Planning your summer getaway? Here’s how to avoid jet lag

Nearly 93% of travellers experience jet lag at some point, so here’s how to stop it ruining your holiday

For many of us, the arrival of sunshine immediately inspires us to book that all important summer holiday. It’s hard to resist the draw of a couple of weeks stretched out beneath the blazing sun, but for too many of us jet lag can put a serious dampener on our getaway.

Luckily, it is possible to avoid jet lag and enjoy your holiday from the moment you step off the plane. The first step to beating jet lag is understanding it, which is why we’ve put together this handy guide to answer all your questions.

What is jet lag?

Jet lag occurs when your normal sleep pattern is disturbed after a long flight. Due to a shift in time zones, your body clock — or circadian rhythm — has to adjust to a new schedule, which can lead to sleep deprivation and exhaustion.

Who gets jet lag?

Jet lag can affect anyone travelling across time zones, and the only fluctuations in severity are a result of personal differences. For example, people who stick to rigid routines at home are often worse affected by jet lag than people with more fluid schedules. Young children are also often less affected by changing time zones.

The main factor which determines the extent of jet lag is the distance of travel. The more time zones you travel across, the more severe your jet lag is likely to be. What’s more, travelling west to east usually results in worse jet lag than travelling east to west, reflecting the greater difficulty of advancing your body clock compared to delaying it.

What causes jet lag?

The dominant cause of jet lag is travelling across time zones, which alters your circadian rhythm and makes it difficult to adjust to a new schedule of sleeping and waking. However, other factors which can impact on the severity of your jet lag include:

Your pre-flight condition, particularly tiredness, anxiety, stress or being hungover

High altitude and increased cabin pressure, which can lead to swelling and tiredness

Alcohol consumption, as the impact alcohol has on the body increases two-fold when you’re flying

Dehydration, which can be caused by alcohol but also through lack of water and a reliance on strong coffee

Lack of exercise, which is why passengers should stretch, get up and move regularly throughout their flight

How do you know if you have jet lag?

- The main symptoms of jet lag include:

- Difficulty waking up in the morning and sleeping at night

- Tiredness and exhaustion

- Poor sleep quality

- Finding it hard to stay awake throughout the day

- Lack of concentration

- Memory problems

- Indigestion, constipation and diarrhoea

How do you prevent jet lag?

Symptoms of jet lag usually improve on their own after a few days as your body clock adjusts to its new time zone. However, there are steps you can take to avoid severe jet lag.

Before you travel: make sure you get plenty of rest, following good sleep practices before going to bed. Try changing your routine gradually, going to bed and waking up an hour or two earlier or later than you normally would (in accordance with your new destination). You should also avoid alcohol, caffeinated drinks and large meals before bed.

During your flight: drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and stay active by stretching and walking regularly. If your flight takes place during normal sleeping hours (in line with your destination) then try to sleep.

After you arrive: change your sleep schedule to fit your new location as quickly as possible, and set an alarm to avoid oversleeping. Go outside during the day, as natural light will help your body clock adjust. Try to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime for your new location without relying on naps to perk you up.

You can also use effective medication to avoid jet lag. Circadin is a prescription medication which acts as a short-term treatment for insomnia. When taken whole one to two hours before bed, Circadin provides melatonin: the body’s natural sleep hormone, making sleep easier. This can help treat symptoms of jet lag.

Contact Express Pharmacy for guidance and treatment for a wide range of health concerns, including jet lag. You can get in touch today using our fast and discreet live chat service, or by calling 0208 123 07 03.