Mastering Time Zones: How to Avoid Jet Lag and Stay Energized While Traveling

What actually is jet lag? It’s quite simple really—jet lag is when your normal daily rhythm doesn’t line up with the schedule of a new time zone. Your brain and body might feel ready to sleep just as the time zone you’re in is just waking up for the day. This can cause all kinds of stress on your body, and leave you feeling groggy and confused in a new time zone…not exactly ideal for a vacation!

To avoid jet lag and feel fresh and ready to go when you arrive, here are our top tips.

Prepare Before Departure

Preparations to avoid jet lag can be made before you even step foot on the plane. By staying hydrated and eating well throughout your journey, as well as packing items that will ensure a comfortable trip, you’ll already be one step ahead.

There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination at the crack of dawn and not being able to check in until the afternoon—planning for things like this by requesting an early check-in, or a late check-out before a night flight, can make the world of difference.

Choose Flights Wisely

When booking flights, there’s more to think about than just cost, as it’s important to consider the time difference between home and your destination. With that in mind, also consider how well you sleep on the plane. Would you rather arrive at your destination in the morning, having slept the night on the plane? Or, are you someone who’d rather take advantage of the in-flight entertainment, and head to bed upon an evening arrival? These considerations make for a perfect jet lag cure and should be thought through at the time of booking flights.

Stay Hydrated

It might sound obvious, but hydration is one of the top ways to avoid the feelings of jet lag. It can be tempting to go for a G&T or a coffee on the plane—after all, it’s usually free! However, alcohol and caffeine will have detrimental effects on your hydration levels, leaving you with that familiar groggy feeling.

Instead, it’s a great idea to drink plenty of fluids whilst on the plane. As well as water, an electrolyte drink will help replenish any salts and minerals that might be lost from your body during the journey. This will help you arrive at your destination feeling hydrated and fresh.

Sync with Destination Time

Many have experienced the feeling of getting off a long flight and being completely out of sync with the time zone they’ve just entered.

Setting your watch to your destination time when you get on the plane is a simple trick to get your brain into a new time zone! By knowing what time it is when you depart, you’ll be able to plan your sleep accordingly, hopefully allowing you some shut-eye so you arrive at your destination feeling refreshed.

Get Comfortable on the Plane

If your plan for staying energized involves getting some much-needed sleep on your flight, it’s important to make your environment as comfortable as possible. This is especially important when flying economy, where just a few small travel hacks can help you avoid jet lag.

A good travel pillow that adjusts around your neck will do wonders for your sleep. If you’re someone who is easily disturbed, consider a sleep mask and some earplugs or noise-canceling headphones.

Finally, remember that temperatures on the plane aren’t always within your control, so it’s a good idea to wear layers that will keep you warm but can be removed if you get too hot.

Get Natural Sunlight

Upon arrival at your destination, a great way to cure jet lag is to get some natural sunlight. Of course, this is easier said than done in some destinations, but where possible spending time in the sun will give your body a boost of vitamin D and also benefit your mental health.

Gradually Adjust Your Schedule

You’ve arrived at your destination and you’re still struggling to get on board with the new time zone! Sometimes it’s ok to acknowledge that adjustment can take time. Instead of trying to immediately match the new time zone, listen to your body and what you need.

Taking a short nap during the day, or trying to stay up an hour later each evening can be a gentler approach to adjusting your body clock and curing your jet lag, so be kind to yourself and take it slow. Jet lag can cause exhaustion, so it’s natural to want to take a nap after a journey. However, a nap too late in the day could slow down your recovery as it may in turn affect your sleep at night. If a nap is necessary, try and keep it short by setting a 30-minute alarm, and make sure you’re well-hydrated beforehand to avoid that groggy feeling upon waking!

Stay Active

Travel can be exhausting, which is why staying active is so important. Exercise has many benefits, and one of those is boosting your energy levels. This doesn’t mean you need to go out running—a walk, some yoga or a swim in the sea will help you to reset your body clock and avoid jet lag as much as possible.

If you’re taking a long flight, try and get up and walk around a little at regular intervals. This is beneficial to your circulation and will reduce any aches and pains in the body from sitting stationary for hours.

Stay Mindful of Nutrition

The effect of jet lag on sleep is often spoken about, but less talked about is the effect on your appetite. Jet lag can mess with your body clock, meaning you’ll experience hunger at weird times and have no appetite at meal times.

To get your body back on track and cure your jet lag, it’s important to eat well—nutritious, balanced meals will help to level things out. It’s ok to be intuitive with eating, but having a huge meal at 3 am isn’t going to get you back on track. Small healthy snacks like bananas or nuts can fill a gap until a meal. Getting lots of fibrous foods like fruits and vegetables in your diet will help your system reset.

Try Grounding

Grounding is the concept of connecting with the earth by walking barefoot. This theory allows you to ‘reset’ your inner body clock to align with your new time zone. The best way to ground yourself is to find a green space, somewhere near water, or any natural ground such as grass, sand or mud, and channel the energy from the earth through your feet. While jet lag is a modern concept, connecting with nature goes back as long as humans have existed, and sometimes the oldest way is the best!

Help Your Sleep Cycle with Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone that is naturally produced by our bodies that helps control our sleep. Our levels naturally rise at night, which is why taking synthetic melatonin in tablet form whilst flying can assist in minimising jet lag by providing better quality sleep. It can be taken as a short treatment of up to five nights, helping you to sleep and reset your internal clock. Melatonin can react with alcohol and isn’t advised for those with certain health conditions, so check with your healthcare provider before taking it.

Long story short…

New time zones can catch out anybody, but if you’re super prepared with these tips you’ll find yourself adjusting in no time. With jet lag avoided, you can go on and fully immerse yourself in your trip!


Written by Alex Callahan