Let's just state it right off the top: jet lag is awful. This common travel affliction can cause physical and mental fatigue, making it hard to stay focused and productive. When you need to take care of business, it's vital to stay mentally and physically optimal while on the road.
I've traveled more than 400,000 miles in the last two years, and have done a great deal of research to help me hack jet lag and stave off its productivity draining effects. Here are seven scientifically proven ways to beat jet lag, so you can stay happy, healthy, and productive while traveling.
1. Use melatonin
Melatonin helps me sleep on the flight, and the first night (or two) at your destination. I take mine one hour before I want to fall asleep. Speak to your physician for their recommendation.
2. Don't sleep in
Resist the urge to sleep late the morning after you arrive. Instead, aim to get up no later than 9:00 a.m. local time. The goal is to get off your regular circadian rhythm and get in sync with the local rhythm as soon as possible. Waking up early also helps you fall asleep on local time that next night. If you do this, you should wake up the second day fully acclimated.
3. Tune out sensory distractions
The buzz of other travelers, airplane engines, and the visual stimulus of lights can make sleeping while traveling near impossible. I keep an eye mask and earplugs handy to reduce the impact of light and noise pollution while trying to sleep, especially on planes.
4. Avoid white and blue light before you go to bed
The backlight displays on our laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices prevent the production of natural melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep. If you must work before bed, download the f.lux app to your computer or Android phone, or use of the Night Shift feature on iOS devices.
5. Don't drink alcohol
A night cap might sound relaxing, but research indicates that alcohol can have a negative impact on your quality of sleep. Don't fall into the trap of drinking before bed.
6. Skip the coffee
You may feel like you're dragging in the middle of the day; however, caffeine has a six-hour half-life, which means that afternoon cup could keep you from falling asleep. Researchers suggest avoiding coffee after 2:00 p.m., or at least six hours before bedtime.
7. Stay hydrated
Dehydration can worsen the effects of jet lag, so drink plenty of water before, during and after your flight. Bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up once you get through security. Resist the temptation to drink coffee or alcohol, because both can contribute to dehydration, and can disrupt your sleep.
Note that most of the tips on the list are related to getting a good night's sleep. That's because jet lag is an interruption in your circadian rhythm. Managing and adapting your sleep patterns are crucial to reducing the impact of jet lag on your productivity while traveling. The other tips will help prevent or alleviate the other causes of jet lag - helping you have a healthy and productive trip.