How to beat jet lag

Thanks to modern aviation we can now go anywhere in the world in a matter of hours, and some tour operators are even offering short breaks to far-flung destinations such as Hong Kong and San Francisco. But if you’re going on one of these, how do you make the most of your time there without jet lag spoiling it?

What is jet lag?
Simply put, jet lag is an inability for the body to adapt to a new time zone. If your body clock gets very upset it can take as long as a week before you feel human again. It isn’t just feeling tired either, jet lag can cause headaches, indigestion, stomach upsets and nausea.

It rarely occurs when travelling long distance by boat or other transport as it takes so much longer to change time zones so your body has time to adapt. Curiously, babies and small children are largely unaffected by it. There are a variety of theories as to why this might be, one being that babies are generally able to sleep well in any situation.

How to prevent it
The most important thing to do is to begin working to your destination time as soon as the plane takes off. Change your watch and decide at what times you need to sleep and what times you need to be awake (this is easier on direct flights as you don’t have to worry about having to get off the plane when you should be asleep). This is still easier said than done as it is not easy to force sleep when you feel awake, but avoid stress and other stimulants. Use an eye mask too – if it is still light outside when you need to sleep, your eyes will detect this even when they are shut and the sleep will be of poor quality.

Drink plenty of water on the flight – even if you don’t escape jet lag completely you will feel less grotty when you are fully hydrated.

Avoid napping when you reach your destination. It will inevitably turn into a blissful sleep – until you wake up many hours later and realise it is actually now time for bed! Try and get into a situation where it is impossible to sleep such as going for a walk.

A very useful site for helping calculate your sleeping and waking times is The site offers tools such as a jet lag calculator and time zone maps.

How to treat it
If you have been very badly affected in the past it may be worth looking into different ways of getting to your destination. Some travellers will happily spend a few extra hours flying to Australia or Japan via the USA as jet lag is often less severe when flying West.

Try not to cram too much into the first days of your trip. If you are on a business trip don’t take on more meetings than you can cope with. Bear in mind that athletes travelling to long-haul destinations often set off as far as two weeks before the event to ensure they are at their best!

Medication is available but many have side effects and they ultimately mask the symptoms rather than fixing them. Time to re-adjust, and prevention is the only really effective solution.

If you are prepared to chance the jetlag and still want to take a short break to a long-haul destination, don’t forget your insurance. Cover for a short break to anywhere in the world with 24/7 travel insurance costs from just £12.16* and frequent travellers might get better value from an annual multi-trip policy starting from £50.33** – so you can really enjoy seeing the world without worrying about unforeseen expenses!

*Premium £12.16 includes Insurance Premium Tax, based on an individual aged 18-54 taking out a “standard” Single Trip policy for 3 days for Worldwide travel and purchased within 14 days of departure date.

** Premium £50.33 includes Insurance Premium Tax, based on an individual aged 18-54 taking out a “standard” Annual multi-trip policy for Worldwide travel.
Terms and conditions apply to 24/7 travel insurance. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press and are subject to change.