Jet Lag, it's a term we hear a lot, but what exactly is it and how can travelers limit the impact that it's going to have once they have arrived at their new location? Here I will explain some of the strategies that the modern traveler can use to help limit the impact and jet ahead.
One of the key ingredients enabling athletes competing internationally to perform at their best is learning how to handle the traveling. This is also true for the corporate executive. If you are jumping off a plane and into board meetings where you are making important decisions or presenting to potential clients, then you want to be as alert as possible. Like sport, business performance is also measured by the end result!
Handling the impact of Jet lag is also important for maximizing holiday time. There is nothing worse than spending the first day at your chosen destination, groggy, with heavy legs. You don't have to lie down and take it - there are things you can do to limit the impact.
Let's take a look at what jet lag really is and why it can be so hard on travelers. Jet lag refers to the tired feeling experienced when traveling. There are two main culprits causing Jet Lag: Circadian Rhythm Disturbances and Travel Fatigue.
Circadian Rhythm Disturbances
In simple terms your body clock thinks that it is still at home and makes you feel tired at the usual time. The general rule of thumb is that it will take 1 day to adjust your body clock for every time zone change. So if you are moving 5 time zones then it's going to take 5 days to get your clock into sync and then another 5 days to get back into sync when you return. That's the reason why it is often easier to stay on your home time for sleep during short trips and schedule meetings at times of the day when you would normally be working at home.
The direction of travel also makes a difference. Circadian Rhythm Disturbances can be the hardest part of traveling when you travel eastwards (such as Sydney to LA) because getting up in LA is like getting up very early at home. However, just remember that if you travel west on a return ticket, heading home is going to be the tough part if you adjust to the new zone whilst away.
There are two options to help with adjusting when traveling east. Firstly, try to move your body clock forward a couple of hours, a few days prior to departure. Secondly, avoid scheduling meetings in the early morning on the first few days after arrival, as this will enable you to adjust without getting too tired. Additionally, getting some sunlight early in the day also helps stimulate your body clock.
Simply put, this is the actual fatigue you get with traveling. Think about your typical flight - the time spent traveling to the airport; waiting around to get on the plane; the actual flight; the collections of bags & getting into the taxi at the other end; and finally arriving at the hotel. When you look at the total amount of time and energy required (both mental and physical), it's not surprising that this can have quite an impact.
At flying altitudes there is less oxygen than at sea level and some people find that this makes them tired. The fitter you are the less of an impact this altitude has on you. Also because of the altitude, the air inside an aircraft is dry so it is easy to get dehydrated. To reduce your risk of dehydration, limit alcohol intake and be reasonable with your coffee consumption. Avoid caffeine late in the day, as this is likely to make it hard to get to sleep.
You are going to be limited in the amount of movement that you can have on a plane. I recommend that if possible you do some exercise prior to departure - if you have a very early morning flight then get some exercise the night before, even 10 minutes will do you some good. A little trick that top coaches have been known to use to ensure that athletes arrive fresh at the end of travel, is providing athletes with pocket video games. This works by maintaining reaction times, and usually if you get absorbed in a game there is also small muscle contractions (as you weave and/or dodge fire in the game).
One of the major problems with sitting still for such extended periods of time is the pooling of fluids in the legs. Try to move your muscles while seated. I use foot tapping, bum squeezes and arm extensions (like you're reaching out awaiting a hug). Many athletes are now taking to wearing pressure socks or stockings on long flights. These help to ensure they don't get that heavy leg feeling at the other end, they are discrete and work very well. Avoid crossing your legs. If the flight is more than 2 hours, try and get up and walk around - this helps to pump the fluid out of your legs. When you arrive at your final destination exercise can be a useful tool to help you keep awake and to shake the sluggishness of your travel.
So there you have it. Business or pleasure take control of jet lag and enjoy your travels.