If you’ve ever travelled to a different time zone, you’ve probably experienced jet lag. The time change—even if it’s just a few hours—often results in days of fatigue.
This makes it nearly impossible to truly enjoy a vacation, and your focus and productivity may be affected when travelling for business.
Returning home can be just as exhausting as your body attempts to readjust to its usual daily routine.
Thankfully all hope isn’t lost. You don’t have to spend your trip walking around like a zombie.
First, let’s explore why jet lag exists in the first place. Then, we’ll offer a few tidbits of advice to help you preserve your energy—and stick to a sleep schedule—during and after your trip.
Why We Experience Jet Lag
Our bodies are incredibly smart.
There are two systems—sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock—that are constantly working behind the scenes to ensure we get plenty of rest.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep/wake homeostasis notifies us that our bodies need sleep after being awake for an extended period. This system knows just how much sleep we need at night to carry us through the next day.
The sleep/wake system works in tandem with the circadian biological clock; its job is to regulate how tired or awake we feel throughout the day. When we don’t get enough sleep, those sleepy times can seem downright unbearable.
5 Jet Lag-Busting Tips
There’s a wide range of advice from seasoned travellers when addressing the subject of jet lag. Some lucky folks rarely struggle to stay awake. Most, however, have experienced jet lag’s annoying affects. Here are some tried-and-true tips that might just work for you:
- Plan Your Flight Accordingly: When booking a flight, pay close attention to your departure and landing times. Many frequent flyers opt to sleep on the plane, land first thing in the morning, and hit the ground running. Others opt to arrive in the evening, which allows them to get a full night’s sleep before taking on a new day. Whichever you choose, be sure to switch to local time the moment you land.
- Get Active: Consider planning morning activities outdoors to breathe in the air and soak up the sun. Take a walk on the beach or explore an interesting city. Morning activity is especially important during the first few days of a trip.
- Pencil In Rest Time: Plan relaxing activities in the afternoon; this is when your circadian clock alerts you that your body is sleepy. Relax by the pool, read a magazine, or take a bubble bath. Do your best to avoid napping, as your body will have even more difficulty adjusting.
- Customize Your Itinerary: If you’re traveling for business, try to schedule important meetings a day or two after arriving at your destination. If this isn’t possible, meet with colleagues or clients in the morning when you’re likely be more alert.
If traveling for pleasure, plan the activities you’re most looking forward to several days after landing. This will ensure that you’re focused on the activity and not the fact that you’re sleep-deprived.
- Returning Home: Switch to your local time after landing. Again, plan your flight to sync with your regular sleep schedule. If possible, plan a day or two of rest before returning to your busy schedule. Do your best not to snooze throughout the day, and be sure to reestablish a bedtime routine.
There’s no doubt that jet lag is annoying, but you can outsmart it by giving your body adequate rest.
Tip: Check out my article on the best travel pillows for long-haul flights!