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I travel often, and in many of those trips, I have crossed three or more time zones and suffered from jet lag.

When I finally manage to fall asleep, it’s actually morning and time to get up again. If you also travel frequently, I imagine you know the feeling too.

Jet lag is actually a physiological condition known scientifically as desynchronosis and dysrhythmia that causes disruption to your body’s clock.

As a health enthusiast, I look for ways to reduce jet lag on long flights – and have successfully managed to do so. Now, I can travel and earn extra time at my next destination because I have next to no jet lag. It’s a fantastic feeling.

Here are 13 ways you can reduce jet lag on your next long haul flight.

1. Rest well.

Jet lag is actually a physiological condition that causes disruption to your body’s clock.

Try to keep a consistent sleep pattern in the days before your journey so that your body clock is not disrupted and has a pattern to work with.

2. Get a healthy balanced diet.

Eat well before you travel. Eliminate alcohol and caffeine always. An appropriate balanced diet will keep your body in good health, your cells in working order and your rest peaceful and productive.

3. Drink lots and lots of water.

The idea is to keep really hydrated, more than you would when on the ground. Keep things simple by just having two glasses of water every hour. It’s a good antidote to the dry air in the environment.

I suggest keeping your own water bottle so you don’t have to keep asking for a drink. When it’s empty, then you can ask the flight attendant to refill it.

4. Get comfy.

The best way to reduce jet lag on long flights is simply to get comfy in whatever way you can. Take your shoes off, push your seat back and turn on the AC as you require.

5. Blindfolds or sunglasses.

I love blindfolds if it’s a long haul flight and I need to get acclimatized to the local time of my destination. If I can’t get to sleep, I’ll still use the blindfold and just close my eyes and rest. Some people prefer sunglasses. It does the same thing really – whatever you like.

6. Ear plugs.

The idea here is to get as close to your natural sleeping environment as possible. Sleeping well for me means blocking out all sounds and that’s what ear plugs are designed to do.

7. Exercise.

Most important when you’re in the air is to keep exercised. Sitting for the whole period is not good for your circulation so get up as often as possible (but not excessively). Here are some simple exercises you can do:

  • (a) Shoulder shrugs – lift your arms and roll them in a wide circular movement both forward and backwards.
  • (b) Knee raises – bend your knees to hip height, hold for a few seconds, release and do the same for the other knee.
  • (c) Upper back stretch – lock your fingers, stretch them out front bowing your back with palms facing inwards.
  • (d) Ankle swirl – move your ankles around in small circles from time to time.

8. Melatonin.

I have never taken melatonin tablets – which involve working with your body’s hormones to get your body clock changed – because research shows that if not taken at the appropriate time melatonin could actually worsen jet lag. There is a lot of controversy on the use of melatonin and other sleep aids.

9. Take a shower.

If you have a stopover in between your flights on a long journey, you might want to take a shower to wake up your body, get the circulation flowing and freshen up. Usually, I just wash my face, hair and brush my teeth rather than taking a full body shower.

10. Avoid alcohol.

Research has shown that the impact of alcohol on the body is 2-3 times more potent when you’re flying.

Growing up flying, I’ve seen a lot of adults drink alcohol on the airplane. Research has shown that the impact of alcohol on the body is 2-3 times more potent when you’re flying. So one glass of whiskey in-flight has the impact of 3 glasses on the ground. It’s best to avoid alcohol altogether when you enter the airplane.

11. Try hypnosis.

I’m a believer in the power of hypnosis – programming your subconscious mind to achieve results you want. Get yourself a hypnosis script that’s pre-recorded so you can listen to it before, during and after your journey. I have used the one from Hypnosis Downloads.

12. Watch your back.

Sitting down for long periods always results in some kind of back pain so move around, sit in different positions if possible and try to stay flexible. For those with chronic back pain or stiff backs, I recommend checking out air-activated, self-adhesive 12-hour heat pads from Bodi Heat which provide continuous, low level warmth that relieves pain.

13. Don’t nap on landing.

When you get to your destination, stay up until at least 11pm local time, no matter what time you land. This is the most difficult way to beat jet lag, but also the best and fastest way to get your sleeping pattern in order. If you succumb to the temptation to take that 4pm nap, no one will see you for two days – no kidding!

There you have it, my 13 ways to reduce jet lag on long haul flights.

I’d love to hear your ideas too as fellow travelers so do share by leaving a comment below!

Kavit Haria travels regularly and writes about health and wellness at Wellness Junction. Also a musician and geneticist, Kavit has lived in both Nigeria and London each for at least a decade. He travels mega-light and wonders how DNA made him what he is today.

Health + Lifestyle


About The Author

Kavit Haria

Kavit Haria travels regularly and writes about health and wellness at Wellness Junction. Also a musician and geneticist, Kavit has lived in both Nigeria and London each for at least a decade. He travels mega-light and wonders how DNA made him what he is today.

  • ardith ferguson

    You didn’t mention the use of music for relaxation. I have found that the use of my iPod Shuffle (small and light weight) with headphones that are very comfortable are my best tools for relaxation on a long flight. I upload music that is calming and serene and, even if sleep is impossible, I feel relaxed after listening to these calm tunes.

  • Jim

    Here’s one that a well-travelled friend recommended. When you reach your destination, try to spend as much time as possible outdoors in natural daylight. He reckons this works faster than anything to get your body clock quickly onto the correct time zone.

  • michael

    I have found that if you absolutely must nap set an alarm so that you only sleep for 45 minutes – this is enough to refresh you and then continue on with step 13.

    This is for real travel – 3 to 5 time zones should be no trouble, but when you’re looking at international date lines and 13 hour swings a power nap is the only way to go.

  • natalee

    i think it is really useful to eat nothing during the flight.

  • Cassidy

    I recently flew with AirCanada for a fifteen hour overnight flight, and was having no luck sleeping. Playing with the tv seats that are in the back of most AirCanada plane seats, I found a meditation video that was amazingly refreshing. Before the next time I fly, I’ll probably find a meditation track to put on my ipod. Even starting a new day without sleep, I got off the plane refreshed and alert.

  • Joel

    It’s probably not something your doctor would ever recommend, but I’ve always had success by purging my body of caffeine in the days before a trip (slowly, to avoid any nasty headaches), which enables me to sleep more soundly on the flight. Then, when I arrive (depending on the time zone), I use a little caffeine to keep me up until a normal bedtime if I’m feeling sleepy.

  • Philip Tellis

    Not eating on the flight is not really an option for flights longer than 12 hours (I often do 14-20 hour flights). What you should do is eat at the appropriate meal times for your destination city.

  • Amanda

    Melatonin works great for me, for flights and for the nights after landing. I take two tablets as I arrive at the airport then I’m sleepy once I’m sitting on the plane. I do the same an hour before I want to fall asleep. I have always woken up feeling refreshed, no tossing and turning, and up at a reasonable hour.

  • http://Yahoo Alan

    I wish I could get the time back that I wasted reading this article. Thanks for the obvious. Why did he list melatonin if he has no idea how it works or if beneficial. My six year old could of wrote this article.

    • Margaret

      Maybe your six year old could also teach you that it is could’ve or could have – NOT could OF

      • beebee


      • Anon

        Yeah, and because he didn’t recognize that, I’m sure he’s not awfully familiar with the proper participle of “to write” which is “written.”
        “My six year old could ‘have written’ this.” You see grammar is super fun to correct, especially when you correct people who are dirt-bags and refuse to be productive in their comments. 

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