Although many of us get caught up in the “glamorous” side of business travel – room service, limousine transfers and plush hotels – there’s a less pleasant side-effect of travel which often goes ignored.
That’s right – jet lag. You’ve been preparing for a conference for months, but between preparing your slide deck and ordering extra business cards, you forgot all about the impact travelling across several time zones can have on your body.
But what exactly is jet lag? Quite simply, it’s a temporary effect on your body, brought on by international travel, which causes fatigue, insomnia, headaches, memory loss, anxiety, and irritability.
The average business traveller’s performance drops by up to 20% under jet lag, potentially leading to compromised decision making, poor health and enjoyment, and potential missed business opportunities.
How long it takes to recover from jet lag is usually a multiple of how many time zones you’ve crossed – as a rule of thumb, 1 day for 2 time zones – so if you’ve crossed six time zones, you could be feeling like your old self again in 3 days.
Flights eastward typically bring the strongest feelings of jet lag. That’s because you’re essentially “losing time” when you fly east. All of your daily habits and routines are throttled forward by several hours.
Flights to the west provide flyers with “more” time, however forcing your body to adjust to a different time zone can be confusing to your body, particularly if you are keeping yourself awake at times when you are usually in bed.
Light to moderate exercise before you travel will improve your overall physical stamina, meaning you’re in a better condition to kick jet lag to the kerb! At the very least try going for a 30 minute walk a few hours before you fly.
Adjust your timings a few days before you travel. The sooner you adapt to the local schedule, the quicker your body will adjust upon arrival. Start to move the clock back or forward by an hour and adjust your schedule to reduce the severity of jet lag when you arrive at your destination. If you arrive at lunchtime, fight the urge to sleep and force yourself to eat lunch and carry on your day as you normally would at that time.
If you are traveling east, try going to sleep earlier and getting up and out, into the early morning sun. If traveling west, try to get at least an hour’s worth of sunlight as soon as possible after reaching your destination – natural light and fresh air makes all the difference.
There are online jet lag calculators that can help you figure out by how much and when to reset your sleep schedule to help you adjust to a time zone change before you depart.
Whilst unwinding on a flight with a glass of red wine might make you feel relaxed at first, it actually intensifies dehydration and will make your jet lag noticeably worse than if you had skipped the drink during the journey. Opt for water instead and keep yourself hydrated.
We get it, coffee is a great stimulant to keep you awake, and it’s unusual to say no when it’s served after your in-flight meal. However caffeine also causes dehydration and is much more likely to disrupt your sleeping schedule and increase the chances of anxiety. Herbal teas are a great, relaxing alternative which will leave you feeling refreshed.
Flying long-haul can increase your chances of developing a blood clot, particularly if you’re not moving for long periods of time. Move your legs, bend your knees, stand up and take a walk from time to time, to keep yourself alert and ease the physical side-effects of jet lag.
If it’s daytime when you arrive, get as much exposure to daylight as possible to help reset your body clock. Another widely-supported benefit of being outside is the concept of “grounding”, in which you whip off your shoes and stand on a patch of grass or earth, thus allowing the ground to absorb your negative electrical charge and have you feeling like you’ve re-joined the “land of the living” in no time.
These are our top tips for beating jet lag when travelling on business. Do you have some of your own? Let us know by following us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and share your jet lag cures with us!