Tips and Tricks for Combating Jet Lag and Business Travel Fatigue
Jet Lag and Travel Fatigue
The team behind Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D., founder of TheSleepDoctor.com, recently released a survey titled “How Many of Us Really Get Travel Fatigue?” Results indicate that business travelers are more prone to experience travel fatigue, or “the exhaustion brought on by the stresses of traveling itself,” than those who don’t travel for business, and symptoms of travel fatigue can be difficult to shake.
Travel fatigue and jet lag are unfortunate realities of business travel—and travel in general—and while there is no magical solution to avoiding these sleeping problems, the following techniques and practices can help make them more manageable.
Prepare Ahead of Time
One of the most helpful ways to prevent travel fatigue and jet lag is to prepare ahead of time and take a pre-emptive approach, Breus said.
“Be prepared, because those who do not prepare suffer the worst.”
Before traveling for business, consider changing your sleep schedule to be a few hours closer to the time you’d ideally like to be asleep in your arrival destination and give your body a head start at adapting. If you will be traveling east, going to bed sooner than usual can help, whereas those traveling west should try to stay up one to two hours later depending on where they’re going.
“Buy the Timeshifter app and start on a pre-flight jetlag plan; that is what I do. It is the best one in the market by far,” Breus said. “Get good sleep before you travel, too, so you are not starting at a deficit. Also, hydrate and avoid alcohol.”
Timeshifter, “the jet lag app,” is the world’s highest-rated and most-downloaded jet lag app, according to the Timeshifter website, and uses advanced science to help travelers adjust their sleeping habits and routines. The app considers an individual’s biological time to deliver advice specific to each user, helps with pre-travel sleep adjustment and offers a Quick Turnaround feature for business travelers specifically looking for help keeping their sleep on track during short business trips. It also features a Practicality Filter for applying advice to the “real world” and can create a jet-lag plan in less than a minute when users provide their flight information.
[Related: Dear Ashley: 8 Apps I Live By When Traveling and Planning Around The World]
Increase Light Exposure
While on the road, it’s important to follow the sleep and waking routines of your destination, especially if you are traveling somewhere more than three hours different than the time zone you’re used to.
Both TheSleepDoctor.com and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend getting as much light exposure as possible during your destination’s daytime hours as it helps reduce the incidence of jet lag, daytime sleepiness and insomnia during travel.
Similar to adjusting your sleep schedule based on the direction you travel, the same goes for light exposure. If you’re traveling east, light exposure during mid- to late morning is most helpful, while exposure in the late afternoon or early evening is best when traveling west, according to TheSleepDoctor.com and CDC.
Take Naps and Use Caffeine Wisely
Caffeine is helpful for staying awake during the day and promoting alertness, but you should avoid it once early evening comes around as the effects of caffeine can last for up to eight hours. If you are sleepy during the day, taking short naps of no more than 15-20 minutes can be a helpful way to reboot and increase your energy levels.
Movement is also key in staying awake and alert, especially during airplane travel. Getting up from your seat and moving around on longer flights can help you feel refreshed and more awake when you arrive at your destination, and if you are taking a redeye, take the opportunity to sleep while you are in the air. This is where airplane pillows, eye masks, ear plugs and even supplements like melatonin come in handy.
Melatonin supplements are helpful in supporting the body’s natural process for falling asleep, according to TheSleepDoctor.com, and can be especially beneficial when traveling eastward and taken around the destination’s dusk time.
Post-travel, TheSleepDoctor.com advises the best way to overcome travel fatigue and jet lag is to get as much rest as possible until you are back on your typical sleeping routine.
But, as Dr. Breus says, being prepared ahead of time is the best thing you can do to take care of you.
More Quick Tips for Fighting Travel Fatigue
In addition to the above advice, Dr. Breus recommends the following checklist for fighting travel fatigue and jet lag during your next business trip:
- Avoid alcohol
- Use caffeine appropriately
- Nap at the right times
- Get daily sunlight
- Stay active
- Consider using Melatonin (at the right time)
- Have a pre-flight plan
- Get 7+ hours of good-quality sleep for 3 days before travel
Source: Dr. Michael Breus, Ph.D., and founder of TheSleepDoctor.com
Symptoms of Jet Lag
Think you might have jet lag? According to TheSleepDoctor.com, symptoms of jet lag include:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night in the arrival destination
- Drowsiness during daytime hours
- Decrease in total amount of sleep
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Problems with memory and concentration
Symptoms decrease over time, typically after one to two days, and depend on how many time zones an individual has traveled. Jet lag is also related to the direction of travel, as traveling east involves waking up and going to sleep earlier, which for most is more difficult than traveling west.