Whether you are a seasoned business traveler or a first-time adventurer, you might have wondered how to beat jet lag once and for all. While curing the jet lag on the spot is far-fetched, there are luckily several proven tips that expert travelers, frequent flyers, pilots and stewards use to speed up the process.
To adjust to your new time zone fully, experts say you need one day for every hour of the time zone change, and you may need more when you’re traveling east. As travelers say: west is best. No matter which direction you go, your body’s systems are still thrown out of whack when you cross over several time zones.
To get the most out of your trip, confirmed globetrotters and industry insiders let out their secrets on how to beat jet lag confidently. Keep reading to discover our top 35 tips to fight jet lag and adjust quickly!
How to Beat Jet Lag Before Your Flight
35.) Ease Into It
Gradually prepare your body for the time zone changes ahead by slightly changing your routine a few days before your flight.
To simulate your new schedule beforehand, move your bedtime half-an-hour earlier for several days if you’re traveling east or move it later if you’re traveling west.
As you can imagine, this tip works best if you can adjust your other typical routines, like your mealtimes and work hours, so that they get as close as possible to those at your travel destination.
34.) Sleep Well the Day Before Your Flight
How to beat jet lag before even hopping on the plane? Start in your bedroom by getting a good night’s sleep.
Some travelers think that only sleeping a few hours before their trip can force them to sleep on the plane. This is not the case for most people, however. Not getting enough sleep messes with your sleeping schedule and tires you instead. We know that pre-holiday excitement can kick in for many, but try your best to rest well the night before your trip.
33.) Eat Sensibly
There is no diet that had been proven to cure jet lag. There, we said it. Some people decide to fast on flight day after indulging in heavy meals the day before, but this practice doesn’t have any scientific basis.
Keep your meals light and avoid heavy, high-carb and fatty diets before boarding. If you want to sleep on your flight, those kinds of meals might disrupt your schedule.
32.) Prepare Kids for Travel
Many people ask how to beat jet lag for kids and toddlers. It’s similar to an adult’s process, except you will need to actively explain why these changes need to happen to the children.
Nudge their bedtime and naptime every day a little bit closer to those of your travel destination so that they don’t feel thrown off at arrival. Also, prepare activities and pack their favorite books and magazines to keep them from watching a movie on the travel day. This can help keep them happy and calm.
31.) Drink Plenty of Water
Jet lag happens for many reasons, but one of them is the body loss of water and electrolytes (like sodium).
The long flight hours dehydrate our bodies, and the altitude and cabin conditions easily put us in deficit — especially because cabins are pressurized to 6900 feet above sea level.
Bring water bottles with you on the plane and remind yourself to drink to help offset the effects of the jet lag. You can even add it as a reminder on your phone.
30.) Skip the Bar
Champagne on a plane can seem like a fancy treat, but it’s better to avoid alcohol altogether during your flight.
When you’re high up in the air, alcohol doesn’t help you sleep. In fact, it can have the opposite effect because it dehydrates your body.
29.) Skip the Cup of Joe
Caffeine has a six-hour half-life, meaning that in order to make sure coffee doesn’t hinder your sleep, you will need to stop drinking it 6 hours before bedtime.
If you want to sleep on the plane, avoid coffee, cola and energy drinks either before or after take-off.
28.) Sleep It Off
If there were a single piece of advice you need to remember from this list, it should be this: do whatever it takes to sleep on the plane. If you get enough sleep while flying, your body will feel significantly better.
When you land, try to get as much sleep as you’d get in a regular 24-hour cycle. One of the best tips for how to beat jet lag if you arrive in the daytime is to wait to go to bed until bedtime in the new location. Caving in could mean compromising your first night’s sleep, and no one wants that.
The solution is simple: nap. Yes, snoozing for less than 30 minutes can get you going for the rest of the day and, most importantly, prepare you for a regenerating first night of sleep.
27.) Take Melatonin
For those wondering how to beat jet lag when they’re light sleepers or can’t fall asleep easily, melatonin could be the answer you’re looking for.
Melatonin is a hormone that tells our brains when it’s time to relax and go to sleep. It also comes in over-the-counter medicine that you can easily buy at pharmacies or on Amazon. Read the medical information provided to know the right dose to take. Some expert travelers recommend a smaller dose than the prescribed one. Ask your pharmacist to get their medical expertise.
