Skip to Content

The science behind jetlag and how to beat it


Holiday dreams rapidly turn sour at the thought of jetlag tantrums, sleepless nights and exhaustion – and that’s just the adults.  

The hassle of jetlag increases when you’re globetrotting with a family.

Luckily, science is on our side. Several carriers are implementing new developments designed to minimise the nasty side-effects of long-haul transfers.

The science says that jet lag is caused by a disruption to our circadian rhythm or internal body clock. This body clock regulates brain activity, sleep patterns, cell regeneration and hormone production. The main factor impacting this rhythm is light – your body takes its cues from the sun.


Aussie airline Qantas has been working closely with sleep experts and travel researchers leading up tot he 2018 launch of a non-stop flight to Europe. Their Perth to London exchange promises a whopping 17 hours in the air. Qantas hopes that experimenting with on-board conditions will reduce the subsequent jet lag. Lights in the cabins will mimic natural dawn and dusk, helping to induce sleep at the right time. Cabin temperature and mealtimes will also be modified according to the time at the destination.

Using blue light to wake you up and yellow or orange to encourage sleep, Qantas and other airlines aim to help passengers adjust to new time zones more quickly. Here are our hot tips for managing time-hopping holidays with kids:

1. Adjust bedtimes by an hour or so in the lead-up to your trip and have a chat about time differences to help your kids understand their own jetlag.

2. Keep everyone hydrated before, during and after your flight by drinking plenty of water. Mums and Dads should avoid alcohol and coffee.

3. Plan your flight as best you can to land at an ideal hour. For some families this means flying overnight so you can sleep on-board, whereas others would prefer to land at sundown and go straight to sleep, ready and raring to go at daybreak.

4. Make the most of stopovers to help you switch to the new time zone more gradually. Consider breaking up the distance by staying for a couple of days at a half-way point.

5. Give yourself a day or so on arrival to adjust before diving in to your itinerary.

Stick to local time when you land – sleep and eat when the locals sleep and eat.

Read more: 

Top tips for Thailand holidays with kids

The best school holiday books for kids

Do I need a booster? Car seat rules around the world

Flying with kids – best tips by age group



* Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you make a purchase through the links provided, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting the work we put into!