Don’t let jetlag spoil your summer holiday

One of the reasons we go on holiday is to get away from the stresses and strains of ordinary life. But if you’re flying off to a faraway destination, the long-haul journey could cause a stress all of it’s own – namely jet lag.

According to the NHS, jet lag incorporates a range of symptoms that happen when you adapt to a different light-dark schedule following a flight to a new time zone. It can disturb your sleep at night and make you feel drowsy and low in energy during the day. Some people also find it causes digestion problems.

These symptoms are thought to be caused by your internal body clock not being able to adjust immediately to a new time zone – so you may not be able to sleep at the correct time for your destination.

Jet lag is a particular problem if you fly far afield, as the more time zones you cross, the more severe your symptoms may be (crossing one or two time zones doesn’t usually cause any problems, but if you cross seven to 12 time zones you may experience severe jet lag and milder jet lag if you cross between three and six). It’s often also more severe if you’re on an easterly flight rather than a westerly one, even if you cross the same number of time zones.

Anyone of any age can be affected by jet lag, which can leave you feeling less refreshed and rested than when you started – at least until you adjust to the new time (at which point it may almost be time to travel home). But according to The Sleep Council, getting better sleep on holiday starts before you finish packing your suitcase.

What can you do?

“From jet lag to unfamiliar environments and irregular bedtimes, your sleep can be disrupted in many ways when you’re away from home,” says The Sleep Council’s Lisa Artis. “Luckily there are things to do to help minimise its effects.”

Here are The Sleep Council’s top jet lag tips:

  1. Diet has a large part to play in setting the body clock. The day before you fly, make sure you eat three balanced meals, including at least five servings of fruit or green vegetables and one portion of protein-rich food such as white fish or tofu.
  2. Drink plenty of water on your journey, and while on holiday, to keep your body feeling hydrated and refreshed.
  3. Once on the plane, set your watch to local time of your destination.
  4. Pack an eye mask and ear plugs and use them if it is night time where you’re going; equally keep the light on and mask off if it’s daytime.
  5. During your break away, maintain a healthy diet to help control your wakefulness: high protein meals increase your alertness; lots of carbohydrates make you feel sleepier.
  6. If you can, take your pillow with you for some familiarity and comfort.

“Whether on your journey there or on your way home, eat according to normal mealtimes of your destination, avoid alcohol and take regular walks up and down the aisle,” adds Lisa. And if you’re not flying long haul, having an eye mask and ear plugs could help you sleep better if noise or light outside your accommodation is a problem.

“Keep your bed as a ‘sleep zone’ and check the temperature – ensure you keep the bedroom cool, the ideal sleeping environment is 16 – 18ºC. Also try to keep to regular hours as much as possible and remember it’s still important to factor in some wind-down time – spend at least 15 minutes doing something relaxing before bed,” she suggests.

For more tips on getting a good night’s sleep, visit the Sleep Council’s website or read our article How to sleep in summer heat.

Your local Careway pharmacist can also offer tips on getting a better night’s sleep and recommend gentle over-the-counter sleep aids if you need more help. Find your nearest Careway pharmacy by using our Pharmacy Finder.