How to Beat Jet Lag
tl;dr: 5 tips to beat jet lag on your next business trip
Jet lag, one of the worst outcomes of traveling long distance. Described as a temporary sleeping disorder developed by traveling through different time zones, the phenomenon is very real and not so fun. Whether you’re traveling to attend a business meeting or heading on vacation to hit the beach, you may start to notice yourself falling victim to the symptoms of jet lag.
Symptoms? What kind of symptoms? Jet lag’s wearying effects can haunt your body for hours or even days after landing and include disturbed sleep such as insomnia, excessive sleepiness or early waking, daytime fatigue, mood changes, stomach problems, constipation or diarrhea, trouble concentrating, or an overall feeling of not being well. Sounds like a good time, right? Not so much. As someone who has traveled from Boston Massachusetts to Gold Coast Australia for only a week stay, I can inform you that these symptoms are no myth and stuck with me for the majority of my stay.
So how can you completely avoid these symptoms when traveling through different time-zones? Drumroll please… You can’t. Jet lag is a natural occurrence the body develops when its internal clock is still synced to the original time zone, with no way of overriding that.
Fortunately, there are ways to reduce or minimize the intensity of jet lag:
- Adapt to your new sleep schedule before leaving.
If you’re traveling from west to east, start heading to bed earlier than usual. If you’re traveling from east to west, start heading to bed later. Although this may be a somewhat tricky and stressful tip as you’re literally confusing your body into adapting to a new and unfamiliar bed-time, it is better to do so before your trip rather than when you're already there. Another way to help with this adjustment is to start moving your meal times closer to the times you'll be eating at your new destination.
2. Adapt to your new schedule while flying.
If you follow this tip, you won’t be preparing for the time-zone of your new destination while at home, but instead while you’re airborne. This is a great time to start updating the clock on your phone or the watch on your wrist to the time of the area in which you’re heading. This mentally prepares you for the time change by getting you in the mindset of what you’ll be doing upon your arrival.
3. Stay hydrated.
Staying hydrated by drinking enough water before, during and after your flight is a major key for powering through a potential jet lag experience. Being dehydrated is only going to make your tiring and stressful experience even more miserable than it is already is. To further yourself even more from the jet lag experience, try to avoid alcohol and caffeine, as these are prime influencers of dehydration and can also negatively affect your sleep.
4. Eat the right food.
Making sure to eat before, during and after your flight is another essential tip for minimizing the impact of jet lag. Food (or lack of it) can have a major effect on your body clock and wellbeing. If you’re flying west to east, you’re going to want to feel tired and heavy when landing, so look for carbohydrate-heavy foods like rice, pasta, potatoes, burgers, almonds, kiwis and turkey meat. On the other hand, if you’re flying east to west and need energy to stay awake, try lighter foods with more protein such as meat, fish or eggs.
5. Use melatonin.
Studies show that melatonin serves as a highly effective treatment for jet lag as it helps the body sleep during unusual hours. Similar to tips #1 and #4, melatonin should be taken strategically. For example, if you’re flying west to east you should try taking it nightly during the time of your desired location. If you’re aiming to set your internal body clock to an earlier time, as if you were flying east to west, it should be taken in the morning. While taking melatonin, try your best to avoid screen time as it can alter or delay your sleep.
Most corporate travelers know that jet lag is a cost of doing business (travel), and that there are no sure-fire ways to avoid it. However, the tips above can help you minimize its effects and allow you to do what you’re on the road to do. If you’re looking for more tips on how to make your business travel experience easier, check out the most recent blog from our wellness series.
Have any jet lag-beating tips of your own? Post them in the comments below and we'll write about them.