Working through the jet lag

Thursday 17th July

As you probably know, jet lag is caused by moving time zones. The more time zones you cross, the worse it can be. The problem is that it affects your circadian rhythm - the process that controls your body's functions. This in turn can impact your sleep, digestion and body temperature.

When you’re going on holiday, this can be an annoyance, but you usually have time to recover. On a business trip, you often don’t have that luxury, and feeling jet lagged can affect your performance. Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce the effects of jet lag and help you give your best.

1. Change your routine. If you can, change your routine in the run up to your trip to better sync with your destination. If you’re travelling east, start getting up and going to bed earlier. If you’re going west, go to bed and get up later. Once you’re on the plane, eat and sleep according to your destination. This means your body will already be beginning to function in the time zone you are visiting.

2. Well rested. Before you go, try and top up on your sleep and make sure you’re fully rested.

3. Anchor sleep. “Anchor sleep” is a four-hour block of sleep during the local nighttime. Try to get at least this amount. In a 24-hour period, try to get as much sleep as you usually would back at home.

4. See the sun. Natural daylight and darkness are some of the most important factors in setting your internal body clock. During the day, try and get some exposure to daylight, to let your body know it’s time to wake up.

5. Short trip solution. For trips of four days or less, it may be worth trying to stay on your home time instead of resetting your internal clock for a short period. This may not be possible depending on your schedule, but if you can retain your usual sleeping patterns, when you arrive home you may find adjusting back much easier.

Jet lag is an inevitable part of long distance travel. But you can minimise its effect on your working day and make sure you stay on top of your game.

Useful links

This article has been brought to you using public health information freely available online (click on links in the article for more information). benenden health has not provided any direct medical advice within this article. Please consult the sources provided if you would like further information or support.

Suggested reading

Travel health myths

Sleep myths

How to get a good night sleep

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