You don’t have to dread long-haul flights. Learn how to avoid jet lag.
You’ve spent a weekend preparing for a presentation in front of upper management. Midway through the presentation, after a long-haul flight, your mind begins to wander; you feel exhausted, and you stutter in annoyance as you try to capture your thoughts.
Jumping from time zone to time zone is never easy for business travelers who spend the extent of their weeks trading briefcases for suitcases and offices for airports.
Even if travel isn’t a regular occurrence, a long-haul flight that takes you to another continent for a special work obligation can take its toll.
Excessive sleepiness, insomnia and difficulty concentrating are among the pitfalls you face as a consequence of business travel.
Knowing how to fight jet lag is one of the most important skills you can acquire as an executive.
Because the stress associated with long-haul flights increases significantly for executives who fly more than six times a year, it’s essential for your health, and your company’s, that you discover successful strategies for how to fight jet lag.
Jet Lag: The Worst Side Effect of Business Traveling
Jet lag is a temporary disorder that causes headaches, fatigue, irritability, and insomnia in executives who travel across many time zones in a short period.
Jet lag upsets your body’s natural circadian rhythms, what we often call our “body clock.” It affects executives differently depending on age, stress level and overall health.
Also known as desynchronosis or time zone change syndrome, jet lag creates havoc with your body and causes indigestion, constipation, daytime drowsiness and difficulty with concentration; not exactly the things you want to experience as you’re prepping for a business meeting.
There are other factors that influence jet lag which are, the direction of travel (east or west) and how many time zones are crossed. Managers should consider them while traveling for work.
How To Avoid Jet Lag
Fortunately, executives can learn how to fight jet lag so that they can reset their internal clock and have a productive trip.
The most efficient way to avoid jet lag is to get exposure to the sun, use melatonin to sleep during the correct hour in the new time zone and time your meals to eat during the correct hours and not when your body thinks its dinnertime. And you can do that before or during the business trip.
The changes to your daily routine can make a huge impact on avoiding jet lag.
Let me show you how to do it.
Beating Jet Lag Before the Business Trip
1. Consider Arriving a Day Ahead
As a successful executive, you know that a less-than-stellar performance can significantly affect your company.
Because flying across multiple time zones affects your ability to think critically, how to fight jet lag includes arriving at your destination early whenever possible.
Yael Klein, managing director of Airplus, says that “although it may be more cost-effective for a staff member to travel very early in the morning to make a 9 a.m. meeting, it might be more conducive for them to travel the evening before and stay the night in a hotel, as it may enable them to perform better on the day of their meeting.”
2. Do Not Start Your Trip With a Sleep Deficit
Ensure that you get a good night’s rest in the days before flying. Eat a healthy diet, hydrate, and exercise.
By maintaining good habits leading up to a flight, it will greatly reduce the chances of jet lag and allow your body to adapt to the new time zone faster than normal.
3. Start Adapting Your Sleep Patterns a Few Days Prior
For extreme time zone changes, slowly start adapting sleep patterns to your destination a few days before your trip.
For an eastward trip go to bed and wake up a couple of hours earlier than your normal schedule and for a westward trip go to bed and wake up a couple of hours later.
This helps your body anticipate and match a change in time zones. If needed try using melatonin pills to adjust your sleep habits before travel.
Another option is to adjust the timing of your meals. Normal days revolve around breakfast, lunch, and dinner so changing when your mealtimes are to that of your upcoming destination can help alleviate jet lag.
Beating Jet Lag During the Business Trip
1. Get Some Sun
When you travel across time zones, you get out of sync with the rising and setting of the sun.
Research suggests that spending 15 to 20 minutes in the sun, without sunglasses, as soon as you can after landing is a simple, effective way how to fight jet lag.
Since light affects how much melatonin your body produces, soaking up some sun before heading to your hotel or business meeting will help your body adapt its internal body clock to the new time zone.
2. Take Melatonin Supplements
Melatonin is a hormone produced by your body that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycles; it’s also available in pill form as a supplement. This hormone can help you get the sleep you need to bring you’re A-game to the business at hand.
To adjust your sleep schedule, you must consider the direction of travel. If you are flying east, then you must phase advance your biological clock. Meaning that bedtime is going to come sooner than it would in your normal time zone. On the other hand, when flying west, you must phase delay your biological clock.
In these instances, melatonin pills can help you avoid jet lag by assisting you to sleep when you need to according to what time zone you are in.
It’s important to consider when you take the melatonin; if it’s taken too early in the day, rather than helping you adjust to a new time zone, it can cause sleepiness and delay your body’s ability to adapt.
If you are new to using melatonin, we recommend starting with 3mg, to not cause drowsiness and allow your body to adjust to using it.
For your body to use it correctly it is suggested to take melatonin after dark. Experts say take it on the day you travel and a few days after you arrive to allow your body to adjust to the new time zone.
