Jet Lag

Handy Tips to minimise the effects of Jet lag

Jet lag occurs when we adjust our body clock to a different day-night schedule through travelling. Most travellers experience some degree of jet lag if they cross 3 or more time zones. If the time difference is small it is not usually a problem, but for long distance travel where the time difference may result is a complete reversal of day and night times it can cause significant disruption that may take more than a week to settle. Most travellers affected by Jet lag will feel tired in the daytime and experience disturbed sleep. Some people may feel more unwell. People with medication, especially those on insulin for diabetes may experience issues around when to take the medications and should seek medical advice. For some people, work or other engagements mean that they need to acclimatise more quickly and there are a number of strategies that may be helpful. Everyone is different in the way that jet lag affects them and also in the strategies that may work for them.

Before travel

Getting plenty of sleep in the weeks leading up to travel can improve your ability to cope with reduced sleep while flying and altered sleep patterns.

It may help to change your sleep pattern in the weeks leading up to your travel to speed up adapting to the new time-zone. It is suggested that going to sleep a few hours earlier when travelling Eastward or a few hours later if travelling Westward. In depth advice for adjusting your body clock can be found on websites such as:

Flight management

Adjust you clock to the destination time early in the flight.

Sleep on flight if possible but avoid alcohol and caffeine. Occasionally sleeping medication may be appropriate but needs to be used with caution so discuss with your doctor if this is appropriate for you.


Sunlight and exercise may help adjustment to the new day-night cycle. Trying to function as normal for the new time zone as early as possible but expect that you may have some trouble on the first day or two. Avoid scheduling important meetings or activities too early in the trip.

Sometimes medications are used in this setting to promote sleep at the correct time.


Medications are sometimes used to help with sleep, mostly to promote good sleep at your destination. Medication may be appropriate for some people in certain situations so discuss with your doctor what may be right for you.

Some medications used are discussed below.

  1. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain to help regulate the day night cycle – the setting is triggered by sun hitting the back of the eye in the morning. Synthetic melatonin can be prescribed to help your body reset to the new time zone. Melatonin comes in short-acting and long-acting forms. Short acting melatonin has been most commonly used for Jet lag but it is not fully licenced in New Zealand.
  2. Sleeping pills.There are a variety of sleeping pills than may be used. Commonly medications such as benzodiazepines and antihistamines might be suggested. The benzodiazepine medications as generally only used for short-term use as long term they may be addictive.
  3. Other medications and treatments.There are a large range of over-the counter medications and treatments available from pharmacies and other health providers. Some individuals may find these effective and it is difficult to give clear guidance on these.