15 Ways To Beat Jet-Lag

Summer is one of the most popular times of year to take a vacation. If you have ever traveled overseas, or just across many time zones, you have probably experienced jet-lag. For the uninitiated, jet-lag is that zombie-like sensation which could be considered akin to the feeling of starting the day with no sleep. To help prevent you from turning into a zombie at your travel destination, Reader’s Digest has compiled a list of 15 ways to fight jet-lag which are excerpts from the book “Sleep to be Sexy, Smart, and Slim” by Ellen Michaud. Check out some our favorites from the list, inside…

1. ACCLIMATE. If you’re going to be gone longer than a couple of days, begin acclimating your body to the new time zone by altering your eating schedule three days before your plane takes off. If you’re heading west to San Diego from Boston, for example, three days before you leave, eat an hour earlier each day. Flying from San Diego back to Boston? Help reverse the acclimation and get back on home time by eating an hour later each day for three days.

5. HIT THE LINGUINE. Or any other carb-dense food at dinner on the night before your flight. Scientists have been arguing for some time about whether or not this decreases jet lag and increases your potential for normal sleep, but recent research on clock genes has uncovered subtle effects that indicate carbs boost your ability to sleep—particularly when you fly westward. No one’s quite figured out how they help, but they do know that carbs provide your brain with a source of tryptophan from which it can make the sleep-inducing neurotransmitter serotonin.

6. REFRIGERATE. If you’re flying during what would be night hours at your destination, try to get some sleep on the plane. Use earplugs to eliminate noise, an eyeshade to kill the light, and turn the air-conditioning valve on high. A third cue your body uses to set its internal clock is temperature. A lower temperature lowers your body’s core temperature and signals it’s time for sleep. A higher temperature raises your body’s core temperature and signals that it’s time to wake. To keep from getting too chilled, bring along one of those silk blanket-and-pillow sets that are sold through airline and online travel catalogs.

7. AVOID AIRLINE FOOD. A fourth cue your body uses to set its internal clock is food. Since airline food is served onboard according to the time at your home base, eating it can sabotage efforts to reset your clock to the time zone to which you’re traveling.

8. CONSIDER THE MEDICAL OPTION. Short-acting sleeping pills can help you sleep through an overnight flight. They can also help you sleep during the first couple of nights at your destination. That said, keep in mind that if a sleeping pill is taken just a little later than it should be on local time, it can exacerbate the effects of jet lag. Even worse, if the drug lasts longer than the flight, you’ll arrive drowsy at your destination—that’s not good if you have to drive or negotiate local transportation home.

Check out the Reader’s Digest article for the full list.

In our experience, jet-lag remedies are like cold remedies in that everybody has a different one. What are some jet-lag remedies that you find to be effective?

15 Smart Ways to Beat Jet Lag [Reader’s Digest]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. raisitup says:

    just slip out the back, jack. wait, wrong list….

  2. Anonymous says:

    Tip #7 is not valid because airlines do not serve food anymore. And if they do, avoiding it to beat jet lag is not the reason to avoid it…

  3. anonymouscoworker says:

    Rick Steves says jet lag hates “fresh air, daylight, and exercise”. I’ve always found that a first day spent exploring keeps me awake long enough to go to sleep at a normal local time.

  4. Mr_Human says:

    And if you’re going to Europe, don’t take a nap when you arrive (usually in the morning). Try to stay awake all day, until it’s time to go to bed local time. I once took a nap when arrived in Italy, and it totally exacerbated my jet lag for days and days.

  5. Opie says:

    ProVigil. Not just for Brittany and Paris, I’ve been using it for jet lag on trips to Asia since 2003 and it is fantastic. Prevents the involuntary nod-off without making you jittery, hyper (or unable to sleep naturally).

  6. mac-phisto says:

    #16. lots & lots of coke.

  7. Pro-Pain says:

    Xanax and a nap. That was easy.

  8. jaydez says:

    This reminds me of when I went to Orange County, CA from Hartford in April. It was my first time on the West coast so I was really excited tyhe night before. The flight took off from Bradley at 6:30AM. We had to be there by 5:30 so we had to leave the house by 4:30. I was so excited the night before that I didnt fall asleep until 2:30AM. I had to get up at 3:30 to finish my packing and take a shower.

    When we got to CA it was only 11:00 AM. I was up until 12:30 PST that night… yup, I was up for 27 hours straight on 1 hour of sleep….

