TravelTrix – Six traveler tested aids for Jet Lag Jitters

Jet Lag Jitters is what I call that period, usually the second or third day in a foreign time zone, when your mouth and brain become disconnected, when it takes a few minutes to realize the TV newscaster isn’t speaking your language and when you can’t find the bathroom… in your own house.  This blog represents six things I’ve used to fight the challenges of Jet Lag Jitters.  I hope they help you.

Disclaimer: This isn’t medical advice nor is this scientific research.  These are simply things that have worked for me and friends who have spent as much time as I have crossing multiple oceans and continents. 

I’ve done a lot of global travel with the highest levels being 2007-2012 when I spent over 60% of my time away from home in each year with the highest being 80% in 2007.  I’m not unique by any means.  As companies flatten their organizations to be more efficient, managers typically get additional responsibilities, which often results in managing global teams, customers and clients.

Even in small and medium business, global business requires overseas travel in order to develop relationships with buyers and suppliers.  Although we have technologies, like Skype and FaceTime, building strong business relationships requires real face time.  Given jet lag continues to be an unresolved problem for many people; I thought I’d share things that have worked for me in hopes that one or more will help you.  My tips:

Sleep before you leave – Jet lag is mostly about being tired from not sleeping the first few nights you’re in a new time zone.  It’s worse when you’re on the other side of the globe where there is a high percentage of overlap between your regular sleep time and local work time.  The most logical remedy I’ve heard and used is to just rest a lot before you fly.  This isn’t always possible but I find when I do this I’m much better off. 

Workout – Fitness has gained popularity in general and among business people specifically.  As a result, most business-oriented hotels have a gym or association with a gym, especially in Asia.  I find that even as little as 15 minutes of aerobic exercise in the morning and in the late afternoon, before dinners, keep away the jet lag jitters.  A walk doesn’t work for me.  If I don’t do something that requires a shower to avoid offending people, it doesn’t help me with jet lag.  Why it works?  For me the workout is just a change of pace.  Human beings perform better when they have varied activities and working out is just the way for me to put variation in the day.

Eat light – Most people think that eating makes you sleepy but it turns out that isn’t true.  (I’ll talk about afternoon sleepiness separately.)  For me it’s about comfort and oxygen.  The reason eating light works for me is simply that it keeps my pants from getting too tight to breathe right.   More oxygen means less sleepiness.

Sleep Medications – Another disclaimer.  Talk to your doctor before using any sleep medication including OTC stuff.  Every person is different and your doctor is the best equipped to advise you.  That said, for me, the quicker I can get on the sleep times for the country I’m visiting, the quicker I get over jet lag.  If I can’t fall asleep by 1:00am I’ll take medications, prescribed by my doctor, to help me get to sleep the first two nights in a new time zone.  Why 1am?  Because for me, I’ve learned that it takes about 5 hours for the medicine to stop working so if past 1am I might sleep through my alarm.  Your metabolism might be different so please talk to your doctor.

Combine trips – This is not for everyone.  When I first got global responsibilities and knew that I was going to spend at least two weeks a month somewhere other than home, I decided to do 2-3 contiguous weeks rather than going out every other week.  Yes, I missed my wife and two kids, but many of us, men and women, don’t have a choice in our jobs.  Knowing it was a job requirement, being gone for two weeks straight was better for me, and my family, than having me permanently jet lagged.  This is where technology paid off.  I did video chats with the family, via Instant Messenger and Skype, every night.  We played games online and on weekends, those chats would sometimes last 2-3 hours. 

Naps – There is research that says your body needs naps whether you’re traveling or not.  Famous people like Einstein, Churchill, Thatcher, Brahms, Clinton and Reagan all took daily naps.  Studies say your hippocampus tells you to nap.  I say, it just works.  How long?  You have to find what works for you, but for me it was 30 minutes.  Less than that and I woke up groggy and couldn’t concentrate so I wouldn’t nap if I knew I didn’t have at least 30 minutes.  Why does it work?  Read the hundreds of studies or just try it.

Again, I’m not a doctor so this is not medical advice.  This is simply what works for a person who has spent over half his life crossing oceans and continents with the requirement that I be alert in whatever time zone I was visiting.  I hope these observations help you.

©2013 Rick Wong – The Five Abilities, LLC


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