Do you have a carry-on suitcase pre-packed with travel-size toiletries and your Bose noise-canceling headphones? Did you fork over the $85 to get permanent TSA pre-check status? If you refer to cities by their three-letter airport codes, then you are a serious business traveler.
And as any traveler knows, there is only one thing outside of flight delays and crying babies that can really cramp your style: jet lag.
Jet lag is a temporary condition caused by traveling across time zones. Jet lag sufferers compare the symptoms to a hangover. For those who experience symptoms, jet lag can cause fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, and mood swings. (You know if when you have it.) It can turn a usually congenial person into a real crab, and make your entire trip less productive than it could be.
I read a recent article in The New York Times that explained what happens in your brain when jet lag hits. Apparently, the cells that run your internal clock get scrambled by the different light signals the brain receives. The article cited scientists who proved that traveling west to east causes the worst jet lag.
However most business travelers cannot always journey west. So, here are five ways that you can outwit your internal clock and mitigate those jet lag symptoms:
Have a plan
Jet lag affects everyone differently. Only you know your unique symptoms, so whether it is moving mealtimes or taking a sleep aid to adjust to your new time zone, make a plan before your trip so you are ready. And if you are headed east, try waking up progressively earlier in the days before your trip to help your body adjust to the new time when you land.
Depending on what direction you are traveling, you need to quickly adjust to your new locale. Change your watch to the local time and go to sleep when the locals do. That may mean keeping yourself awake after crossing several time zones -- or going to bed when you feel wide awake. Be aware that too much alcohol or caffeine can disrupt your sleep patterns.
Probably the last thing you want to do when it is 3 a.m. "your time" is head to the gym. But exercise brings a boost of endorphins that can help you power through the rest of your day. Bonus: Physical activity also helps you sleep better. If you can, sneak in a morning walk to get some natural light, which will help your body adjust to the time difference.
The Argonne anti-jet lag diet is used by the CIA, Navy, and even the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The idea is that several days before your trip, you alternate days of eating very little with days of feasting. Or try simply not eating 12 to 16 hours before breakfast in the time zone where you will land. Researchers believe this short-term fast may reset your "master clock" and trigger your circadian clock to get in sync with the new time zone.
When you arrive at your destination, use your time wisely. While you want to allow a half-day for your body to acclimate before scheduling any important meetings, you will be less likely to succumb to jet lag if you have a full schedule of activities.
Staying busy throughout the day will help you fall asleep at a "normal time" when the day is over.U.S. workers logged 459 million trips in 2015. And chances are that many of those trips crossed time zones, leaving many travelers to contend with the effects of jet lag.
Luckily you can do something about it. Do not allow jet lag to be a destructive force that gets in the way of your success. Before your next trip, plan ahead so that you can sail through your trip unscathed -- then return home to get even more work done.
How do you fight off jet-lag?