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How to beat jet lag

Travelling through time zones to reach that exciting holiday destination might be fun, but when sleeping and waking cycles are interrupted, the resulting jet lag can play havoc with your body. Our bodies are very sensitive to that change in pattern, and when you add in the noise, sleeplessness and dehydration we experience on a flight, it's no wonder some people are hit hard by jet lag. Here are a few tips to help beat the dreaded long-haul blues...

Before you travel

Eat well: Don't load up on fatty or carb-heavy foods before flying; eat something light and nutritious. Avoid the airport pie and chips if you can, and opt for something a little healthier.
It's also worth avoiding coffee before you travel; as that caffeine will keep you awake. Prepare by making sure you're well hydrated.

Sleep: If you can, experiment with changing your sleep pattern a few days before you travel. If you're flying east, try getting up and going to bed earlier (or later if you're heading west). At the very least, make sure you get a good night's sleep before you travel – flying tired or with a hangover is by no means fun!

Choose your flight: Try to pick a flight that will have you arriving in your new destination during daylight hours. You'll find it easier to adjust to your new time zone, and it's a lot easier than arriving in the middle of the night, not knowing whether you should sleep or stay awake for the rest of the following day.

During the flight

Drink: Getting into the spirit of the holiday doesn't necessarily mean getting into the spirits (or any other forms of booze!). It's all too tempting to have a few glasses of wine, or sample as many of the miniatures as possible, but you're only making the jet lag worse – stick to water and you'll be keeping yourself hydrated and far less likely to suffer on arrival.

Get comfortable: This is easier said than done on long-haul flights in the less-than-welcoming economy seats, but if you can, try to get as comfortable as possible. Don the eye mask to block out the cabin glare and pop in earplugs to drown out the noise of the engines and screaming children. Bring a travel pillow and ask for an extra blanket to cushion your head. Even an hour of sleep is better than nothing! Set your watch to the time at your destination, and take any opportunity you can to get up and move around the cabin.

Upgrade: It's always worth asking at check in – the airline might be offering discounts on extra legroom seats or whole class upgrades, so look out for these. Being able to stretch out makes a world of difference. We can't all afford a lie-flat bed, but check your frequent flyer points or smile sweetly, and you might just get a better seat. Savvy travellers might want to look online before travelling to bag the best seat on the plane.

On arrival

Don't (always) sleep: Try your hardest to adapt to the time at your destination; stay awake until it's time to sleep there and your body will better adjust to the time zone. That 'quick nap' will probably turn into a three hour snooze. Have a hot shower, get out and about in the fresh air, explore your neighbourhood and take as much exercise as you can. You're more likely to sleep well that night and be ready for action the following day. Try not to plan anything too strenuous for your first full day at your new destination – keep it light, get back into your normal eating pattern, drink plenty of water, and you'll be well on your way to beating jet lag.

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