Also, avoid screens after taking melatonin because bright light can easily suppress this hormone.
26.) Get By Without Sleeping Pills
It can seem that sleeping pills would help mitigate the effects of the jet lag by easing the travelers into sleep. However, relying on sleeping pills isn’t such a good idea. They will leave you all fuzzy and might even mess up your first night’s sleep when you land. It’s better to go to sleep naturally.
Here is some advice to get to sleep:
- Recline your seat to have more leg room, but be courteous of the people behind you.
- Bring your own green tea bags to drink on the flight.
- Notify your flight attendant that you don’t want to be disturbed when the snack/drink cart comes around.
- Use a blanket or a shawl that doubles as a blanket to keep your feet warm. The altitude can make you feel colder.
25.) Get Everything You Need Nearby
If you can sleep anywhere with little to no help, consider yourself one of few lucky travelers out there.
For the rest of us (you know, normal people), it takes a lot of preparation. Pack anything that can help you sleep — and that fits in your carry-on or checked baggage. Compose your sleeping kit, and pull all the items you need from your carry-on before stowing it in the overhead compartment.
Grab your water bottle, magazines, phone and anything else you need right away, so you won’t have to get into your bag when you and everyone else are just getting comfortable.
24.) Wear Compression Socks
Basically, compression socks help increase blood circulation in the body and reduce risks of swelling feet or blood clotting.
They come in various levels of tightness or compression, so choose the variation that is best for your needs. These socks will also keep you warm in the cold cabin.
23.) Pack Your Sleep Mask
To protect your eyes from the sunlight that filters through the windows and the plane’s lights, make sure to bring your own sleep mask.
Some airlines offer sleep masks to their passengers, in addition to pillows and covers, so you might want to check out this option as well.
22.) Remember to Bring a Neck Pillow
No one wants their neck to feel like it was snapped in half after a long flight.
To get some REM sleep and still have a well-functioning neck, pack a travel pillow. If you’re a side sleeper, you know how hard it is to sleep on the spot. A travel pillow will fix this for you.
21.) Use Earplugs and/or Noise-Canceling Headphones
Everybody wants to cut down on external distractions as much as possible. To shut off the crying kids, engine sounds and your neighbors’ lively discussion, a pair of earplugs is a lifesaver.
You can also download a white-noise app or some soothing music to help you doze off.
20.) Eat Like You’re Already There
Align your meal times during your flight with that of your travel destination. That might mean waiting a bit before diving in the plane meal or eating a handful of snacks at midnight.
This will set you on the right track to get your metabolism on your new time zone. Remember to bring a handful of snacks in your bag, so you can eat when you need to. Good snacks include almonds, dried fruit and yogurt.
19.) Change the Time on Your Watch
First order of business as soon as you hop on the plane? Change the time on your watch, phone, computer and any other devices.
Looking at the time in your destination will mentally prepare you to sync to your new destination and unconsciously remind you what to expect when arriving there. Don’t do it before getting on your plane, though. You don’t want to risk missing your flight or getting to the airport hours before boarding.
18.) Avoid Blue Light Exposure
We are exposed to artificial blue light — even though it looks white — almost all day, in our homes, offices, schools and even in the streets. The backlit screens of our phones, LEDs, fluorescent lighting all shine blue light at us.
Our bodies get pretty confused because they receive mixed signals. During the night, your body might falsely assume that it’s daylight due to the light exposure, which messes our cortisol levels.
To limit blue light’s effects:
- Avoid scrolling on your mobile devices when flying as much as possible. If you use devices — we know how boring it can get on an 8-hour flight — turn on the “Night Mode.”
- Download F.lux in case you need to work on your computer. It’s a program that turns the eerie blue glow of a computer screen and adapts it to the time of the day instead: warm at night and sunlight-like during the day.
- Turn off your inflight entertainment TV screen.
17.) Breathe In, Breathe Out
The oxygen levels we operate at are at 21% of the air when we are on the ground and get lower the higher up we go. The oxygen levels are kept at the right levels in planes artificially, but many people still find it a little bit hard to breathe, especially if they have a lung condition.
