Techniques for reducing jet-lag

Jet-lag is caused by a whole range of factors involved in longhaul air travel, and there are a number of practical ways in which you can reduce its effects. These include some simple steps to make your flight more pleasurable and your recovery faster.

Pre-flight
This is a key aspect of combating jet-lag. Before departing, make sure you have all your affairs, business and personal, in order - and don't leave it all till the last moment. Ensure you are not stressed-out with excitement or worry, or tired or hung-over from a function the night before. A trip is so much more enjoyable if you feel "everything is under control". Get a good night's sleep just prior to departure, and get plenty of exercise in the days before. Try to avoid sickness such as flu or colds. If you have a cold, flying will probably make it worse - ideally you should delay the trip.

Night or day flight?
This is largely a matter of personal preference, but most travellers think daytime flights cause less jet-lag because you get a night's sleep on the ground at either end. You may "lose" a day by spending it on a plane, but weigh this against the loss of quality time at your destination if you feel fatigued for the first day or two due to sleep-loss.

East or west?
Whether it is better to fly eastwards or westwards is the subject of debate among frequent travellers, but there is some evidence that flying westwards causes less jet-lag. This is probably because the crossing of time zones occurs more gradually and is easier to adjust to.

Drinking fluids
The dry air in aircraft causes dehydration. Drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids counters this. Water is better than coffee, tea and fruit juices. Alcohol not only is useless in combating dehydration, but has a markedly greater intoxicating effect when drunk in the rarefied atmosphere of an airliner than at ground level.

Sleeping aids
Blindfolds, ear plugs, neckrests and blow-up pillows are all useful in helping you get quality sleep while flying. Kick your shoes off to ease pressure on the feet (some airlines provide soft sock-like slippers, and many experienced travellers carry their own). But we don't recommend sleeping tablets (see below).

Noise reducing headphones
Some long-haul air passengers find they sleep better in-flight with these headphones which reduce the effect of engine noise, not just by shutting it out but by emitting a signal that cancels it out. They work best once the aircraft is at cruising altitude and the engine noise is constant. Some airlines provide them in business and first class, and they're available for purchase at prices ranging from US$50 to $300.

Exercise
Get as much exercise as you can. Walking up and down the aisle, standing for spells, and doing small twisting and stretching exercises in your seat all help to reduce discomfort, especially swelling of legs and feet. Get off the plane if possible at stopovers, take a walk and if possible do some exercise (this also helps to reduce the risk of blood clots).

Showers
During extended stopovers on a long-haul flight, showers are sometimes available. A shower not only freshens you up but gets the muscles and circulation going again and makes you feel much better for the rest of the flight. Trans-Pacific pilots have told us taking a shower in Hawaii helps them recover more quickly from the general effects of jet-lag after the flight.

Motion sickness
The after-effects of a flight can be made worse for some by motion sickness, especially if the aircraft encounters turbulence, which can cause nausea and sleep loss. The non-prescription remedy Trip Ease can alleviate this problem, and unlike some motion sickness products it will not cause drowsiness.

No-Jet-Lag
This is a safe and effective remedy for countering jet-lag, in the form of easy-to-take tablets. Its effectiveness has been proved in a scientific trial of round-the-world passengers and confirmed by long-haul flight attendants in a test conducted in cooperation with their union. Being a homeopathic preparation and using extremely low dosages, No-Jet-Lag has no side effects and is compatible with other medications. It has no connection with the controversial hormone melatonin. No-Jet-Lag is available worldwide by mail order, and is sold at outlets such as international airports, pharmacies and travel stores in Europe, North America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. For more information and citation click here for scientific trial of No-Jet-Lag.
Click here to order No-Jet-Lag online from Magellan's

Melatonin
This is a controversial and complex treatment for jet-lag. It involves altering the production of the hormone that controls the body's inbuilt clock. Problem is, you've got to get the dosage and timing absolutely right, and research shows that if used incorrectly melatonin will make jet-lag worse! For research indicating melatonin is not the perfect answer for jet-lag click here. For a full description of the effects of melatonin click here for Melatonin information from the Mayo Clinic or click here for a recent study on potential problems using Melatonin.

Anti jet-lag diet
Another method on offer is the anti jet-lag diet. Like melatonin this is only for people with lots of time on their hands who can devote several days before and after a trip to looking after themselves. It is complicated and there is little evidence that it works, although it has some passionate devotees. For more information on this, click here for jet-lag diet information.

Sleeping pills - don't
Some people use these to try to alleviate jet-lag. Firstly, they won't work, and secondly they are a dangerous approach. A report in the Lancet in 1988 said it was estimated that over three years, 18% of the 61 sudden deaths among long distance passengers reported at Heathrow airport were caused by blood clots, and more recently this has become a highly recognised medical concern for those on long flights. Sleeping pills induce a comatose state with little or no natural body movement. The blood gravitates down into the leg veins and unless stimulated to keep circulating by occasional leg movement it can clot. Another problem with some sleeping pills is that they are variants on anti-histamines and tend to dehydrate the body.