What is jet lag and its symptoms? And how do you beat jet lag and feel energetic, awake and ready to go when you travel to a new country?


Jet lag is a range of symptoms that occur when your internal body clock is trying to adjust to a new time zone. For many, the jet lag symptoms only occur when they cross about three or more time zones. And travelling from west to east tends to lead to worse feeling of jet lag than flying from east to west. That's because when you fly from west to east, your day is shorter, but when you fly from west to east, your day is longer and it's more a case of your body staying awake 'a little' longer.


The main jet lag symptoms include tiredness during the day and being unable to sleep at night, or waking up in the middle of the night all wide awake. And you often get a feeling of disorientation and 'blurriness' of thought. You can't concentrate properly and your senses might be either under or over sensitive. Other symptoms of jet lag include a loss of appetitie and even perhaps constipation or diarrhea. You might have a headache and feel dehydrated. You tend to feel the effects of jet lag more the older you get.


Firstly, it's important to be patient with yourself and understand that jet lag happens: it's quite normal and to be expected. In normal circumstances, jet lag will only last for a few days.

If you can, try to adjust to your new time zone as soon as possible. When you arrive at the airport BEFORE you fly, change your watch to the correct time in your destination city. As soon as you can, adjust yourself to the new time: so try and eat your meals on the plane and sleep to the new schedule. If you are having trouble staying awake, try and walk around the plane, perhaps chat to the beautiful stranger sitting next to you, watch the in-flight movie or play the in-flight games, and just keep as active as possile. If you're having trouble 'forcing' yourself to sleep, wear eyeshades and ear plugs and just sit in silence even if you are not sleeping, you are getting good rest this way and hopefully you might start to nod off.

And when you arrive, try to keep to the local time zone too. Resist the urge to fall asleep the moment you hit the hotel bed if it's daylight. A brisk walk around the block should do wonders for you. Strangely, people often say an apple or brushing your teeth can give you a quick pick-me-up.

Drink lots of water and fruit juice on the flight and beforehand to avoid dehydration. Don't drink alcohol, or caffeinated drinks such as tea or coffee or cola on the flight. Eat light meals ~ avoid meals that are full of fat or have high salt content.

If you're only going on a very short trip - maybe one or two days, you might not even need to adjust your body clock - you might want to try and stay on your own local time if it's practical.


This might surprise you, but some of the best jet lag tablets are antihistamines. Sedative antihistamines such as Nytol, Phernergan, Piriton, Phenergan NightTime make you feel drowsy and can be used to help you sleep. The good thing about anti-histamines pills as a jet lag treatment is that they are not addictive. Obviously, read the label carefully, do not give to children unless approved by a doctor and always be careful if you are already taking other medicines. If you need to drive or operate machinery in your new destination - they are best avoided as your judgement and concentration levels might be impaired.


Meltonin is a hormone that helps maintain your body's natural body clock (known as the circadian rhythm). When it is dark, your body automatically produces more melatonin so you sleep, and when it's light, your body produces less. Melatonin supplements can help re-set your body clock for the new time zone you're in. It's available as capsules, tablets and even lozenges and cream. The problem with melatonin is that there is no clear guideline as to how much to take. Some people need more than others. Plus, it's possible that you can experience vivid nightmares when you take it. So melatonin for jet lag works very well for some people, and barely at all for others. You might be better off asking your doctor for a short-acting prescription sleeping pill which has proven guidelines for use.