International students Overcoming jetlag

Tips on overcoming Jetlag

What is Jetlag?

Jetlag is a feeling of overwhelming exhaustion which can affect one’s sense of time, place, well-being, concentration, memory and performance.  It occurs most noticeably when travellers have rapidly crossed five or more time zones.

What causes Jetlag?

Jetlag is caused by the disturbance of biological cycles.  The following human cycles are disrupted by airplane travel:

Rapid:   Heartbeat, pulse rate, breathing, cell division, eye blinking, swallowing, brainwaves.

Daily:     Blood pressure, blood clotting, eyesight, alertness, visual activity, cognitive functions, energy levels, sense of pain, physical prowess, sleepiness/wakefulness, digestion, hunger pains, hormone levels, body temperatures, metabolism, sense of time, beard growth.

The more time zones which have been crossed, the more disrupted these cycles are.  Fortunately, the human body is very adaptable and it does not take long to readjust.  For example, if eleven time zones have been crossed, it can take from two days to two weeks for sleep patterns to adjust thoroughly.  Heart rate, which is normally faster in the day than at night, can take from five to six days to synchronise.

How can I reduce the effects of jetlag?

  • Avoid food and drink containing caffeine such as cola, coffee and chocolate, until your body has adjusted to the time change (first day or two).
  • Limit alcohol intake until your body has rested from travelling. Air travel is very dehydrating and alcohol will further deplete water from your system.  Instead drink lots of water.
  • Eat high protein meals for breakfast and lunch and high carbohydrate meals at suppertime. Proteins give the body four to five hours of energy where carbohydrates only provide an hour of energy after which they naturally induce feelings of sleepiness.  High sugar content foods will produce similar sleepiness after an hour.
  • Keep active during the day and do not nap. This will encourage your body to adjust to the new time zone. Engage in physical and mental activity to keep your body awake and mind alert.
  • Go to bed early (by 22:00) and get plenty of rest. Allowing your body to run down will only make you more susceptible to local viruses.


From Dr Charles E Ehret and Lynne Waller Overcoming Jetlag Scanlon, Berkeley Publishing Corporation, 1983