For many people travelling long distances, jet lag can ruin the first few days on arrival – it could all be so lovely and relaxing if it weren’t for the time difference.

Jet lag usually becomes a problem when there’s a time difference of more than two hours, says Hans-Guenter Weess of the German Sleep Society.

Here are his tips for overcoming it:

Get yourself used to it gradually

If possible, try to get into a new rhythm a few days beforehand.

If you’re flying east, go a bit earlier to bed every day.

If you’re going west, go to sleep later.

“The transition going west is usually easier, it’s just a question of staying up a bit longer at the weekend or at a party,” he says.

Skip some sleep

If the time difference is 10 to 12 hours, it makes sense to stay awake until it’s really night time at your destination.

One or two naps of 20 minutes at most and a coffee should get you through the day, says Weess.

Daylight also helps to keep you awake.

“This way you get into the sleeping pattern there relatively quickly,” he says.

Keep your own rhythm

If you’re going to another time zone for less than 48 hours, you don’t need to make such an effort to get used to the time difference, says Weess.

On business trips, for example, the odd nap can help, but otherwise it’s best to stick to your own sleeping patterns from home.

Take care with sleeping pills

According to Weess it’s not clear whether drugs can help against jet lag. “The data is ambiguous,” he says.

If you do decide to take sleeping pills, you shouldn’t take them for longer than two nights, he says – you can quickly get addicted to them.

You should also try testing them at home, perhaps at a weekend.

“In rare cases they can have the opposite effect to what you expect,” he says. – dpa/Elena Zelle