14 practical tips on dealing with jetlag

surviving business travel

It has been two weeks since I came back from an intercontinental trip, and for the first time in 34 years I have been able to really feel how my body and brain re-adjusted; the brain fog, bloating, irritability…

My job required regular travel, from domestic to 30+ hour intercontinental trips, with double digit time zone differences. The body adjusts 1-2 hours every day, so dealing time difference of 8 hours quickly translates into a work week. These are my tips on how to deal with long distance travel and help you feel human faster:

Before travelling:

  • Most people find that travelling westwards, so having a longer day or night, is easier on the body than travelling eastwards, where you skip (part of) the day or night. Keep that in mind when choosing travel dates, arriving at the start of the weekend when travelling eastwards, and have a bit more time to adjust will make it easier.
  • Have a good couple of nights sleep before travelling, a rested body is much better able to deal with the stress. Forget about trying to get into the new time zone!
  • Pack earplugs and eye mask in your hand luggage. Add socks or slippers, and a blow up camping pillow if you find (like me) that the airline pillows are too flat for you.
  • For travelling dress comfortably and in layers. Use non-crease trousers or leggings, with a loose non-crease top. A pashmina doubles wonderful as a blanket. It is much easier to change into your business suit when you arrive on the other side.

While travelling:

  • Window seats, premium economy or business class all allow you (a bit) more space to really relax.
  • Enjoy a glass of wine or bubbly if you want to, but make sure you drink plenty, plenty of water.
  • Take off your shoes, and put on some comfortable socks or slippers (I find slippers an easier way of dealing with airline toilets…)
  • Resist the temptation to enjoy all the food on offer, just have a light meal.
  • Resist the urge to work on the plane, besides, you never know who is looking over your shoulder to read what you are working on. Believe me, that person next to you may actually be working for the competition!
  • Put your seat back, earplugs in, eye mask on, and take a melatonin tablet to help you sleep or at least snooze. Avoid sleeping tablets, as they will knock you out and you will not be able to respond in an emergency or flight change.

After arriving at your destination:

  • If you arrive during daylight hours, go outside and take a walk. Daylight is the best to help your body adjust to the new timezone. If you arrive at night, go to bed. Force yourself to acknowledge the new time zone.
  • Relax your legs by laying on your back on the floor or on the bed, if needed with a pillow under your bum, and your legs vertically up against the wall for at least 5 minutes. It honestly does wonders!
  • Take a melatonin tablet just before you tuck into bed, and set the alarm for somewhere between 6:30 and 8 am. Try and get up earlier each day, until you are back to normal wake up time.
  • Have a big glass of water as you wake up, and I like to take a berocca multi vitamin tablet with that.

Keep on forcing yourself to go to sleep at your normal bed time and wake up at your normal time. If you do need to nap during the day, set your alarm clock for either a 20 or 90 minute nap. Any other lengths will leave you feeling groggy for the rest of the day. For the science of sleep, go and read “Why we sleep” by Matthew Walker.

https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Why-We-Sleep/Matthew-Walker/9781501144325

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