You’ve got a two-day meeting in London, then a conference in Munich. You return to Australia with a stop off in Hong Kong.
It all sounds glamorous, but how will you cope with the jet lag?
There are ways to avoid jet lag or at least to minimize the jet lag nightmare.
A panel of GPs from It’s My Health offer the following advice:
1. Be well rested beforehand
Get enough sleep before you go. The idea that you can catch up on sleep on the plane sounds plausible but in reality doesn’t work. Starting the trip exhausted is only going to make the jet lag worse.
2. Schedule breaks
Recognise that flying east to west is better, from a jetlag point of view than flying west to east. This has to do with our normal body clock registering a normal day as slightly longer than 24 hours and so we are naturally more in synch with travel that sees us ‘gain time.’ Knowing this you can perhaps schedule more breaks for the higher risk journeys and perhaps be more aggressive with your jet lag prevention strategies.
3. Prepare ahead
If you are travelling to a destination with a very different time zone, try shifting your sleep/wake cycle at least a bit before you leave. For example if you travelling from Sydney to London, try going to sleep much later in the evenings (say 1am) for the few days before you leave.
4. Avoid alcohol
During the flight don’t use alcohol to help you sleep. While it is true a few glasses of wine will help you nod off, alcohol actually adversely affects your sleep cycle making it harder to get into a normal routine. That also applies for the few days after you land. Bottom line – limit or avoid alcohol.
5. Stay away from coffee
Similarly caffeine is a real disruptor of the normal sleep cycle. Best to stay away from the coffee, cola and caffeinated drinks for a few days before the trip, during the flight and the first couple of days after you land.
6. Snacking is good
Eat small, nutritious meals frequently. Digestion is linked to the sleep/wake cycle so eating large meals can interrupt the adjustment of your body clock to the new time zone.
7. Move to the new time zone
As soon as you board the plane, change you watch to the time zone of your destination and try and schedule your sleeping accordingly.
8. Do not disturb
As much as being sleepy during the daytime is a feature of jetlag, equally distressing is being awake during the night time. Recognise that you are much more easily woken when trying to sleep at the appropriate time in a different time zone, especially initially. Reduce the risk of disturbance – wear earplugs, use an eyemask, make sure you are as comfortable as possible in terms of bed, clothes and ambient temperature.
9. Welcome the natural light
Once you arrive at your destination – as soon as possible get into the sunshine (or in the case of London – daylight!). Natural light exposure will stimulate melatonin release and get your normal sleep/wake cycle in synch with the day/night cycle of the place you are visiting.
Hopefully you won’t need it but if you suffer badly from jet lag talk to your doctor about the possibility of getting some short-acting sleeping tablets or the more recently available melatonin which has the advantage of having less side effects than the other prescription sedatives.
If you do need to take medication, take it in conjunction with your normal sleep ritual once you are in the new time zone. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time, getting out into the natural light as soon as possible in the morning. If you do this you shouldn’t need medication beyond three nights.