In the high performance sporting world, seeking out an expert performer generally means going to an experienced practitioner. So who better to get some tips on managing jet lag and time differences than a flight attendant. Flight attendants can move through time changes quicker than the time itself (think Australia to USA flights where, by the clock, you arrive before you left). These “Road Warriors” pile up frequent flyer miles and experience jet lag, which can have a profound effect on sleep and alertness.
Studies have shown that jet lag results from an imbalance in our body’s natural biological clock caused by traveling to different time zones. Basically, our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called circadian rhythms. These rhythms are measured by changes in body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. They are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake. If athletes learn to manage their own rhythm adjustments then their performance when traveling should improve. For Australian athletes traveling to compete against the best in the world is a necessity.
On my flight from Australia to the US recently I took the time (there was plenty of it) to speak with the flight attendants about their tips for handling jet lag. Make no mistake, they need to perform too!
Here are the tips they passed on:
- Select a flight that allows early evening arrival and stay up until 10 p.m. local time.
- Prepare for the time change by getting up and going to bed earlier several days in advance for an eastward trip and later for a westward trip.
- As soon as possible, maybe on take off, change all your clocks to the destination time and behave as if it were that time.
- If you do arrive early in the day, get some light exercise in the sunlight. Sunlight and exercise helps the body re-adjust it’s circadian rhythm.
- Avoid stimulants which can prevent sleep such as alcohol or caffeine up to 4 hours before bedtime.
- Avoid heavy meals upon arrival.
- Avoid any heavy exercise close to bedtime.
- Bring earplugs and blindfolds to help dampen noise and block out unwanted light while sleeping.
Safe restful travels…
David Hodge is a career coach who has competed, worked and traveled around the world. Follow him on twitter @CoachDavidHodge