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.
Ways to reduce jet lag
Jet lag cannot be prevented, but there are things you can do to reduce its effects.
Before you travel
- get plenty of rest
- relax 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)
- do not eat large meals, exercise, use electronic gadgets, or drink alcohol or caffeinated drinks before bedtime
During your flight
- 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
- do not drink too much caffeine or alcohol – they can make jet lag worse
After you arrive
- 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
- do not go to sleep until a reasonable hour for your new destination
If your trip is short (2 to 3 days) it may be better to stay on "home time".
If possible, 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.
Symptoms often improve 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). 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 are not recommended for jet lag because there is not enough evidence to show they work.
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
Page last reviewed: 10 August 2017
Next review due: 10 August 2020