10 Ways to Avoid Jet Lag: A Neuroscientist Explains

Neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart shares her top tips on how to avoid jet lag

 

Dr. Swart is no stranger to a long-haul flight. Her work takes her all over the world - and that’s before peak holiday season even hits. As an expert on neuro-health, she’s well aware of the toll that crossing time zones can take on your wellness and productivity: 

“Taking a holiday is good for the brain…however the effect of long-haul flying [can be] extremely disruptive. Research carried out by the University of California, Berkeley shows that acute disruption of circadian rhythms (our biological clock), causes memory and learning problems and long-term changes in brain anatomy, long after travellers have returned to their regular schedule.”

These 10 key habits are Dr. Tara Swart’s ultimate tips for beating jet lag and aside from the damage limitation to your health, they’ll also help ease the post-holiday fog of insomnia and 3am food cravings. A must for your next trip.

 

PRE-TRIP

Make some pre-flight changes to your routine. Try to expose yourself to more daylight than usual in the morning if you’re flying East, and in the afternoon if you’re flying West.

If your destination has more than a four-hour time difference, only use prescribed sleeping pills for two days maximum either side of the trip.

Man on an aeroplane looking out of the window
View of the city at night from an aeroplane window
 
IN-FLIGHT

When you land, try not to eat anything until breakfast time in your new destination.

Counteract the effects of dehydration during flying by drinking a minimum of 500ml for every 15kg of your body weight.

 

AFTER ARRIVAL

Wake up your body by doing some aerobic exercise as soon as possible after you arrive. This will help your mental function improve too - handy if you’re hopping from hotel to meeting.

Even if it’s not sunny, get outside. Daylight is key to your body adjusting its internal clock.

The hormone melatonin controls your internal clock, so adjusting your sleep routine as quickly as possible will ease its sleep-inducing effects. Allow your eyes to observe the transition from light to dark in your new destination if possible, and be clever about choosing kind flight times.

Stay away from alcohol until you’ve had good sleep.

Try not to drink caffeine after 2pm local time.

Turn off your smartphone and any other blue light-emitting devices a few hours before bedtime; they block the production of melatonin when you need it the most.

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