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How can I avoid jet lag?

Things that can make jet lag worse include:
  • sleep loss due to travel
  • spending a long time sitting in an uncomfortable position, such as in an airplane
  • stress
  • caffeine and alcohol use
  • air pressure 
  • poor air quality
The following tips can help you to avoid jet lag:
  • Anticipate the time change at your destination by getting up and going to bed earlier (eastbound) or later (westbound) a few days before you leave.
  • Try to use a flight that gets you there in the early evening.
  • Change your watch to the destination time en route.
  • Once you've arrived, don't go to sleep until 10 p.m. local time.
  • Walk around outside and get as much sunlight exposure as possible -- this signals your body to stay awake.
  • Light exercise is fine, but avoid heavy exercise -- as well as alcohol or caffeine -- close to bedtime.

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent jet lag. If you are traveling through only one or two time zones, when you arrive at your destination, ignore the clock and stay on your regular eating and sleeping schedule. If you have a long stay through several time zones, change your schedule to the new time before you go. Simply changing your schedule one hour per day could shorten your adjustment time at the end of your trip.

For longer trips, there are things that you can do before, during, and after your travel to reduce the effects of jet lag.

Before You Fly

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Be calm. Avoid that last-minute rush.
  • Be well hydrated.
  • If you are experiencing health problems, check with your doctor before you fly.

While You Fly

  • Drink eight ounces of water for each hour that you are on the plane.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, as it decreases hydration.
  • Set your watch to the new time zone upon departure.
  • Wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move.
  • Walk around the cabin of the plane.
  • Sleep on the plane if you are scheduled to arrive in the morning.
  • Take along an eye mask, neck rest, slippers or foam rubber earplugs to help you sleep.
  • Stay awake on the plane if you are scheduled to arrive in the evening.
  • Keep yourself busy with an activity, reading, needlework or conversation.

After You Fly

  • Start moving as soon as you get off the plane, e.g., avoid the escalators and moving sidewalks.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Shower or bathe to help hydrate your body.
  • Get some exercise outdoors.
  • Some people find that taking melatonin (0.5 mg) 30 minutes before the intended sleep time in the new time zone to be helpful. To be effective, the melatonin treatment must be followed by 15 minutes of exposure to bright light at the intended wake-up time.
  • Keep your mind off the time difference. Don't think about what time it is at home.


While there is no guaranteed way to prevent jet lag, there are a few tips that can lessen it or improve your chances of making it manageable. These include before-flight tactics such as shifting your bedtime and wake times gradually starting a few days before you leave (1-hour-later increments if going west, 1-hour-earlier increments if going east), being well-rested and healthy in general before your flight, and eating only a light, healthy meal before your flight while staying well hydrated. During the flight, continue to stay well hydrated, avoid caffeine and alcohol, and set up your watch for your destination's time zone. If you need to stay awake (to match your destination's time), get up periodically and eat high-protein snacks such as nuts. If you need to sleep, have an eye mask, pillow, and ear plugs handy. Once you arrive, do your best to match the time of day, and stay awake until at least 9 o'clock if possible. Stay outdoors in the sunlight as much as possible.
When traveling overseas, jet lag is often a concern. Before you get on the plane for a long trip, make sure you are well rested, relaxed and have stuck to your healthful eating plan during, often hectic, travel preparations. While flying, eat light and limit alcohol consumption on the airplane. During the flight, get up every two hours or so to stretch your legs. 
For westward travel, eat lighter meals earlier in the day and heavier meals later. Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration from dry and stagnant air, but do not drink caffeinated beverages. Plan exercise for later in the day and avoid alcohol. Upon arrival, consume food on the local time schedule. For eastward travel, eat heavier meals earlier in the day and lighter meals later. Drink plenty of fluids, but no caffeinated beverages. Plan exercise for earlier in the day and avoid alcohol. Upon arrival, consume food on the local time schedule. (This answer provided for NATA by the Marist College Athletic Training Education Program)
When traveling overseas, jet lag is often a concern. Before you get on the plane for a long trip, make sure you are well rested, relaxed and have stuck to your healthful eating plan during, often hectic, travel preparations.

While flying, being dehydrated can promote jet lag. Minimize the effects by drinking a glass of water or juice before your flight and then each hour during the flight.

Go easy on alcoholic beverages in-flight, as alcohol can promote dehydration. Continue drinking fluids once you have reached your destination and drink extra fluids for several days.

There are no anti-jet lag magic formulas, but staying well-hydrated is a good start.
How about setting your body clock to a new time zone before the journey? By using light therapy or an alarm clock that simulates dawn and dusk with techniques to induce sleep, you can reset your circadian body clock before a journey, thus preventing jet lag from the very start.

Let’s say you have an important business trip for which you have to fly east. Before flying, you’d go to bed and wake up earlier each day while using a light box in the morning and winding down earlier in the evening. If you’re traveling west, you would expose yourself to bright light later in the day, go to bed later and wake up a little later in the morning.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to get a light box, then consider direct sunlight as the next-best alternative. Light boxes, while producing artificial light that mimics the sun’s intensity, don’t emit ultraviolet radiation. They are designed to produce those perfect wavelengths of light and the light gets directed angularly at your eyes for the greatest effect.

If you can shift your body clock naturally prior to departing this can be a particularly useful technique if your trip doesn’t allow for much time to adjust before kicking into high gear and demanding your top performance.

Try and switch over to your new time zone right away by going to bed and getting up at the same time you would normally, but on this new time zone. Then try and go for a walk outside, exposing yourself to light and movement that can help re-set your internal clock.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Traveling long distances wreak havoc on your body. Learn how to adjust your body clock as Dr. Oz explains how to avoid jet lag in this video.


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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.