Jet lag is a common challenge faced by most business travellers. Its detrimental effects on work productivity are well known.
It can leave you feeling like a zombie, struggling to stay awake during important meetings, and generally not feeling like yourself.
In this article, we’ll explore jetlag and provide some strategies for beating it so that you can feel alert and productive during your business trips.
What is Jetlag?
Jetlag is a temporary sleep disorder that occurs when you travel across multiple time zones.
It happens because your body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, gets thrown off balance. The proper functioning of your sleep-wake cycle, hormone production, and general bodily activities rely on the regulation of your circadian rhythm.
The effects of jetlag present themselves as unique to each person. Signs may include exhaustion, poor sleep patterns along with headaches, and stomach upset.
Business travellers may find these symptoms particularly challenging as they strive to remain alert and productive throughout their journeys.
So, how can you beat jetlag?
1. Adjusting sleep schedule before the trip
As a frequent business traveller, you are well aware of the importance of being productive during your trips. Assisting your body in promptly acclimating to the new time zone is highly critical. One potential method is adjusting your sleep routine in advance of your travels.
Altering sleeping routines poses its own set of challenges for many people who follow strict schedules regularly. Changing behaviour patterns temporarily demands extra effort. But try it, especially if you suffer from severe jetlag.
If you’re travelling east, try going to bed and waking up earlier than usual, a few days before your trip. This can help your body get used to the new time zone before leaving. And if you’re travelling west, do the opposite. Try going to bed and waking up later than usual.
2. Staying hydrated
You may not know this yet, but hydrating oneself is highly crucial to minimising the effects of jetlag.
If you are dehydrated, it’ll only exacerbate the condition. Don’t forget to drink lots of water before boarding your flight and throughout your journey.
“Drink water? That’s common knowledge.” However, let me elaborate. It’s natural to fail to keep yourself adequately hydrated during travel due to the many distractions you may get and a busy schedule.
Staying hydrated can help you feel more alert and awake.
The amount of water one should consume is contingent upon a couple of essential factors, including individual body type as well as how much you are sweating.
Staying hydrated by consuming plenty of water before takeoff, whilst on board the plane, and after landing can play a key role in reducing the adverse effects caused by jetlag when travelling for business purposes.
3. Getting natural light exposure
That’s right, getting outside and soaking up some rays can help reset your circadian rhythm and minimise the symptoms of jetlag.
There may be times when you feel like saying,” My schedule is already packed with work. Going outside isn’t worth my time.” It’s certainly an understandable viewpoint. But remember, briefly exposing yourself to sunlight can help make a massive difference in how you feel.
Of course, getting natural light exposure can be easier said than done, especially if you’re travelling to a place with limited sunlight or stuck in meetings all day. But you can do a few things to increase your exposure to natural light. For example, try to sit near a window during your flight or take a walk outside during your lunch break. Even a few minutes of natural light exposure can make a difference.
4. Try exercising
One useful strategy for minimising the adverse impacts of jetlag is engaging in physical activity that gets your heart pumping and causes you to perspire.
Making time for regular physical activity can lead to a number of benefits, including increased happiness and sustained energy levels. Endorphin production is stimulated through physical exercise, which leads to better moods, and positively impacts sleep patterns over time.
Given your tight schedule, squeezing in exercise sessions at the gym or jogging or running might not be possible. But there are plenty of other ways to sneak in some exercise. For example, you can stretch in your hotel room or walk briskly during your lunch break.
Of course, each person has their own preferences. So exploring various forms of exercise can lead to discovering the one that works for you. But the key is to start moving your body as soon as possible after your flight. Even a short burst of activity can help fight the symptoms of jetlag.
5. Taking short naps
Taking a short nap can be a game-changer. Studies have indicated that napping may boost cognitive ability, memory recall, and emotional state.  Therefore incorporating naps can effectively assist in reducing the impacts of jetlag.
If you’re travelling for business, you may not have the luxury of a long rest.
But even a short rest can help you feel more alert and focused. Aim for a nap of 20-30 minutes, which is long enough to give you a boost without leaving you feeling groggy.
Napping can pose some challenges, particularly if the surroundings are not conducive to relaxation, especially if there is much noise.
You may enhance the likelihood of enjoying a restorative nap even in an environment that is not conducive by implementing certain practices.
For example, try to find a quiet and dark place to nap, use earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones, and consider bringing a travel pillow or eye mask to help you get more comfortable.
Tips for Sleeping on a Plane
How can you help yourself sleep better on the plane?
- Bringing a neck pillow is a great start, as it can help you get more comfortable and hopefully fall asleep more easily.
- Wearing comfortable clothing is also essential, as tight or restrictive clothing can make sleeping harder.
- Should you encounter difficulty falling asleep, consider avoiding the consumption of caffeine and alcohol. These two agents have been associated with disrupting sleep patterns and hindering your ability to adjust to a different time zone.
Adjusting to the New Time Zone
Here are some ways that can help you adjust:
- Getting some natural light exposure and resetting your circadian rhythm can be achieved while enjoying the outdoors and exploring.
- Adhering to the typical meal hours of the country you are visiting has potential benefits, as it helps synchronise your biological clock more quickly.
- When travelling to a new time zone, indulging in a lengthy nap upon arrival can be tempting. While short naps can help with your adjustment, prolonged napping can actually hinder it. So if you need to nap, do a short one instead.
Beating jetlag is about helping your body adjust to the new time zone as quickly as possible.
By adjusting your sleep schedule, staying hydrated, getting some natural light exposure, and trying other strategies like exercise, you can minimise the symptoms of jetlag and feel more alert and productive during your business trip.
With these strategies in your arsenal, you can conquer jetlag like a pro and enjoy your business trips.
 Ruth L F Leong and others, Influence of mid-afternoon nap duration and sleep parameters on memory encoding, mood, processing speed, and vigilance, Sleep, Volume 46, Issue 4, April 2023, zsad025, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/zsad025.
 Li, J., Cacchione, P.Z., Hodgson, N., Riegel, B., Keenan, B.T., Scharf, M.T., Richards, K.C. and Gooneratne, N.S. (2016). Afternoon Napping and Cognition in Chinese Older Adults: Findings from the China Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study Baseline Assessment. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 65(2), pp.373–380. doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.14368.