Jet lag refers to a physiological condition characterized by the disruptions in the person’s sleep due to a rapid travel across several time zones resulting in the imbalance in the traveler’s circadian rhythm.
The circadian rhythm is the internal biological clock that the body is accustomed to following to determine the time to sleep or stay awake.
When a person travels through more than 2 time zones in a shorter period, it does not provide enough time for the body to adjust to the new sleep-wake cycle.
As a result, the person experiences an inability to sleep at the nighttime and stay awake during the daytime of the new time zone he has traveled to resulting in jet lag.
Jet lag is characterized by a few symptoms that disturb the routine schedule of the person. Here are a few signs and symptoms that executives often experience due to jet lag.
A research published in the Pharmacy and Therapeutics has shown that managers often suffer from daytime fatigue for the initial few days after reaching the destination. This occurs due to the inability to fall asleep in the night.
Most managers find it difficult to get enough sleep as the new time zones they have traveled to has a different schedule for sleeping and staying awake than their body’s circadian rhythm.
As a result, when it is the nighttime at the travel destination, they cannot get any sleep or may experience a disturbed or fragmented sleep. This can affect their daytime productivity as the lack of sleep can make them feel tired and drowsy during the daytime.
Jet lag can affect the managerial skills of executives due to the lack of sound sleep at night and the daytime drowsiness. An executive needs to possess skills to be able to make an impressive presentation, reply to the queries of the prospective clients and negotiate with the client the terms of the project.
These skills need a great focus and a faster reaction time of the brain as well as decision-making and problem-solving abilities. A research published in the Sleep Medicine Clinic has proven that jet lag can reduce the concentration levels and the ability to focus on tasks.
As a result, managers are unable to make quick decisions or offer feasible solutions to the client. Above all, the reduced focus and alertness may also affect their sense of judgment resulting in mistakes. These consequences of jet lag can affect their chances of developing a long-term business relationship with the client.
Most managers, including those who tend to have a positive attitude at the workplace and exude enthusiasm, experience irritability during the period their body tries to adjust to the new time zone.
A research conducted at the Health Psychology has shown that jet lag may disrupt the production of cortisol at different times of the day. As a result, managers may develop irritability and mood disturbances. They may not be open to constructive criticism or comments by the client or colleagues and even make sarcastic remarks, which can hurt others.
This can create a negative impression about the manager himself as well as the company he is representing, which is definitely not a good sign for building a healthy client-business relation.
A research conducted at the Chronobiology International has proven that traveling across different time zones can also disrupt the other physiological processes occurring in the body, which are regulated by the circadian rhythm.
Managers may develop digestive disturbances when the body is in a transition from the time zone it is accustomed to. The pattern and the time of food intake can also be responsible for causing digestive disturbances due to jet lag.
Most managers may experience headaches due to the loss of sleep or gastritis. Gastritis can occur due to jet lag as a result of the production of acid in the stomach at the times suitable to the regular meal times of the managers at their country of residence.
These symptoms can create a discomfort or uneasiness while negotiating with the client and hamper the purpose of the visit.
The symptoms of jet lag may vary in nature, intensity, and duration based on the direction of the travel.
According to a research published in the Sports Health, traveling Eastway and Westway can cause several jet lag symptoms. The direction of travel can disrupt the diurnal rhythm more severely when traveling towards the east. Hence, the symptoms of jet lag are worse after the eastward flights than the westward flights.
A travel in the eastward direction causes the length of the day to be shortened. Hence, the body’s circadian rhythm must also shorten to reestablish the normal rhythm. Also, a human body demonstrates a tendency toward the periods longer than 24 hours. Hence, the symptoms of jet lag caused by the eastward journey are usually more severe as these periods are shorter.
However, traveling Northway and Southway do not cause any jet lag symptoms as the time zone remains the same or has minimal difference across the same longitude. For example, a flight from New York to Sao Paulo (Brazil) lasts for about 10 hours. But, the difference in the time zones of these places is just 1 hour.
Hence, managers traveling across these routes do not experience any jet lag symptoms as the body can adjust to the new circadian rhythm, which is just one hour apart from the original circadian rhythm, easily.
A scientific investigation conducted at the Sleep Medicine Clinic has shown that jet lag depends on the direction of the flight and the number of time zones crossed while traveling.
Crossing 7 to 12 time zones can result in the most severe symptoms of jet lag. There are 24 time zones across the world. The time zone changes by 1 hour after a travel of 15 degrees each to the east or west.
When managers travel a longer duration in the east or west direction, the distance covered by them in terms of the degrees of longitudes increase. A longer distance covered indicates more time zones traveled.
The symptoms experienced by managers can become worse as the number of time zones traveled increase. A higher number of time zones traveled, in turn, can increase the disruptions in the body’s circadian rhythm thus causing more severe symptoms.
The direction of the flight can determine the intensity of the symptoms of jet lag in managers. Research published the Sleep Medicine Clinic has shown that flying east needs the body’s circadian rhythm to phase advance to adjust to the new time while flying west needs a phase delay.
