Don’t we all know the feeling of a jet lag? In most cases jet lags aren’t the most pleasant companions on our journeys, Yet for those who love to travel the world, jet lags are part of the game.
Nevertheless, there are tricks and tips to deal with them in a better way. Hintsa Performance, a global leader in high-performance coaching for top executives, business professionals and athletes, has created a signature model „The Circle of Better Life“, which helps you to cope with jet lags and other stress factors in your daily busy life.
I have learned about Hintsa a few years ago in Singapore, when F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton and I were filmed together for a campaign. The filming took place before the F1 Singapore night race and during the night – in order to keep aligned with Hamilton’s jet lag schedule. A jet lag schedule? „How cool is that, I thought.“ And just recently in Zürich I met Hintsa’s Coaching Director Tarja Mulari, a former Olympic Gold Medalist and 3 times world record holder in speed skiing.
She coaches entrepreneurs, professional athletes, CEOs, executives. Her speciality is Core mentoring, which includes fields such as finding your purpose, adjusting lifestyle habits, success and performance coaching.
Tarja, what happens to our body, when we experience the so called ‚jet lag‘?
We have two powerful factors which determinate our rhythm. They both influence our mind and body. The first factor is our body clock, located deep in our brain. The clock creates the day and night cycles. The second factor is a chemical substance that builds up in your brain and creates the sleep mode. As we travel through time zones, our rhythm can´t adjust or keep up with that speed. The result is that we feel tired during the day, because for our inner clock it´s actually night time and vice versa. This circadian rhythm coordinates or regulates a lot of other physiological things inside us, it´s like a leader of the orchestra – regulating your digestive system, body temperature, hormone production to name few. The whole body can be effected by the time zone change and jet lag. Typical symptoms are that one feels tired, anxious and hungry. A lack of energy occurs mostly.
Fortunately our body is a very clever system and this mismatched timing won´t last forever. But it´s a slow process – it takes about one hour per day to adjust to a new time zone. With jet lag planning and starting to adjust to new time zones prior to your travel you can speed the process a bit and make yourself feel better, perform better in your destination. This method is what we use at Hintsa Performance with our Formula 1 drivers for example.
Here are her tips:
Naps can be helpful and re-charging, if you feel very tired yet still have a day ahead of you. Rather have short naps around 20 minutes. This way you won’t fall into a deep sleep as waking up from deep sleep is difficult and you may feel even more dizzy.
2. Moderate Exercise
Doing some light exercise can be helpful after a long trip, as sitting for a long time often makes us feel inflexible. However, it’s key to avoid heavy or fast exercise on the first day as the body is still weak from the jet lag. You can return to normal exercise routines gradually as your body adjusts to the new time zone.
Caffeine can be used in small doses to help you stay awake until an appropriate bedtime, if needed. A good way to wake up from nap is to drink an espresso before the nap – it will help you to wake up when caffeine starts to do its job after about 30 minutes. However, aim to stop drinking caffeinated drinks at least 6 hours before your bedtime.
Drinking plenty of water when traveling is key. Why? The air which we breath in airplanes is much drier than the air we breathe on the ground. Also the barometric pressure of the cabin is adjusted to prevent altitude sickness, but you could still experience sleepiness or a headache. To prevent this its recommended to drink plenty of water.
5. Light Meals
Only have light meals while your inner clock is already or still sleeping. Your body needs to digest at its own time to work best.
Use Melatonin to fall asleep faster. Melatonin is a hormone which regulates your inner body clock. As such, it doesn’t make you fall asleep faster, but it’s like a messenger to your body that prompts you to go to bed.
7. Try to adapt yourself before the journey
When traveling east you want to advance your clock. For this purpose, avoid seeing bright light during the late evening and night time. Prioritise light exposure in the morning hours.This may require blocking bright light in the evenings for example with sunglasses and avoiding watching bright screens at that time.When traveling west, focus on seeing bright light during the evening and avoid seeing light for some hours in he morning.
8. Airplane Hacks
Sleep quality on the plane is generally always low. Try to be as well rested as you can be before getting on the plane to minimize the negative impact of poor sleep while traveling.
You can also start shifting your clock slightly (maximum 60 min per day) towards the destination time zone already a few days in advance.
Be prepared with helpful travel accessories and snacks
Improve your sleep quality on the plane by having comfortable clothing, eye masks, ear plugs or noise cancelling head phones, and compression socks.
You can also consider bringing some of your own healthy snacks with you so that you don’t have to wake up for airplane meals that are often served while you are sleeping.
9. Travel Smart
Organize your travels and try to combine trips in similar time zones.
Don’t adapt to new time zones during short stays.