How Can I Avoid Jet Lag?

How Do I Combat Jet Lag?

Dear Essential Travel,
My husband and I are going on a two week trip to Bangkok, Thailand next month. Our London flight departs at 21:00, so we're worried that jet lag is going to get the better of us due to the time difference. Is there any way we can combat jet lag so that we can enjoy our sunny holiday from the beginning?
Sarah Cooper, London

Hi Sarah,

Jet lag is definitely not something you want to ruin your holiday. While it can’t be 100% prevented, there are ways for you to make it less intense.

Jet lag only happens when you have travelled across five or more time zones. Our bodies are accustomed to routine; we are active during daylight and sleep at night. When we arrive at a destination in a different time zone, our bodies struggle to adjust to it. This results in fatigue, lack of concentration and even irritability.

Adjust Your Sleeping Habits Beforehand:

To prepare yourself for the six hour time difference, it’s a good idea to start waking up and going to sleep later than usual a few days before your trip. This will get that internal body clock of yours more in tune with the time zone of Thailand. You should also set the time on your watch to Bangkok’s time when you get on the plane. You can also start your trip off on the right foot by relaxing before your flight in the airport lounges.

Get Enough Sleep On Your Flight:

The flight from London to Bangkok is roughly 11 hours if you fly direct, so try to get sufficient sleep on the plane. Sleeping on this flight will be easier for you, as you depart at night. Just remember to put some ear plugs in for a good, uninterrupted sleep.

Keep Yourself Hydrated:

Besides the obvious health risks of dehydration on a flight, such as deep vein thrombosis, it’s also a cause of jet lag. If you are planning to sleep during your flight, make sure you are well hydrated before you get on the plane. Caffeine, however, is a bad idea to keep yourself hydrated, as it will keep you awake and you will arrive in Bangkok feeling irritable and tired.

Resist The Urge To Nap Early:

You will land at about 14:00 Bangkok time, but unfortunately your body will still think it’s 08:00. The best way to deal with this is to not sleep when you arrive at your hotel. This will only prolong the jet lag. Rather try to stay awake as long as you can and then have an early night on your first night. You are bound to wake up the next morning feeling better and more refreshed so you can enjoy the rest of your sunny holiday.

Manipulate Your Body Clock:

Your body knows when to be awake and when to sleep because of how it’s adapted to daylight and night time. If you want to recover from jet lag quickly, it’s time to manipulate your inner body clock. As you arrive in Bangkok in the afternoon, you should walk around outside in the daylight once you have checked in at your hotel. This will help to fool your body into adapting to the time difference and by the time the sun sets at 19:00, you will be tired enough to have your refreshing sleep.

Avoid Alcohol and Sleeping Tablets:

You may think that alcohol and sleeping tablets will work wonders to get you sleeping on your long flight - think again. Due to the altitude of the plane, alcohol has a stronger effect up in the air than when you drink it on land. Sleeping tablets will make you sleep longer than you should. The last thing you want is to arrive in Thailand feeling groggy, or worse, with a hangover!

Combating jet lag is just one way to ensure a great holiday. For more tips on health and flying, take a look at our How To guide on surviving your flight.

Last Updated: July 2012

Andrea Melidonis

Andrea Melidonis

It was in the shadow of her father, a shipwreck salvage diver, who has sailed most of the seven seas that Andrea first became interested in ''the world out there''. She travels at a slow pace enjoying markets, restaurants and other culinary pursuits that make food her regular travel writing subject. An avid pedestrian, she has explored some of the greatest cities from the ground up - coming across intriguing architecture, fun events and the local gossip. Happy roughing it in more rural areas too, Andrea's accounts make for interesting reading.