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Jet lag

Jet lag is when your normal sleep pattern is disturbed after a long flight. It usually improves within a few days as your body adjusts to the new time zone.

Ways to reduce jet lag

Jet lag cannot be prevented, but there are things you can do to reduce its effects.

Get plenty of rest before you travel. You could start going to bed and getting up earlier or later than usual (more like the time zone of the place you're travelling to).

During your flight

Do

  • drink plenty of water

  • keep active by stretching and regularly walking around the cabin

  • try to sleep if it's night time at your destination

  • use an eye mask and earplugs if they help you sleep

Don’t

  • do not drink too much caffeine or alcohol – they can make jet lag worse

After you arrive

Do

  • 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

Don’t

  • do not sleep during the day – only sleep at night time

Information:

Short trips

If your trip is short (2 to 3 days), try to eat and sleep at the times you would at home.

There's no treatment for jet lag

Medicines are not usually needed for jet lag.

Jet lag often improves after a few days as your body clock adjusts to the new time zone.

Sleeping tablets may be helpful if you're having problems sleeping (insomnia). But they can be addictive so should only be used for a short time and if symptoms are severe.

Melatonin is a natural hormone released by the body in the evening to let your brain know it's time to sleep.

Melatonin tablets are not recommended for jet lag because there's not enough evidence to show they work.

Symptoms of jet lag

The main symptoms of jet lag are:

  • difficulty sleeping at bedtime and waking up in the morning
  • tiredness and exhaustion
  • difficulty staying awake during the day
  • poor sleep quality
  • concentration and memory problems

Jet lag can also sometimes cause dizziness, indigestion, nausea, constipation, changes in appetite and mild anxiety.

Page last reviewed: 3 August 2020
Next review due: 3 August 2023