Time Zone Change Syndrome, or more commonly referred to as jet lag, is an issue many business travellers face on a recurring basis and can be a major hindrance to productivity levels whilst away. Scientifically speaking, jet lag is caused by a disturbance to ‘circadian rhythms’, which operate on 24-hour cycles and involve physical, mental and behavioural changes in our bodies. Travelling through different time zones requires an adjustment of these rhythms, and can result in fatigue, indigestion, concentration loss… you know the rest.
Although we are still yet to find a cure for jet lag, travel experts and health professionals have discovered ways to minimise the effects of jet lag, which can be implemented at each stage of your journey. Read on for our business traveller’s guide on how to minimise jet lag.
Choose flights that arrive in the afternoon
- Afternoon or early evening arrivals are prime for reducing the effects of jet lag as normal sleeping patterns can be achieved quickly and naps are easier to avoid. If an afternoon arrival isn’t an option, keep any daytime naps to 45 minutes or less.
West is best, East is a beast
- Travelling eastward incurs a much greater disturbance to our biological clock than travelling westward because we are giving our circadian rhythms less time in the day to adjust to the new time zone. If possible, try to select a westerly route as the extra hours in the day will give your body the time it needs to adjust. If flying eastward is inevitable, allow approximately one and a half days of recovery time per time zone crossed. Keep this in mind when scheduling any important meetings or events!
- Although sometimes impossible for business travellers with tight schedules, adding a stopover of at least 24-hours on long-haul flights can be beneficial in resetting your body and reducing jet lag. Be strategic and schedule a stop-over in a city where you have clients or business partners to visit. You might as well kill two birds with one stone, all while reducing jet lag.
Coordinate sleeping times
- Use sleeping masks and noise cancelling ear plugs to ensure you are able to coordinate your sleeping time with that of your destination, even if it’s still light outside.
Choose a carrier with lie-flat beds
- Fully lie-flat beds are a business and first class luxury that are becoming more popular in airlines today. This is because horizontal sleeping plays a major role in facilitating deep sleep and minimising jet lag.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Pressurised cabin air is already very dehydrating, so try to avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks in-flight. High altitudes also quicken the effects of alcohol (one in the air is equivalent to two on the ground), and the last thing you need to add to your jet lag is a hangover.
Light meals only
- Often travellers prefer to fast on their journey as a way to reduce the effects of jet lag. If that’s not an option for you, choose to have light meals regularly that are easy to digest such as fruit and vegetables.
Expose yourself to light
- The sooner you are able to expose your body to natural light, the sooner your biological clock is able to adjust to the new time zone. This is because our circadian rhythms are controlled by light and darkness.
Increase your melatonin levels
- Melatonin is a naturally secreted hormone that controls our body clock by promoting sleep. Eating foods that are high in tryptophan, such as dairy, red meat, fish and peanuts can help to stimulate melatonin. Melatonin supplements can also be purchased at health food stores and are best to be taken one hour prior to sleeping.
Keep your regular exercise routine
- Exercise helps to increase your body temperature which plays a role in resetting your circadian rhythm. Try exercising outside to take in the natural sunlight and quicken the process.
What tips and tricks do you use to help minimise jet lag during your business travel?