Dan Moore

Young man asleep on a plane


Jet lag is the curse of international travellers, but it doesn't have to ruin the first few days of your holiday. By planning ahead and taking some extra measures, you can limit the amount of time it takes to get your sleep schedule back on track.

Get ahead of the game

Trying to jump right in to your holiday will leave you exhausted, but if you have the time, try adjusting your sleep schedule before you leave. This may mean taking a day or two off of work before you jet away.

In increments, start adjusting your sleep schedule. For example, if the destination you're travelling to is five hours ahead of your home time, try going to bed two hours early the first night of your sleep shift, then three or four hours the next. This will help you get the uncomfortable part of jet lag out of the way before you leave, and you'll be able to enjoy the first few days of your holiday that much more.

It's also wise to book a day or two after you trip to readjust your sleep schedule before heading back to work. Going into the office feeling like you're still in a different time zone is going to make you less productive, and it will make it much more difficult to get back on track.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine

You might have a cup of coffee when you wake up in the morning, and everyone knows a pint of beer can make sleeping much simpler. However, these substances coupled with a major time change can make the adjustment process much more difficult.

If you feel like you need that burst of caffeine when you wake up in the morning, try tricking your body by having a warm beverage like green or herbal tea instead. An apple can also help you feel energised without affecting your sleep-wake schedule too much.

Chat with your physician

Your doctor will likely have ideas on how to improve your sleep if you're facing jet lag, and he or she may even be able to prescribe you certain medications. There are herbal options, such as melatonin, which can help you adjust your sleep schedule faster, or you may want to talk about prescription sleeping pills if you're honestly worried about your ability to sleep in transit.

Stick with the sun

Your body helps set its internal clock based on sunlight. That's part of the reason you wake up naturally when sun comes streaming in your window. Though you might feel like holing up in the dark when you are suffering through a bout of jet lag, the best thing you can do for yourself is get out there and soak up those rays. The fresh air and exercise will help, too.

Upon arrival, stay awake

Depending on when your plane lands in your country of destination, it may be best to stay awake as long as possible. Even if you're exhausted, if you can stay awake until nightfall, you'll be able to adjust your sleep schedule that much faster.

This means you must utilise your time in transit to sleep. For example, if you're taking an overnight trip from Sydney to Los Angeles, and you leave Sydney at night and arrive in LA in the morning, the best thing to do is try to sleep as much as possible on the plane. Then you'll arrive feeling somewhat well-rested, and it'll be that much easier to stay up until sun sets over the Santa Monica Boulevard. 

Jet lag isn't the only thing that can set back your trip across time zones - protect yourself from trip delay, lost baggage, emergency medical and more with international travel insurance from Cover-More.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance.