But business travelers crossing time zones often must accomplish these tasks in what essentially feels like the middle of the night for them. It’s a brutal fact of life for globe-trotting professionals, who often don’t even have a full day to adjust before heading to work
Luckily, there are ways to combat the brain-fogging exhaustion that accompanies jet lag, so you can work effectively wherever you’ve traveled.
“If you can, plan for the time change for trips by getting up and going to bed earlier several days prior to an eastward trip and later for a westward trip,” says Natalie D. Dautovich, Ph.D., environmental scholar at the National Sleep Foundation and assistant professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Set your time zone
For short trips, consider sticking to your usual home sleep schedule if that’s possible, advises Dautovich. For trips lasting three days or longer, set your watch, computer, Kindle, tablet or other electronics to your destination time at the outset. “This will serve as a strong cue for the time change,” says Dautovich.
Seek the sunlight
Travel is exhausting. The best way to reset is to arrive at your destination around bedtime. This way, no matter what time it is where you were, it is definitely bedtime where you are. “Try to arrive in the early evening and stay awake until 10 p.m. local time,” advises Dautovich.
Once it’s daytime, “optimize your light exposure to help adjust your body clock,” she advises. For trips east, seek out bright light in the early morning hours and avoid bright light at night. When you go west, get light in the evening hours and avoid bright light in the morning, she adds.
Exercise early in the day
Your workout routine can help ease the transition. If your body thinks it’s the middle of the night when you wake up, train it not to. FIght the fatigue and go for a morning run in the sun to jump start your body’s adjustment to the new time zone. Just don’t exercise too late in the day, which could make it harder to fall asleep at bedtime.
Avoid these drinks
Yes, it feels counterintuitive: Coffee, tea and sodas might help keep you awake, but they also dehydrate you and make it harder to fall asleep when you need to. Avoid caffeine altogether and you will be less tired in the long run.
As for alcohol? A nightcap might seem like it could help put you to sleep (hence the name), but booze dehydrates. And dehydration is a major contributor to jet leg. Until you’ve adjusted to the new time zone, opt for good old-fashioned water instead.
Many times the effects of jet lag cause travelers to wake up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., ready to start their day. Blot out hotel noises and lights with comfy ear plugs and eye masks, so you can avoid those unwanted too-early mornings.