust
- not go to sleep until a reasonable hour for your new destination
If your trip is short it may be better to stay on "home time". If possible, eat and sleep at the times you would at home.
Treatment for jet lag
Symptoms of jet lag often improve after a few days as your body clock adjusts to the new time zone and so medicines aren't usually needed.
Sleeping tablets may be helpful if you're having problems sleeping (insomnia). They can be addictive so should only be used for a short time and if symptoms are severe.
Melatonin is a chemical released by the body in the evening to let your brain know it's time to sleep. Melatonin supplements aren't recommended for jet lag because there isn't enough evidence that they work.
More useful links
The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.
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