The debilitating effects of jet lag are easily underestimated but, happily, are also easily avoided.
In my job, I travel a lot. It is not unusual for me to be jetting off to China or the Philippines one week and heading across the United States the next. My friends think I have a glamorous lifestyle, and while it is fun to travel, it is also exhausting.
According to the American Sleep Association, “Jet lag is a physiological condition caused by disturbance to the body’s natural circadian rhythm.” Crossing multiple time zones can really create havoc with your internal clock, manifesting in symptoms of fatigue, disorientation or irritation.
To ensure that I arrive at my destination fresh and ready to do business, I've had to learn a couple of tricks to help me adapt to different time zones a lot easier. Try these tips the next time you travel.
1. Inch toward your new bedtime.
For several days before you travel, begin setting your body clock to the time zone in which you will be living. In daily increments of an hour or so, begin going to bed earlier (or later) and getting up nearer to the new time. Once you arrive at your destination, you will be more in synch with normal waking and sleeping times. Of course, this doesn't apply so much when you're traveling across the globe as the time difference can be up to 12 hours or more.
2. Embrace the what time it really is where you are.
Once you settle into your airline seat, set your watch and devices to the destination time. Then start to think in that time zone. Your mind will help your body acclimate much more quickly this way.
3. Schedule the most convenient flights.
When scheduling your air transportation, look at the length of your flight. If it is less than six hours, you may not be able to get restorative sleep on the plane, so you may be best served to schedule travel during the day. However, many overseas flights occur overnight. For nighttime flights, prepare yourself to sleep by toting along an inflatable neck pillow, earplugs, sleep mask and thick, comfy socks. Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake and ask the flight attendants not to wake you for meals or snacks. When I travel to Asia, I always try to arrive in the evening so I can go straight to my hotel, eat a light meal, take a shower and go straight to bed.
4. Prepare your body for the new day.
The pressurized air and lower humidity in the cabin can cause fatigue and dehydration if you don’t watch it. Depending on the duration of your flight, try to drink at least two to three 8-ounce glasses of water to rehydrate. Then rehydrate again soon after you deplane. You will notice the difference in your energy level.
5. Plan to arrive early.
Jet lag can last two or even three days, so to give yourself time to recover from jet lag, schedule your travel a day or two in advance of when you need to be there.
6. Don’t Nap
Once you arrive, force yourself to stay awake until it is actually bedtime. It may be tempting to take a nap, but that short rest will make it much more difficult to fall asleep when you need to.
We are accustomed to operating on a 24-hour cycle, influenced by sunlight and darkness, so the faster you can acclimate yourself to the natural rising and setting of the sun, the sooner you will recover from jet lag.