    Yeah, the jet lag sucked…. but I slept like a rock that night.

  9. bmwloco says:

    I used to fly on an epic scale. 36 hours. 6 or 7 time zones.

    Be sensible. Flying from LA to New Zealand, I would have a couple drinks in the airport, a meal and another drink, and wake up refreshed and ready when we landed in Auckland. Drink plenty of water.

    Sleep. I learned to even sleep on C130’s. It’s like a VW microbus on a gravel road, but if you get comfortable enough, packs some ear plugs and hit sleepy time.

  10. ARP says:

    @Pro-Pain: I also use a pharma-enhanced method of avoiding jet lag. Usually one drink and a downer (it sounds like I’m back in the 70’s) is usually all I need to sleep most of the trip. But the article is right, you must take it right away or you’ll be a zombie when you land. Once, I land, I try to find something “light” to do. @anonymouscoworker: has it right, try to find something where you’ll be active (but not too strenuous), get some coffee, and push yourself until an hour or two before bedtime in your new location.

  11. huntsterUNC says:

    I still refuse to believe that trans continental jet lag exists in N America. I’ve flow from Raleigh, NC to las vegas entirely too many times (so sez my wallet). Never jet lagged once.

    When you start crossing oceans…that’s real jetlag.

    Best thing: Stay up until local bedtime. Amps and coffee.

  12. Antediluvian says:

    So Ben gets one article about him in Reader’s Digest, and suddenly the blog becomes one big RD teaser love-fest. :-)

    Nah, seriously, some of these are probably pretty good.

  13. Jay Slatkin says:

    @Antediluvian: I can tell you quite honestly that Ben’s article had nothing to do with me writing this article. Thanks for playing.

  14. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    Me, I drink, heavily

  15. Sudonum says:

    Never had much of a problem going east to west. It’s usually going west to east that makes me crazy. In those instances I suggest heavy alcohol use, and/or some pharmaceuticals.

  16. Antediluvian says:

    @Jay Slatkin:Jay: And that’s why the smiley, and the word “seriously”. IT WAS A JOKE.

  17. Max2068 says:

    Does #1 seem backwards to anyone else? Since Boston is ahead of San Diego, why would you eat an hour earlier? Seems like I’d be waking up a lot earlier when I should be going to bed later.

  18. MasterShake says:

    I heard a great piece on NPR Science Friday about the circadian clock that’s worth a listen for those who haven’t found an answer to jet lag yet and would like something new to try:

    “Writing this week in the journal Science, researchers report that mice seem to have a second, independent circadian clock that connects to food consumption — and it can overrule the regular light-based clock.”


  19. @MasterShake: I was going to write that in myself. It was very interesting.

  20. joel. says:

    I just flew to Portugal a week ago, from St Louis. You know how to beat jet lag? Get really really drunk the night you get there. Say at like, a bachelor party.

    That’ll get you acclimated reeeeeal quick.

  21. velvetjones says:

    If you happen to be in one of the few places in the world where the dollar is strong, or have loads of cash to throw around, getting massages first thing in the morning is an excellent way to cope with jet-lag. That way even if you can’t sleep you’re getting some rest. Also, eating often and drinking a ton of water is essential.

  22. @bmwloco: You said my tactic: drink plenty of water. I drink so much water before and after my trip that I have to go to the bathroom a lot, but I wake up refreshed every time. :)

  23. WRXChick says:

    My favorite – No-Jet-Lag Homeopathic Remedy Tablets. A flight attendant told me about them before a trip to London, and they made a big difference. I also went exploring the afternoon I arrived, instead of staying at the hotel, and suffered no je lag that week.

  24. quirkyrachel says:

    There’s a really great homeopathic remedy called No Jet Lag that totally works. This has saved so many family vacations because it essentially gives you back a full day of being alert, as opposed to zombie-like. You can get it in vitamin stores and Whole Foods.

  25. petrarch1611 says:

    jet lag from Boston to west coast is easy, i cant believe people would need to prepare 3 days ahead of time for that. USA to china jetlag though, not so easy.

  26. maneki neko says:

    What I’ve found helpful is a matter of timing. I was scheduled on a flight that arrived in the morning, local time, and wasn’t able to sleep on the flight (not for lack of trying, I assure you). I was a complete zombie for the first day, but I fell asleep in the evening, slept twelve hours and woke up feeling refreshed and non-jetlagged for the rest of the trip. Another time when my flight arrived at night, I tried to go to bed right when I arrived and ended up not sleeping for three days straight.