While many travelers just need to relax and do deep breathing exercises to get the oxygen pumping in their blood, some others might need additional oxygen. You can take a hypoxic challenge (or fit to fly test) at the doctor to see how your body responds to air at higher altitudes and in pressured cabins.
How to Beat Jet Lag After You Land
Ever wondered why you feel hyper-energized on summer days and a bit gloomier on dark winter days?
That’s because your body’s rhythm is controlled by your cortisol and serotonin, two crucial hormones that protect our health and well-being. Because the cortisol and serotonin levels change with sunlight intake, your energy level does too.
To make sure your body gets clear signals about its new environment, get as much daylight as you can. Make sure to apply sunscreen, though.
15.) Keep Moving
If you arrive at daytime, gather all your strength and go for a quick run, enjoy a walk around the area hit the gym of your hotel or even do some easy exercises in the comfort of your hotel room.
People who ask how to beat jet lag as soon as they land should do their best to make this happen. A workout, be it heavy or not, will recharge your body, expose your skin to the sun and get your heart pumping.
Exercise will wake you up when you’re feeling sleepy at 10 AM or tire you out when you arrive at 4 PM. Avoid exercising around bedtime, however, as it can delay sleep.
14.) Take It Easy the First Day
No one says that you will have to be at your 100% performance on the first day.
Relax your schedule to allow your body to regenerate better and faster. It will be better to have a light schedule on the first day and feel great the next day than to jam-pack your arrival day and stay half-tired for the rest of your trip.
How to Beat Jet Lag by Booking a Flight With the Best Conditions
Many of these good resolutions can be easier to achieve if you are on the right flight. We know that there are many factors that go into buying your air ticket. The most important one of them might be the price, and it makes sense to give it the utmost importance, especially if you are on a budget.
However, sometimes moving your schedule or adding extra dollars to find prepare for a smoother trip can be worth it. Here are some tips on how to beat jet lag by choosing the best flight conditions.
13.) Avoid Arriving at Night
The earlier in the day your flight will arrive, the more tempted you will be to get out and enjoy the sun. You will have a full day waiting for you to explore the city and get your body accustomed to its new environment.
This will be particularly easy to do if you fly to countries with similar (or close) time zones.
12.) Pick a Good Seat
Flying business class is a luxury, but even when flying coach, there are still good seats to hunt for when booking your flight or when checking in. The better your seat assignment will be, the smoother your ride will be, and the more prepared your body will be to overcome jet lag.
Depending on what you need, here are the best seats you can pick on a flight in coach:
- For more legroom: An aisle seat in the second exit row.
- For best sleep conditions: A seat by the window near the front. No one will disturb you when going to the bathroom, you will be able to lean against the window and you can control the window shades.
- For a quieter ride: A seat at the front, far from the toilets.
- For the larger passengers: Any aisle seat.
- For better A/C control: Middle seats.
11.) Pick a Good Airline
Some airlines are on a league of their own. They provide such an outstanding experience that they ease all their passengers’ worries and offer the smoothest flight experience there is.
Flying with their updated planes and stellar service will help you relax, unwind, and fight the jet lag more effectively. The rating for 2019 comprises, respectively, is made up of Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Virgin Australia, Emirates, All Nippon Airways, EVA Air, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.
10.) Know Your Airplanes
Not all airplanes are alike. You might have felt the difference if you have ever boarded on the Airbus A350, the Airbus A380 or the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
These are the best planes to combat jet lag. They pump the highest pressure, making the air in their cabins the closest to the one on the ground. Their high-tech humidification systems help retain moisture and don’t damage your throat, ears and nose as much as the other planes, therefore protecting you from catching a cold — something many travelers suffer from.
The two Airbus planes can also create 16.7 million shades of color to simulate natural daylight. If you like crisp well-filtered air, go for new planes, because they use actual air instead of engine air.
9.) Split Up Your Long Haul Flight Evenly
Surviving long haul flights can sometimes be challenging. But here is the secret: breaking it into two or three equally long flights makes it much easier to handle.
Your body will get a couple of opportunities to recharge on the ground. Bonus tip: splitting up your flight can sometimes cut the cost of your trip as well!
