Posted by: MummyTravels | Mar 18, 2012

The jetlag blues

Few things are quite as depressing as being wide awake in a hotel room at 2am, knowing you desperately need more sleep, and not being able to doze off again (until five minutes before your alarm goes off).

So for the past few years, I haven’t travelled anywhere with more than a few hours’ time difference, without packing melatonin. A natural hormone which controls sleeping patterns, you can buy it as a supplement in the US, although it’s not easily available in the UK. There’s been some research to suggest it does help with sleep disorders, and whether it’s all in my mind or all in the pill, it certainly helps me drop off and stay asleep when I’m travelling.

Needless to say, it’s not recommended during pregnancy or if you’re breast-feeding. And nor is huge quantities of coffee to keep you awake.

So what to do about jetlag? Well, so far both the bump (and later, I suspect the baby) have stopped me ranging too far afield but as experts think it takes a day to recover from each hour’s time zone crossed, even short trips can knock your body clock right out.

For starters, I always change my watch as soon as I get on the plane. The longer I have to adjust, the easier it seems to be – especially if I nap onboard and that time is my only guide when I wake up.

Trying to eat at the right time, as far as possible, can also help you adapt, as well as hopefully stopping you waking at 3am feeling ravenous. And getting plenty of natural daylight can also you adapt, so if a hotel has blackout curtains, leave them open a crack to let the dawn naturally rouse you.

Lastly, if you’re travelling west, always stay up as late as you can, even if you’re exhausted – avoid sitting on the bed when you check in, never a good move. And if you’re not tired, I’ve been squirting  the travel-size Molton Brown Relaxing Yuan Zhi Mist in hotels for years at bedtime, so my brain seems to associate it with sleep now. Lavender’s also worth a try.

If anyone’s got any foolproof suggestions, let me know though!



  1. I’ve always found travelling west straightforward: I’m a night-owl, and staying up late is easy for me. I’ve found travelling east more difficult, as it’s a lot longer to stay up to adjust!

    But one tip I’ve picked up is: allow yourself 2 hours sleep if you’re struggling to stay awake. Apparently you *must* wake up after 2 hours, otherwise your sleep patterns will be all over the place, but so far I’ve managed to have a robust enough alarm to do the job.

    I get to try it again on Thursday, returning from Costa Rica… via San Francisco 🙂

    • That’s a good idea – I agree, it’s much easier going west, although I have had nights where I stick it out as late as possible and am still wide awake at 4am. But shall add the 2-hour rule to my sleep arsenal.

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