Home Health & Wellness 10 Jet Lag Tips from a Travel Expert and Dietician

10 Jet Lag Tips from a Travel Expert and Dietician

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Planning a trip across time zones this summer? Jet lag is the unwelcome side effect of long-distance travel across numerous time zones, leaving even seasoned travellers fatigued. Jet lag results from changing your external environment, affecting your circadian rhythm, and resulting in exhaustion, difficulty sleeping, and confusion.

Luckily, travel experts at Holiday Best have shared 10 pieces of advice on avoiding jet lag by planning carefully before, during, and after your flight, along with expert tips from dietician Tamsin Mann.

Before your flight

1. Choose your arrival time wisely when booking your trip

Fighting jet lag starts when you book your flight. If you find it difficult to sleep on planes, consider choosing a flight time that arrives in the evening so you can head to bed soon after checking into your hotel. If sleeping on planes comes naturally to you, flights that arrive around lunchtime offer the opportunity to make the most of your first day and send your body the message that it’s time to be up and about, despite being 3am back home.

2. Adjust your meal and bedtimes a week before your trip

A week before your flight, adjust your bedtime and meal times forward or backward by a few hours, depending on the time difference to your destination. If you’re flying internationally with a time difference of around five or six hours, it can take a few days to adjust, and by trying to adjust before you fly, this limits the effects of jet lag when you land.

The changes needn’t be drastic; for example, if you usually go to bed at 11pm, try sleeping at 9pm or 1am. Don’t forget to adjust your meal times, too; it’ll stave off those late-night hunger pangs once you touch down.

3. Do go for a walk around the lounge before your flight

If you’re looking to get a bit of kip on the plane during your flight, studies suggest that 30 minutes of moving your body can improve sleep quality. Holiday Best recommends walking around duty-free or in the lounge before you get on board; it could make all the difference when arriving at your destination.

4. Unlimited food in the lounge? Don’t eat these foods that prevent sleep

It can be tempting to go all-in on the buffet in the lounge, but opting for unhealthy and processed foods such as baked goods and fizzy drinks may worsen jet lag. Studies have found that eating high-sugar foods can lead to a “sugar flood” that can disturb sleep and lead to fatigue.

Fitness coach and nutritionist Robert Hester took to TikTok to recommend ditching options like mac and cheese and curries and instead choosing options such as quinoa salads, olives, and vegetables, as these are going to fill you up but not disturb your sleep. He says, “A lot of jet lag has to do with the conditions of how you’re flying, and so if you fuel yourself correctly, you’re going to be in a much healthier place when you do land.”

During your flight

5. Do follow your destination’s time zone

Don’t wait until you land; once you’re settled in your seat, that’s the time to switch your watch and any other devices to your time zone. If it’s bedtime there, try your best to go to sleep; if it’s midday, keep yourself occupied and wait until you’re at your hotel to kip.

6. Do create the best environment for sleep 

Creating an environment for sleep can make the difference between staying alert and making you drowsy. Airlines often supply sleep masks and ear plugs, but consider bringing a travel pillow, a scarf that can double up as a blanket, and your earphones. If you’re struggling to block out external noise, play white noise to aid you in sleeping.

7. Do not eat melatonin-rich foods on the plane

Experts say that if you struggle to sleep on the plane and are worried about jet lag, eating melatonin-rich foods can aid sleep. Dietician Cassidy Blackwin shared on TikTok that munching on “foods rich in melatonin like cherries and nuts” could help regulate your sleep. Blackwin also suggests taking hydrating snacks on your flight, such as watermelon and cucumber, since the dry cabin air can zap moisture from your body, potentially worsening symptoms of fatigue.

8. Don’t drink alcohol in-flight 

Treating yourself to an alcoholic tipple on a flight is a known way to help fall asleep, but experts caution that this can lead to sleep issues when you wake. Studies have found that drinking before bed causes disruptions later in the sleep cycle while the liver enzymes metabolise the alcohol, leading to excessive sleepiness. Dealing with jet lag alone can be challenging, but adding a hangover to the mix only worsens matters.

When you arrive at your destination

9. Do take a 20-minute nap if you need to

Once you’ve arrived at your hotel, the urge to hit the hay after a long travel period may be strong. If it’s daytime at your destination, try to keep yourself awake until the evening to avoid further disruption to your body clock. However, if you can’t shake the feeling of exhaustion, opt for a nap that’s approximately 20 minutes, but no longer than 30. This short nap allows some sleep to give a boost of alertness without entering a deep sleep, in which you would awake feeling more tired and groggy.

10. Do get some sun exposure 

Getting in the sun can make us more awake and distract us from feelings of exhaustion. “Sunlight is one of the most beneficial factors to affect your circadian rhythm,” says TikTok sleep influencer Delaney. Your brain makes the association of light with being awake, so exposure reduces your sleep hormone, melatonin, and increases “awake” hormones like cortisol.

Expert nutritionist Tamsin Mann said: “Prior to a long-haul flight, avoid excessive intakes of salty meals and snacks such as crisps, salted nuts, fast food, and too many caffeinated drinks. Try and look for the healthy options in the departure lounge rather than the well-known burger and coffee chains so that you can start your journey fully hydrated.”

Tamsin explained that avoiding spicy food before a long flight is also advised to avoid heartburn, bloating, or gas.

If you’d like to take snacks on the plane, Tamsin recommends taking something light and healthy, such as granola or cereal bars.

“Choose an option that contains oats, as these are a great source of slow-release carbohydrates and fibre and look for the energy content on the label. Aim to choose something that’s around 200–300 kcal/bar, as this will be roughly the equivalent in terms of energy as a small bowl of breakfast cereal.”

Just be mindful of any regulations regarding the import of foods into your destination country, as no one wants to be pulled aside and searched once they’ve landed.

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