Some airlines also offer no-cost or low-cost stopovers at their home bases. You can check out their stopover hotel deals and sightseeing packages. By comparing the options offered at the home bases of each airline you’re flying with, you can come up with your own personalized and low-cost mini-vacation (and resting time to get over the jet lag).
8.) Ask for a Last-Minute Upgrade
Flying business class offers more comfort than flying economy. You have more legroom, can stretch your seat to turn it into a bed and have tastier meals. Securing a seat there will mean higher chances of beating the jet lag. But it comes at a high cost.
The secret’s out though: airline agents sometimes offers last-minute upgrades. These ad-hoc upgrades can be available at check-in or even at the departure gate. If you don’t see them, it wouldn’t hurt to ask if they offer upgrades and what they cost at the check-in counter or departure gate.
You never know what fortunate surprise might be waiting for you.
7.) Bid for an Upgrade
Here is another tip: there is a bidding system to upgrade to business class from an already-purchased economy seat.
Airlines want to monetize as much as possible on their empty front-cabin seats. Each airline has its process, but it usually goes like this: after you buy your economy class seat, you will receive a notification or email from your airline notifying you that the flight is open for a bid on an upgrade.
You enter their website, insert the amount of money you’re bidding with and credit card information and confirm your bid. If your bid is the highest, you get the upgrade. If not, no money is taken from you and you stay in your economy class seat.
Pretty sweet if you have a few bucks to spare and don’t mind trying your luck with them.
Hack Your Way Into Beating the Jet Lag
Technology is tackling all the problems that human beings face, and it didn’t take long to answer the question of how to beat jet-lag or survive long-haul flights.
These are four technologies that can help.
6.) Use Timeshifter
Timeshifter’s CEO says that each traveler requires a personalized approach to cure their jet lag, taking into consideration several factors including their sleep pattern, chronotype, flight plan and some personal preferences.
We couldn’t agree more. While this general advice has been given by expert travelers, each one of us experiences jet lag differently.
Timeshifter is an iOS and Android app that is based on sleep and circadian research and employs the same technology used by astronauts and athletes.
The app creates a personalized jet lag plan and identifies the actions to take and timing of those actions (for example, the best time to sleep and for how long, when to see the bright light and take melatonin, whether to enjoy caffeine or avoid it and so on).
5.) Use Uplift
How to beat jet lag in five minutes? Ask Uplift.
As opposed to the circadian science we’ve talked about above, this mobile app (iOS and Android) uses acupressure instead.
Depending on your destination and new time zone, the app suggests a combination of acupressure points that will readjust you to your new environment, the app claims. There are hundreds of different plans, so you can use the one that fits you best.
4.) Use Headspace
This one is for all the anxious flyers whose hearts start jumping in their chests as soon as the plane takes off.
Relaxing on your flight can help you have a restful flight and thus fight jet lag more efficiently. One way of doing so is through meditation.
Headspace is a free web, iOS, and Android app — one of the top meditation apps on the market — that also offers packages for sleeping and fear of flying. It has over 11 million downloads, and its users share raving positive reviews about its results.
3.) Use myNoise
Some people don’t like the feeling of earplugs but still want to block out the auditory nuisances that come with flying in a plane full of people.
To avoid the scenario where your neighbors’ snoring wakes you up from a much needed in-flight nap, you can use myNoise (web, iOS, Android), one of the best free white noise generators out there. You can choose from different background sounds like “Fireplace,” “Waterfall,” “Distant Thunder” or “Irish Coast.”
Final Advice on How to Beat Jet Lag
2.) Frequent Traveler? Consult Your Doctor
For those who fly more frequently, jet lag can become a recurring problem.
Visit a sleep clinic or see a sleep specialist. They can help you design your own process and system to help you avoid jet lag. The specialist can even use light therapy, prescription medication and melatonin to help you with your symptoms.
1.) Listen to Your Body
To make sure your body adjusts to its new time zone the sooner you land, you might need to force your body to do some activities either before, during or after your flight.
While this is general advice that expert travelers, pilots, and stewards give, it is also important to listen to your own body. The signals it sends you shouldn’t be overlooked. Your first long haul light could be confusing, but after a while, you will know what works best for your body and mind.
Now that you know the top tips for how to beat jet lag, use them to make your next trip easier.