Travelling to new places can be interesting and exciting. However, the excitement of holidays can be dulled by jet lag. If you’re travelling for business, overcoming jet lag can be even harder as you often need to arrive at your destination ready to work.
Your body’s 24 hour cycle, or circadian rhythm, relies on many external triggers. These triggers, called zeitgebers, include light, temperature, social interactions, exercise, eating and drinking. Many of these cues are disrupted when travelling to a different time zone. Jet lag occurs when your circadian rhythm is no longer in sync with your external environment.
Using knowledge of zeitgebers, you can use natural methods to support recovery from jet lag to help you enjoy your travels as much as possible.
Use light cues
If you arrive at your destination when it’s night time; while you are travelling, try to stay in the dark to induce a feeling of sleepiness and avoid the blue light from electronic devices. If you arrive in the morning, try to maximise your exposure to natural, bright light.
Get optimal amounts of sleep
Leading up to your travel date, ensure you get some good quality sleep. If you’re already exhausted when you travel, jet lag will be harder to deal with. If you feel like you need to sleep on a long haul flight, do so.
Take advantage of fans and air conditioning
Lower external temperatures lower your body’s core temperature, signalling that it’s time for sleep. So, if you arrive leading up to bedtime, set the temperature of your room to be a little cooler than normal to help you to drift off.
Get active & social
Social interaction stimulates wakefulness. So, if you arrive in the morning, why not get out and explore the locality! Exercising during the day will also help you to feel awake. If you’re on a busy business trip however, this may mean paying a quick trip to the hotel gym before your meetings.
Eat meals at local times
Enjoy the local cuisine, and enjoy it at the times that the locals do. Try altering your normal eating pattern up to three days before travelling to help your body acclimatise. Beware that aeroplane meals are often served at ‘home’ time and this can sabotage your efforts to reset your bodyclock. Focus on meals with protein to stay awake (a protein-based breakfast is great for your health anyway!) and choose meals with carbohydrates to help you fall asleep.