We all know the feeling. When travelling through time zones we may feel slightly off. Or we may feel really bad: Insomnia, fatigue, headaches and even digestive disorders are some of the very unpleasant side effects of travel that has become all too fast thanks to aviation technology. This is due to our inner clock being out of synch with the environment. But there are different methods, behaviours and mobile therapeutic solutions to prevent jet lag.
Jet lag may be ok after a vacation…
When returning from a long vacation it may just be ok for us to feel weird or a little bit terrible. Just like the hang-over after a party is acceptable, we know that the great vacation we just had, will cause us a little discomfort in the aftermath. We may conclude that it is a small price to pay for the awesome time we spent sipping a coconut drink in a remote location.
…but for sure not after business trip
But when we travel due to business, going to conferences, international meetings, visiting associates abroad or implementing projects, things are quite different: When have not experienced recreation and relaxation but have actually worked quite hard and the performance at the office the next day should be impeccable, jet lag turns into a real problem. For those who cannot cope with jet lag as well as others (this is by no means a weakness, but a matter of physiological differences) concentration, focus and social skills are impaired by the impact of jet lag.
Implications for private life
For those who frequently travel professionally, jet lag is a real problem that extends from the working place deep into the private space. As if our families weren’t troubled enough by us being abroad a lot, right? They also have to put up with us being moody, exhausted and not being able to be available even though we have returned from our business trip. And it may take up to five or six days for your body to adjust to the new time. Hopefully that is not when your next business trip is due…
Understanding jet lag: The internal clock
Although we all know the feeling of jet lag, only few understand the physiological processes that cause it. Jet lag is more than just adapting to a different time and not being tired in the evening an in turn feeling terrible in the morning. Dr. Charles Czeisler, who is the director of the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, states that, in a nutshell, jet lag is a misalignment between the external environment and the internal clock in the brain that controls our ability to perform, to be alert, and sleep. Our circadian rhythm is controlled by our internal clock that has synched itself to day and nighttime like all living things on our planet. This internal clock is composed of about 20.000 neurons just above the optic nerve.
Preventing jet lag
Try to adjust to the new time zone in advance. Move the times of your meals and your bedtime closer to the destination you will be at. This way, the subjective time difference is reduced.
Drink a lot of water. No, not alcohol or coffee, but water or juice without sugar.
Don’t go to bed when you are tired. Go to bed when appropriate in your new time zone. The sooner you start adapting the better.
Use the natural power of the sun to adapt. Get out into the morning sun when getting up tired. If that isn’t possible, take a sunlight device with blue light with you. 20 minutes of mobile blue light therapy will cause your system to react as if it was a bright morning, “thinking” it is well rested.