How do business travelers deal with jet lag?

by Mark Miller June 09, 2016

How do business travelers deal with jet lag?

Light has a lot to do with jet lag. When going west get more sunlight in the morning and less later in the day. And do the opposite when going east. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Moise Nicu)

How do business travelers cope with jet lag? If their work requires that they meet with their customers or associates in situ, they have to fly more than most people.

The blog of Crew Inc. has a an analysis of what jet lag is and how to fight it. The writer asks the question: “Is it really such a bad thing to deal with jet lag as we slowly adjust to a new time zone?”

The answer? “Well, if you’re asking that question, you’ve never felt serious jet lag. Common symptoms involve fatigue, confusion and lack of awareness. Imagine those symptoms lasting for days as you grapple with the mental and emotional adjustment to your new surroundings.

Stress-inducer

The blog adds that studies have found that jet lag induces stress, reduces memory capacity and learning ability, throws off the normal rhythm of genes and reduces the growth of neurons in the brain. (I’ve never heard of the rhythm of genes. A quick Google search shows it has to do with the internal clock and circadian rhythms.)

The Crew blog and many other articles on the Web recommend adjusting your sleeping-waking schedule gradually before you depart on your trip.

But before we get into tips on how to prevent or reduce jet lag, what exactly is it?

It’s a sleep disorder. WebMd says jet lag happens to people who fly across two or more time zones. Obviously, the farther you fly, the more you’ll be affected. Also, going from west to east causes worse jet lag than flying from east to west.

WebMD states:

Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder, but not temporary enough for many travelers. If you’re flying from San Francisco to Rome for a 10-day trip, for example, it may take six to nine days to fully recover. That’s because it can take up to a day for each time zone crossed for your body to adjust to the local time. If you’re traveling east to west, from Rome to San Francisco, jet lag could last four to five days — about half the number of time zones crossed. Jet lag is generally worse when you “lose time” traveling west to east.

Older people may be more deeply affected by jet lag, the article states.

Why does jet lag happen?

People get jet lag because their biological clock or circadian rhythms get thrown off. Circadian rhythms help control when people fall asleep and wake up. The body takes cues for when to sleep from light and customary things like meals and social activities. Those cues become disrupted when you cross time zones. The body’s internal clock becomes desynchronized with the external time. It takes a while for the body to get into the rhythm of new time zones it enters.

Sleep expert Allison T. Siebern, PhD, told WebMD that other things are at work in jet lag that conspire to rob the body of its normal sleep patterns. People can become dehydrated and have the oxygen in their blood lowered by cabin pressurization. Also, people tend to sit without moving around for long periods when on airplanes.

“These can increase symptoms of jet lag and further disrupt your circadian rhythm from re-synchronizing,” Siebern told WebMD.

If the problem is very bad, WebMD even advises seeking the advice of a sleep therapist. They have ways to help the body adjust, including light therapy, medications and prescribing melatonin—a chemical produced in the body that aids in falling asleep.

How to cope with jet lag

It’s just about unanimous in articles on reducing jet lag that people adjust their sleep schedules before leaving. When going east, go to bed a half hour earlier every day for several night before departing, says WebMD. When going westward, go to bed a half hour later.

A psychological tip that Siebern recommends is to also adjust to the new schedule on the flight. Adjust your watch to the new time zone before you arrive. Try to sleep if it’s a night flight, but don’t force the issue. She says you can become frustrated, which interferes with sleep. If you can’t sleep, rest as much as you can, she advises.

Arrive early to be in top form

If you have a big, important meeting or event of some kind, try to schedule your flight so you arrive a few days before. That way you’ll have time to recover and be at your best.

Try doing static exercises and stretching on the flight. Also, WebMD advises you to get up and move around a lot.

As to whether you should take melatonin, a chemical produced in the body that induces sleep, studies have found mixed results with it. “Some research shows that it can reduce jet lag on flights both east and west, but other research has not shown a benefit,” WebMD states.

When going to the west, take bright sunshine in the morning, and avoid light exposure in the afternoon and evening. When going east, do the opposite—get little light in the morning and as much as you can around the late afternoon and early evening.

Wearing ear plugs and an eye mask, both on the flight and at the place you are visiting, may help you to sleep.

WebMD says some people who fly frequently advise eating heavily a few days before the flight and then fasting the day you fly. However, WebMD also states that no diets have been proven to be efficacious in preventing jet lag.

Siebern says to avoid eating heavy carbs or fatty foods near bedtime because they can disrupt sleep.

After you arrive, take a hot bath before bed to ease sore muscles and to possibly induce sleep by way of falling body temperatures.

For short trips

Crew has some sage advice for people who won’t be gone long:

If your trip is short and you’re not traveling over more than three time zones, you could be better off not adjusting at all. Jim Waterhouse, a professor of biological rhythms at Liverpool John Moores University often recommends staying on the same schedule you had at home rather than trying to adjust to local time if you’re not there for long. Three days or less, for instance, is barely enough time to adjust, so it may not be worth the effort. Waterhouse suggests keeping your watch set to the time at home and acting accordingly during your trip.

Mark Miller
Mark Miller


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.


Also in The Viter Energy Mints Blog

Is caffeine an appetite suppressant?
Is caffeine an appetite suppressant?

by Tina Sendin October 22, 2018

The holidays are upon us. It’s only October but with the rate this year has gotten to the tail-end, we’ll all be wearing our favorite sweatshirts (forcibly or otherwise) and devouring the holiday away in no time.

The forward-looking you will already be starting to watch that *extra holiday weight* before the holiday even starts.

But one step at a time, right? After all, there’s a few weeks left before the celebrations and holiday parties officially kick in.

If the java lover in you has ever been curious whether caffeine can help curb the appetite, now is the perfect time to find some answers.

The word on the street is that caffeine is one of the best appetite suppressants.

Spoiler alert: researches tell us the jury’s still out on this one. 

Read More
Caffeine sensitivity: all you need to know
Caffeine sensitivity: all you need to know

by Tina Sendin October 18, 2018

Have you been drinking coffee for years and starting to feel weird sensations after a cuppa? You’ve got to know something.

If you suddenly find yourself going through unusual post-caffeine effects such as anxiety, headache, faster heartbeat and tremors, you may be experiencing a shift in how your body metabolizes caffeine.

Two words: caffeine sensitivity.

Caffeine sensitivity is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes, it’s all a matter of our body adapting to caffeine in our system.

However, if all of a sudden you start to feel things that didn’t use to happen after having your caffeine fix, then it’s time to watch that caffeine intake!

Read More
8 ways caffeine affects your concentration and mental performance
8 ways caffeine affects your concentration and mental performance

by Tina Sendin October 15, 2018

What if I tell you that aside from perking you up, caffeine can also help you concentrate and become more productive?

If, during mind-numbing, brain-wracking moments, you want to feel like Popeye going for a whole can of spinach, just reach out for the coffee-maker and you’re likely to feel the same! (For the best java experience, know when’s the best time to drink your coffee here.)

Caffeine can also help you absorb information and remember them more efficiently.

Yep! Our favorite stimulant can boost mental performance in more ways than one. Have a cuppa and you’ll find yourself retaining more information from classes and business meetings, kill it in planning and problem-solving, and finish those day-to-day tasks efficiently.

Without further ado, here are 8 ways caffeine can help us take a step closer to becoming Einstein-genius:

Read More