It is not possible to get rid of jet lag completely because you are traveling across several time zones. However, you can lessen its effects with simple tips. Jet lag results in fatigue, sleeplessness and digestive problems.

Everything that you need to know about jet lag and how to cope with it is detailed in this article, read on.

What is jet lag?

Jet lag is a temporary condition that affects one’s alertness and energy. It mainly occurs when the body’s natural clock is disrupted due to traveling across different time zones.

The body is aligned to function as a result of its natural clock. Jet lag, in that case, can interfere with your hormones that promote sleep leading to drowsiness, tiredness or even stomach upsets. The most common symptoms of jet lag among a majority of travellers include:

  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Inability to pay close attention
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Disorientation and confusion

Causes of jet lag

The body has an internal clock that is controlled and set by part of the brain called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the part of brain that controls various body functions such as temperature, blood sugar etc. The nerves in the eye transmit perceptions of light and darkness to a time-keeping the centre in the hypothalamus.

  • Jet lag occurs when there are continuous signals of light being sent to the brain hence triggering several activities that the body has already shut down on.

Other factors leading to jet lag

The prime cause of jet lag is traveling across different time zones. Even though, there are other factors that may cause severity in jet lag symptoms.

Traveling across two or more time zones. It is possible to adjust rapidly to one or two time zones. Three or more may lead to several symptoms.

Flying east: Travelling from west to east causes travellers to lose track of time. This is a more difficult adjustment to an individual.

Age: Older people take time to recover from jet lag probably because of their overall slowed body mechanism.

Frequent travel: Flight attendants and business people who are always in different time zones are likely to suffer from jet lag more often.

The flight condition: Jet lag symptoms may be highly influenced by airline food, altitude, cabin pressure and immobility.

Alcohol consumption: Taking alcohol before a flight can make one feel light-headedness hence worsening the symptoms of jet lag.

Is jet lag preventable?

To some extent yes, jet lag is preventable. Here is what you can do:

1. Snooze on the plane

Snoozing on the plane while traveling east has been found helpful when dealing with jet lag. Bring earplugs and eye masks with you to help lessen the noise and light.

2. Try power nap

Taking naps of about 20-30 minutes is helpful when trying to avoid jet lag symptoms. Try not to sleep longer than that; it may prevent you from sleeping later in the night.

3. Plan ahead of your journey

Traveling before an event will help you relax and get hold of yourself. It is essential to have a good sleep before your flight, this way you are sure to kick jet lag out of the window even after hours of continuous traveling.

4. Stay in shape

Continue with your daily workout routine and eating right. Additionally getting plenty of rest goes a long way in helping you cope with jet lag. In case of a medical condition that needs monitoring, such as diabetes and hypertension, consult your doctor earlier enough to help you plan on time.

5. Avoid alcohol and coffee

Avoid consumption of caffeinated drinks such as coffee and alcohol a day or two before your actual flight. Such beverages cause dehydration and disruption of your sleeping schedules as they lead to insomnia and general body discomfort. Additionally coffee may continuously stimulate your nerves causing you anxiety throughout the journey.

6. Do not just sit, move around the plane

While in the seating position, exercise your legs from time to time. You can occasionally stand up and sit down just too easy muscle cramps. Walk on the plane every two hours to help blood circulate properly to all parts of the body. Walking around in the plane helps you reduce the possibility of developing a blood clot in your veins that can lead to heart-related problems

7. Dress comfortably

Do yourself a favour and wear comfortable shoes and clothes. Avoid attires that pinch or restrict your movement. Also, keep in mind the climate of your destination before you dress up for your journey.

8. Adapt to the local time zone

It is important to work into adapting the local time zone, this way your body can adjust accordingly. Expose yourself to the sun within the first hours of arrival at your destination. The sun will cue the hypothalamus to reduce the production of sleep-inducing hormones during the day, this way the process of resetting the internal body clock is reset.

9. Do not arrive at night

If possible avoid getting to your destination at night. Always opt for a flight that arrives during the day. This will make it easier for you to stay awake. You are able to explore the benefits of the sun during the day before you can finally retire.

10. Avoid sleeping pills

It is a bad idea to rely on sleeping pills after a long flight. Sleeping pills are not of any use when it comes to helping you recover from jet lag. Herbal tea bags are recommended since the natural tea takes its course in helping you sleep the natural way.

11. Eat at standard time

Always ignore hunger cues that result when it is not meal time. Eat at an appropriate time for your new time zone. This way your body finds it easy to follow cues. It is also important to remember that the foods you eat can also affect the quality and quantity of your sleep.

Final thoughts on how to cope with jet lag

Adjusting your sleeping, eating and exercising routine can help your body adjust to the new time zone. Jet lag is likely to disappear a few days after you arrive at your destination. You only need to try the above tricks, and soon you will be in a better position to enjoy your trip.


  1. jet lag, how to cope (May 2014)

  1. What causes jet lag and what you can do about it(March 2017)