For example, the early morning hours in the U.S. coincide with the nighttime in Europe. Hence, when managers travel eastward from the US to Europe, the circadian rhythm has to be reset earlier to be able to sleep well at the night.
However, a human body has a better ability to phase delay the circadian clock faster than to phase advance. Hence, the jet lag symptoms experienced by managers tend to be more severe and last longer when they travel to eastwards than to westward.
The usual time taken for the managers to adjust to the new schedule is about 1 or 2 time zones per day. Also, it is found that the circadian clock can phase delay by 92 minutes per day after westward flights and phase advance by about 57 minutes per day after eastward flights.
Based on this, managers can estimate that when they have to cross six time zones from west to east, the body should be able to adjust to the time change in about 3 to 5 days. This information can help managers schedule their meetings and presentations accordingly and avoid the most important visits until the period taken to recover from jet lag has passed.
The time needed to recover from jet lag also depends on the ability of the managers to adapt to the new location. It has been found that the managers in the middle and older age often take a longer time to recover as the ability to sleep at an abnormal time reduces with age.
Managers are at a higher risk of suffering from chronic jet lag and its consequences as they have to travel to different time zones frequently. Most often, they may not get enough time to adjust to the time zone of their own country as they have to leave for another destination shortly.
Frequent visits to client locations spread across different time zones can disrupt their body’s circadian rhythm and increase the risk of following conditions:
Clinical studies conducted at the Journal of Neuroscience have shown that chronic jet lag can affect the cognitive functions of the brain.
If not managed properly, managers may face a risk of losing their job as the reduced cognitive skills such as memory, decision-making, and problem-solving abilities can affect their job performance.
The findings of the research published in the International Journal Of Endocrinology has indicated that chronic jet lag can promote reproductive and metabolic dysfunctions. It can alter the production of female hormones such as estrogen and progesterone due to which women may develop menstrual irregularities. This can have a negative impact on their workplace performance by causing discomfort and mental stress.
Managers who have to travel frequently across multiple time zones are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. It could be attributed to the loss of sleep, increased production of cortisol, and mental stress linked to the disrupted circadian rhythm caused by jet lag.
The metabolic and hormonal disturbances caused due to chronic jet lag can increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Metabolic stress can reduce the cell receptivity to insulin, a hormone that regulates the blood sugar levels. As a result, the managers may develop insulin resistance, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
A scientific study published in the Cancer Research has revealed that chronic jet lag can increase the risk of cancer by accelerating the development of malignant tumors.
Managers can adopt healthy ways to cope with jet lag and adjust to the new time zone by following the strategies mentioned beneath.
A research published in the Pharmacy and Therapeutics has shown that exposure to sunlight during the daytime at the destination can help to synchronize the body’s internal clock. Exposing the eyes to artificial lights for a brief period during the day can also reset the circadian rhythm and help managers sleep well in the night.
Managers can also use melatonin supplements to manage jet lag, sleep well at the night and feel fresh and alert during the daytime. A research published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews has shown that taking melatonin supplements when it’s dark can promote sleep quality and also reduce the time needed to fall asleep.
This can help managers to attend their scheduled meetings with ease without feeling tired and allow them to meet the goals they want to achieve during their visits.
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It has been found that fasting for about 16 hours before the plane reaches the destination can help to reset the body’s clock and reduce jet lag.
Managers are also advised to modify their sleeping time for a few days before the planned travel date. They should alter their sleep-wake cycle in advance to suit the time zone of the destination to be able to adapt to the new time zone in a short duration.
Social jet lag is a new form of jet lag that occurs when the body’s internal clock and the actual sleep schedule of the person do not match.
Traditionally, our body’ sleep-wake cycle or the circadian rhythm was set and regulated by the exposure to the sun and darkness. However, nowadays, it is controlled by the alarm clock, which tells us it’s the time to wake up.
Most often, the alarm is set at a time very early in the morning before the sunrise. This is more common in executives as they have to a hectic schedule, which demands getting up early. The pressure to wake up early due to professional commitments can prevent the executives from keeping their sleep-wake cycle aligned with the normal circadian rhythm. Also, social pressure to wake up early or to go sleep very late due to family obligations, or dinners with friends can also create a difference between the body’s internal clock and the actual sleep-wake cycle.
A research published in the Chronobiology International has shown that the symptoms of social jet lag can persist over a longer duration and increase the risk of complications.
When your actual routine is not aligned with your body’s circadian rhythm, the risk of obesity, and caffeine consumption also increase. Hence, being aware of the body’s actual circadian rhythm and taking steps to align it with the sleep-wake cycle is recommended.
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The symptoms of jet lag can be prevented to a great extent by following the strategies mentioned above. The use of melatonin supplements can help managers to adjust to the new time zone and stay focused and confident during all meetings and presentations. This can help them achieve the purpose of the visit and enhance their job performance.