Air travelHacks & Tips

Tips for battling jet lag from a sleep expert

When traveling, I try to pretend that jet lag is not real. It’s a slightly silly effort that works on occasion. But the truth is, jet lag is very real, especially for long-haul flights. My Masterclass library includes a very cool course titled Matthew Walker Teaches the Science of Better Sleep* and in this course, I have learned a bunch of useful new things. Matthew Walker is a scientist and professor of neuroscience and psychology who focuses specifically on sleep. Told through his lens sleep becomes a truly fascinating subject but for the purpose of this blog, we are going to focus on dealing with jet lag. Here are 13 tips for battling jet lag from a sleep expert.

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During the flight

  1. Change all your clocks (phone, laptop, watch, etc) right away to the time zone you will be landing in.
  2. Sleep during the first half of the flight. The goal here is to stay awake for 12 hours from the point you wake up on the plane to the point that you expect to go to sleep in the new time zone.
  3. If you use melatonin, take it 45 min before you want to fall asleep on the plane, 0.5-1 mg.
  4. Take advantage of eye masks and earplugs to improve the quality of your sleep and minimize jet lag.
  5. Avoid alcohol. While it can help you fall asleep the quality of that sleep will be low causing drowsiness and unrest the next day.
  6. Stay away from caffeine. Coffee has about 12 hours of shelf life in your body so even if you feel tired it will still prevent you from falling asleep.

Upon arrival

  1. Fight through the jet lag and make sure to go outside and expose yourself to bright light.
  2. Avoid wearing sunglasses if you are outside in the morning, this exposure to the sun will reduce melatonin.
  3. Do wear sunglasses if you are out in the afternoon to encourage the production of melatonin.
  4. Try to exercise or walk for 20-30minutes.
  5. Adjust your eating schedule to the new time zone. Resist the urge to eat off your regular schedule.
  6. If you need to nap, keep it to 10-20 minutes maximum so you don’t use up quality sleepiness too early in the day.
  7. Use melatonin if you cannot fall asleep at the appropriate time naturally.

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Share your own jet lag tips in the comments. Watch the full course on the Science of Better Sleep on Masterclass*.

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  1. Ok definitely will be trying this on my next trip, it’s over 8 hours so jet leg is a sure thing 🙂

  2. Great tips! I really struggle to sleep on planes, unfortunately. Maybe I should try melatonin? Not heard of it before, how effective is it, and is it natural?

    1. Personally, I have not tried it, would recommend discussing it with a pharmacist. Our bodies naturally produce melatonin daily, we spent it, earn it and whatever is left is what we sleep with :). So coffee after 3pm (I think), prevents the buildup of melatonin, for example 🙂

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