When travelling for business, we often accept that this means we’ll suffer through jet lag and exhaustion for the entire trip. A lack of sleep from a change in time zone can affect your performance, but it doesn’t have to be that way. From preparing for your flight by making it as comfortable as possible, to sleeping throughout your flight and adjusting your body clock through diet, there are many things you can do to help get a good night’s sleep while travelling for business.
What poor sleep does to your body
A study of travellers taking trips that crossed more than two times zones revealed that a few hours of lost sleep combined with business travel significantly reduced their performance. This is because flying across time zones changes your circadian rhythm, the thing that greatly influences when we sleep. By exposing yourself to light during the waking hours of your destination, and avoiding bright light during dark hours, it’s possible to reset your body clock and adapt quickly to time zone changes. The following are some tips on how to do this while travelling.
1. Book a good seat
If you’re on an overnight flight and will be arriving in the morning at your destination, sleeping on the plane can help prevent jet lag. However, it’s harder to sleep in some parts of the planes than others. A seat directly next to the toilet means constant disruption from other passengers cueing up in front of you. If you can’t travel business or first class, look for the premium economy seats usually found in the bulkhead row. It might also be helpful to sit on the same side of the plane you normally sleep in your bed at home and be on the window so you can rest against the plane wall.
2. Dress appropriately
Travelling in comfort is key to being able to sleep on the plane. It’s important to wear loose fitting clothing so you can get comfortable, but remember to also wear compression socks to help prevent deep vein thrombosis. Taking your shoes off or loosening your laces can also help you get more comfortable. It’s also a good idea to bring a jacket or your own blanket as the temperature on planes can often be very low, especially on overnight flights.
3. Keep your seat belt buckled and visible
Keeping your seat belt fastened will not only ensure you are safe while you’re sleeping on the plane, but will also stop the cabin crew from waking you. It’s the job of the crew to keep you safe, and if you aren’t wearing your seatbelt because you find it uncomfortable, you’re likely to be woken up and told to fasten it, interrupting your sleep.
4. Turn off screens
Artificial light from your headrest screen and mobile or tablet devices can worsen the quality of your sleep by keeping your brain awake. If you want to get a good sleep, avoid spending the first hour or so of your flight watching television or using your devices – your brain will be able to shut down more easily and allow you to fall asleep faster.
5. Pack sleep essentials in your carry on baggage
Eye masks and earplugs take up minimal room in your bag and are perfect for blocking out the light from other television screens and the noise of loud passengers. You should also consider bringing your own C-shaped travel pillow for head and neck support. If you find yourself in a middle or aisle seat, a pillow will help you get more comfortable.
6. Avoid napping when you land
To avoid jet lag it’s important to stay awake until the bedtime of your destination. Try doing some work or exercising in the hotel gym to keep yourself awake until night time. A quick afternoon nap when you land will do you more harm than good.
7. Request a good hotel room
Hotels are often willing to accommodate your needs. When you check in, ask whether it’s possible to get a room away from noise disturbances coming from things like ballrooms, nightclubs, bars and restaurants. A quiet night will certainly improve the quality of your first night, and don’t forget to change any alarms you have on your phone so you’re not woken up at odd hours.
Note: for short trips (less than 48 hours) it’s best to stay on home time rather than attempting to adjust to the new time zone. This will make it easier to work back into your routine when you return home.
The importance of diet
Studies have shown that the body’s natural circadian rhythm is attune to both light and food, meaning that what you eat plays an important role in preventing jet lag. As well as shifting your sleeping time to match your destination, you should shift your meal times too. While sleeping on your overnight plane you should also be fasting and not eating until the breakfast time of your destination. This will help your body quickly adjust when you land, preventing the onset of jet lag. Try to avoid eating heavy meals that are high in fat, and opt for lighter, protein rich meals.
It’s important to also keep hydrated while travelling. A dehydrated body is counterproductive to sleep as it causes symptoms such as sweating, headaches and even nightmares, which will make you feel worse when you wake up. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks work to dehydrate your body, so try and avoid these type of drinks as much as possible. If you do choose to drink alcohol, make sure to drink one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you consume.
Fight jet lag on your next trip
When travelling for business you want to be as productive as possible, which means not being tired. Following these sleeping tips can go a long way to helping you prevent jet lag on your next trip, so start planning now.