A Type 1 Diabetic’s Guide to Battling Jet Lag


Jet lag is—in most cases when traveling long distances—unavoidable. The effects of drastic time zone changes can often ruin a trip if you aren’t prepared. Having type 1 diabetes makes jet lag even trickier, factoring in the body’s unpredictable responses to being thrown off routines related to food and eating.

Here are some important things to know, as well as some tips and hacks for showing jet lag who’s boss while gallivanting around the globe!

Plan ahead

When shifting time zones, keep in mind that your body’s clock takes approximately one day per time zone to catch up to it. Start preparing your body to the new time zone’s sleep schedule a few days ahead of time, adjusting your bedtime an hour or two earlier or later (depending on where you’re going) each night.

*Exception: If you are just going on a short one or two day trip, try to stay close to your normal schedule!

Sleep on the plane

If possible, get as much sleep as you can on overnight flights. Some sleep aids such as Ambien and Sonata are recommended by sleep specialists, but these medications should be used with caution, especially for people with type 1 diabetes. Always be alert enough to monitor your blood sugar levels if necessary.

If the sun is out, don’t stay in!

Sunlight is our system’s natural cue to stay awake. If your flight lands early in the morning, expose yourself to as much light as possible as soon as you arrive. When it is time to sleep, embrace that darkness! Turn off televisions, computers, and other devices—as any sort of light will make you more alert. And remember—avoid napping! Your body clock will get thrown off if you take daytime naps when you first arrive.

Eat right

Your body is more vulnerable when traveling. The things that upset it at home can become more exaggerated abroad. Avoid eating foods that are too foreign to your system at least until you are more acclimated further into your trip. Also avoid copious amounts of alcohol that can aggravate jet lag and interrupt sleep patterns—not to mention make blood sugar control more difficult.

Maintain your T1D routine

Routines will naturally go astray to some degree while traveling to far off lands, whether it be while sampling new cuisines or tiring yourself out exploring all day. However, to avoid blood sugar malfunctions, gastrointestinal issues and fatigue—it is a good idea to incorporate as much of your normal routine as possible, ie: finding foods that you know your system will react favorably to, and how much insulin it requires. Be sure to take breaks as needed throughout your days to check blood glucose (BG) levels, have a snack, bolus or just rest.

Consult with your doctor before your trip

Always check in with your endocrinologist before a long trip abroad! Adjusting your insulin requirements may be necessary, especially if you are on injections. The dosages of Lantus (and other time-sensitive medications) can be tricky as your body adjusts to a new time zone.

Read Never Stop Exploring by Carter Clark and more on Travel.

WRITTEN BY BT1 Editorial Team, POSTED 06/01/16, UPDATED 12/22/22

This piece was authored collaboratively by the Beyond Type 1 Editorial Team.