3. Adapt Your Timing Meals at Your New Destination
Eating is one of the zeitgebers for your body. By modifying your eating times it can help you to avoid jet lag.
For example, say you leave London at 8:30 am on a 10hour 30min flight to Dallas. It’s an important work trip to solve a legal problem with a new technological product. When you’re on the plane, you don’t eat breakfast or lunch according to London time but instead, eat your meals according to Dallas time.
Once you arrive in Dallas, your body will adjust easier since you still have to eat dinner at a reasonable time, as opposed to eating dinner on the plane in line with London time. You won’t feel as though you need to go to bed soon after but instead will be ready to tackle your work meeting and then have dinner before bed.
Planning mealtimes are an important way to avoid jet lag but, so is the type of food you eat.
Make sure to stay completely hydrated and drink plenty of water. Stay away from high fat and sugary food while gravitating towards low carbohydrate and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Don’t know what healthy snacks to eat?
4. Fasting With No Food at all for About 16 hours
Research shows that if you don’t eat for 16 hours, you’ll adjust much quicker to the new time zone. If you do have to eat, stick with a lighter meal such as a salad or fruit and vegetables.
Avoid eating for at least two hours before your flight and fast for at least 16 hours in total.
Conclude your fast with breakfast (or lunch/dinner) at your new destinations.
This tactic is easier when you have previous experience with fasting, however, some executives find it impossible to renounce the business class meals.
Other Tips Apart from Sun, Melatonin and Timing Meals
5. Avoid Alcohol During Your Business Trip
By the time you’ve dealt with traffic on the way to the airport, checked in your luggage and navigated airport security checkpoints, you may be tempted to head for the airline lounge for a bit of liquid refreshment. Be careful with what you choose.
Avoid alcohol at any time during your business trip, including during the flight.
According to the Natural Sleep Foundation, alcohol may interrupt your circadian rhythm by affecting levels of chemicals that tell your body when it is time to sleep or wake up.
Jet lag is bad enough. Drinking on a plane and the effect it has on a body makes the situation worse.
6. Keep Caffeine at a Minimum
Similar to alcohol, caffeine dehydrates your body; because it is a stimulant, it causes problems with your ability to sleep.
Dehydration and interrupted sleep patterns both aggravate the symptoms of jet lag and prolong your recovery time, something you can’t afford when conducting business.
Along with interrupted sleep, caffeine can cause stress and perpetuate anxiety. Avoid stress and jet lag by nixing the caffeine.
To be honest, caffeine can help combat jet lag if you’re groggy and need a pick me up to get your juices flowing. This is a good option once you’ve landed at your destination.
But avoid caffeine during your flight and after 4 pm the rest of the days. If you sip a latte at 4 pm, half of the caffeine will still be in your system at 10 pm which will continue to mess up your circadian rhythm.
7. Get Some Exercise
Exercise is generally more helpful when you’re traveling so that you exert more energy and can continue a steady workflow. While it has a little direct impact on your internal clock, it can increase the length and quality of your sleep during the adjustment period.
It is always helpful to exercise while traveling, but it is especially helpful when traveling west. In this instance, only exercise in the evenings to block the production of melatonin and delay sleepiness.
Research shows that outdoor exercise specifically, can hasten synchronization to a new time zone and help you avoid jet lag.
If you’re short on time or need some inspiration, try one of our quick travel workouts!
8. Protect Your Sleep
Use a comfortable 3D eye mask to help you sleep well and avoid jet lag, among other benefits. This mask improves disrupted circadian rhythm.
The 3D shape of this mask allows you to open your eyes freely and enjoy the darkness, no light will go through the mask allowing complete blockage of any distractions that may disturb your sleep.
Earplugs and neck pillows are also essential to avoid noise and find some comfort while sleeping on an airplane.
Avoid eating heavy meals at night to not disrupt your sleep.
Use natural remedies to induce sleep such as herbs, lavender spray, warm showers or sleepy time tea.
Other Ideas to Help You Avoid Jet Lag
While the following tips won’t fight jet lag, they will give you a healthy means to overcome it and help improve your performance at your destination.
1. Drink Loads of Water
Mild dehydration is common when traveling by air and can enhance the symptoms of jet lag. To prevent this, drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your flight.
2. Do Stretches Every Hour During Your Flight
Lack of exercise not only makes a long flight uncomfortable, but it also sets you up for an extended period of jet lag.
Sitting in one position for so long leads to swelling in your legs and feet; sometimes the swelling is so severe that you can’t wear your regular dress shoes for that all-important presentation.
Knowing how to fight jet lag includes recognizing the importance of doing arm and leg stretches in your seat during your flight. Get up and walk the aisles every so often; take a stroll on layovers and stopovers, and avoid mobile walkways.
As an executive in today’s corporate world, business travel is a necessary part of your job. By learning how to fight jet lag, you’ll be alert, productive and able to optimize your performance once you arrive.
Do you have other strategies on how to fight jet lag? If so, we’re eager to hear your comments!