When a time zone change scrambles your internal clock during a long flight, you are left to deal with the unpleasant aftereffects. Severe jet lag can be debilitating, and common symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and disorientation may hinder your ability to function at your best during a business trip. Taking a few precautions before, during and after you travel can help you reduce the effects of long-haul flying to a minimum and allow you to make the most of your trip. Here are five suggestions on how to conquer jet lag:
Before the flight
In the run-up to a long haul flight, it may be wise to gradually alter your sleeping routine. Performing minor alterations to your sleeping schedule each night should prepare your body to adjust to your new time zone and make the transition smoother after you arrived. Regular business travelers sometimes wear two watches – one set to home time, and one to destination time – to help prepare them for the coming change. Make sure you rest well before traveling, particularly if you are flying overnight, as this may help you stay awake until the following evening. Exercising before you depart may also help you get better quality sleep while in the air.
Up in the air
A plane’s constant low-level noise, recirculated air and cramped, uncomfortable environment inside a plane compound the effects of jet lag. The most effective measure you can take to combat this while on board is to eat well, remain hydrated and avoid alcohol consumption. Light has an enormous influence on your natural sleeping pattern, so eye shades and ear plugs can help you simulate the right sleeping environment while airborne.
On arrival, expose yourself to as much daylight as possible. Staying outside or keeping your curtains open during the day will help your body attune to the natural cycle of light. A minimum sleep of four hours, known as ‘anchor sleep’, on your first night is critical to achieving a speedy recovery. If possible, it may be preferable on short trips to plan your routine according to ‘home time’ to reduce disruption to your normal sleep cycle.
Although it varies greatly depending on the flexibility of your regular sleeping pattern, a good rule of thumb when estimating recovery times is to apply the one-to-one rule. This rule approximates that jet lag generally takes one day per time zone to fully adjust. For example, a journey from New York to London crosses five time zones, so a full recovery will usually take five days.