  27. P_Smith says:

    There is no quick remedy to jet lag.

    The only one that works is time: allow one day of adjustment per time zone crossed. Yes, that means if you are travelling across the Pacific or Atlantic oceans that you will have adjusted to the new time zone on the day you return from your two week trip. Have a nice holiday, if you can.

    The only real solution to avoiding it is to limit your distance travelled east/west. If you have two weeks off, start trying to adjust on the last Friday before leaving. That and the weekend will give you three days, then use the last Friday and travel weekend to adjust back.

    If you real want a long distance vacation (over 8000km) without time zone changes, think South America rather than Europe or Asia. The cost is the same, some of the countries are safe, and you can take your trip during the northern winter to get away from the cold.

  28. whitecat says:

    No-jet-lag ([www.nojetlag.com]). It’s a homeopathic jet lag preventer. I’ve always had horrible jet lag flying to Europe, but last summer on my trip to France (and back) I used this as directed and was fine. Drink lots of water with it, don’t drink alcohol on the plane, and you’re good to go when you arrive. I’ve tried Xanax on the plane, drinking, eating, forcing myself to stay awake until bedtime local time, just about everything, but this really works.

  29. Trai_Dep says:

    Melatonin taken when sleeping at my new time zone works for me.

  30. #16- Get drunk at your destination.

    I flew from SFO to Northern Italy (about 13 hours) and couldn’t sleep at all on the plane. That night, with no sleep in about 36 hours, I went out and got really drunk with friends. When I went home, I slept deeply and I woke up the next morning totally acclimated and felt like I could go run a marathon.

    Now when I travel from coast to coast or farther, I always make myself go out to a few bars the night I arrive and wake up feeling like a champ. Like I need an excuse to drink…

  31. Paul D says:

    “When you get to where your going, you take off your shoes and your socks…and make fists with your toes.”

    Die Hard anyone?

  32. Paul D says:

    @Paul D:
    ugh…”where you’re going”…you’re…YOU’RE!

    Broke my own rule.

    / hangs head in shame…

  33. joellevand says:

    I once read somewhere (forget where) that the best way to beat jet lag is to fast for 18 hours before your arrival. When you fast, your metabolism slows, screwing with your circadian rhythms and throwing your internal body clock out of whack.

    When you land, eat what you’d usually eat for that time of day (if you land at 12PM EST after a transatlantic flight, eat lunch, for example) and you’ll have, essentially, reset your internal body clock like you have your watch.

    I remember reading this works best with breakfast.

    For example, on a recent flight from the West to East coast, I didn’t eat from 12PM PST onwards. When I landed, I resisted the temptation to grab dinner and went straight to bed. The next morning, I went to work, and at 9AM EST (18 hours after I’d stopped eating) my office workers and I ordered breakfast from a local diner. An omelet, homefries, and some OJ later, I felt way better, and didn’t experience the jet lag I have previously.

  34. absentmindedjwc says:


    I just got back from a trip to Beijing. And they do serve food on many international flights. From the flight (Chicago to Tokyo) having 3 meals in flight, to the flight (Tokyo to Beijing) having 1 meal in flight.

    The flights too and from Tokyo, you would expect a meal service, since the flight is around 15 hours. But the flight from Tokyo to Beijing is rather unexpected, as it is the same flight time from Chicago to Seattle.

    It may also come down to what airline you take. Personally, I prefer JAL whenever I go somewhere in Asia.

  35. BQuittman says:

    Melatonin is definitely the way to go. But to take full advantage of it, you need to start taking it AT THE RIGHT TIME a couple of days before you leave, and the time is different depending whether you are going east or west, and how many time zones you are crossing.

    This Jane Brody article has a handy table. I’ve been following her advice (well, her advice on jet lag…) for years and it makes a tremendous difference.


  36. wezelboy says:

    Modafinil. nuff said.

  37. Grive says:

    I don’t sleep. Well, not the day before. I’m pretty good at the staying awake for long periods of time game.

    Basically, if I’m gonna go to europe on sunday, I’ll have one heck of a night out on saturday (without much alcohol. 10 hour flight while hungover is the eight circle of hell), take a shower and go without a nap on the plane. I also try to eat something when it’s about 7-8pm on my destination. When it’s around 10-11pm at my destination, it’s time to fall from exhaustion.

    That shocks my sleep schedule into behaving for the trip.