With our travel borders open finally, if you’re lucky enough to have got your new passport back in time, many of us are taking the opportunity to travel again. Holidays have been on our covid wishlist for some time, but many of us have forgotten the travel fatigue that comes with long haul flights.

We are creatures of routine. Human behavior and physiology are aligned with the 24-hour day, in that we are alert and active during daylight hours and tired or asleep during nocturnal hours. Any disruption to this routine can lead to travel fatigue or jetlag which can cause daytime fatigue, poor sleep and poor performance.


What is travel fatigue?

Travel fatigue is due to a multitude of factors such as stress, discomfort and tiredness due to any form of travel. Changes in travel conditions such as increased noise, temperature, humidity and reduced air pressure can exacerbate fatigue levels.


What is jet lag?

Jet lag is a temporary sleep problem that can affect anyone travelling for an extended period of time. It specifically refers to the disruption of the body clock (circadian rhythms) that signals your body when to sleep and stay awake. When you cross multiple time zones and your body is still synched to your original time zone, you can experience jet lag. Symptoms usually consist of fatigue, feeling unwell, difficulty concentrating or gastrointestinal problems.


How to avoid jet lag on a long-haul flight

  • Spending time outdoors post-flight in sunlight or natural light can be a good behavioral strategy for correctly timed light exposure, and can also be facilitated with outdoor physical activities inducing more fatigue.
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration can make the symptoms of jet lag worse so be sure to moderate your caffeine and alcohol intake also.
  • Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain and is secreted during nighttime hours and is suppressed during light exposure. Studies have shown that oral melatonin before, during or after your travels may help to relieve the symptoms of jet lag (Always consult your doctor first before taking any new supplements).
  • Experts suggest that meditating may be the golden secret to help adjust to your sleep schedule. Try meditating sitting-up to rest and early in the evening before dinner.
  • No one wants to be the person constantly asking to get out of their seat on the plane to stretch their legs. We tend to sit for longer when by the window seat, so try to get up out of your seat to walk around and stretch your legs to remove that heavy feeling from your lower body.
  • Stretching and relaxing muscles in your lower limb can help to get blood flowing and can be done without leaving your seat. Simple movements like flexing and contracting your calf muscles, clenching and spreading your toes and rolling your ankles can help to alleviate that feeling of stiffness.
  • Some simple neck and shoulder stretches can also be incorporated whilst sitting in your seat to further reduce that stiff feeling whilst being in the same position for a lengthy time.



As well as managing jetlag and fatigue, it’s important to keep stress levels as low as possible leading up to a longer trip. Airports can be stressful places, especially post-covid with staff shortages and packed airports.

Having travelled over 24 hours recently, my experience with longer trips is that being organised and prepared is imperative for improving comfort and peace of mind on the way to your destination.       

Here are a few things that you can do to make the whole experience less daunting.

  1. Unnecessary stress on the day of your flight can be avoided by packing your bags a few days early and writing a check list of what you need before checking in.
  2. Give yourself plenty of time before check in, ideally 2-3 hours. International travelers can face delays when staff are limited or when workers decide to go on strike!
  3. Booking an aisle seat may seem like a bad move for a long flight but taking an aisle seat increases your leg room and allows you to get up and move around more.
  4. Pack extra jumpers and a neck pillow to maximize comfort during your long flight.
  5. Make sure to relax the best you can and don’t stress too much, managing your sleep and time awake with the interventions mentioned could potentially reduce the duration of your jet-lag symptoms.


Can massage help?

Booking in for a Myotherapy massage treatment before or after your next long journey will help relax your muscles, reduce stress levels and help improve sleep quality.

If you have the time, a pre-travel massage will help improve your circulation and ward off sore joints, ready for the long haul.

Post-flight, if you suffer from fluid retention, massage can tap into the lymph system and drain any fluid, making you more comfortable.


About the author

Jay Smyth-Small is a Clinical Myotherapist as well as a sports trainer in sub-elite Soccer.

As a Myotherapist Jay’s philosophy is that hands on care is the key to maintaining movement through life.

He first developed his love for movement and recovery while studying a BSc. in Sports Studies (Exercise and Health). He then went on to study Clinical Myotherapy which broadened his treatment approach, enabling him to combine his background in exercise with an array of hands-on techniques to reduce patient’s pain and improve their functionality. 

With a special interest in treating patients with shoulder and lower limb injuries, Jay uses dry needling, cupping, taping, deep tissue techniques and exercise rehabilitation for recovery. 



Arendt, J. (2009). Managing jet lag: Some of the problems and possible New Solutions. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 13(4), 249–256. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2008.07.011

Bin, Y. S., Ledger, S., Nour, M., Postnova, S., Stamatakis, E., Cistulli, P. A., de Chazal, P., Allman-Farinelli, M., Caillaud, C., Bauman, A., & Simpson, S. J. (2020). How do travelers manage jetlag and travel fatigue? A survey of passengers on long-haul flights. Chronobiology International, 37(11), 1621–1628. https://doi.org/10.1080/07420528.2020.1787427

How to avoid jet lag. How To Avoid Jet Lag | Travel Insider. (n.d.). Retrieved September 4, 2022, from https://www.qantas.com/travelinsider/en/travel-tips/travel-hacks-how-to-avoid-jet-lag.html

Advantages of pre or post-flight massage  | itravelnet. Retrieved September 4, 2022, from