Business travel can energize you with new places, people, and ideas. However, after long flights, you’ll have to deal with jet lag first.

If you’ve ever traveled across time zones, you’ve probably experienced jet lag yourself. When traveling for leisure, you might just wait it out. But for business travelers, any amount of lost time and productivity counts.

How do you manage jet lag on business trips? Here are some strategies to cope with jet lag – or avoid it altogether.

What is jet lag?

Jet lag happens when your body is out of sync with the time zone you’re in. Our bodies run on a 24-hour cycle that dictates when we feel awake, tired, and hungry. When you travel to a time zone that’s three or more hours different than your own, your body is thrown off its rhythm.

What are the symptoms of jet lag?

Symptoms vary for everyone – and even the same person doesn’t always react the same way. Factors like age can impact the severity of symptoms, and older people tend to experience more jet lag than younger ones.

Some common symptoms of jet lag include:

  • Digestive issues
  • Moodiness and irritability
  • Daytime tiredness
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating

How to avoid jet lag before traveling for business

The best way to handle jet lag on business trips is to plan ahead and prevent the symptoms. Here are a few things to consider before your flight even takes off.

1. Take your time

If your company’s schedule, budget, and travel policy allow, book your trips with an extra day or two at the beginning to adjust. The best way is to blend a personal vacation with your work trip. It’ll give you time to get acclimated before any important meetings or presentations.

2. Schedule your flights right

The first day of a trip is usually the toughest, but with some clever planning you can avoid that struggle. Try to book flights that will arrive in the afternoon or evening, so you can head to bed early and be ready for any meetings or work the next morning.

3. Pack smart

Make sure your carry-on includes all the essentials for a smooth trip and a good night’s sleep. If you’d like to nap on your flight, bring a travel pillow, ear plugs, and an eye mask.

4. Think ahead

Start adjusting to the new time zone before your trip. Try going to bed an hour or two earlier if you’re traveling east, or an hour or two later if traveling west. For smaller time changes, this can prevent jet lag completely.

How to reduce jet lag while on a business trip

Planning the ideal travel schedule isn’t always an option, especially for small businesses or corporate travelers with strict budgets. Even if you’ve meticulously planned your business trip with extra buffer time, an afternoon arrival, and sleep adjustments beforehand, you’re still likely to feel somewhat jet-lagged.

The best thing to do is follow the routines of your destination as soon as you arrive. Get natural light to help your body adjust, and limit daytime sleeping to short 15–20 minute naps.

There are many other factors that contribute to jet lag recovery, including:

  • Food. Eat small nutritious meals in the days leading up to your business trip to avoid stomach aches or other digestive problems while traveling.
  • Screens. The blue light from screens can confuse your circadian rhythm by mimicking daylight. Use this to your advantage to stay awake and avoid screens for at least an hour before you go to sleep.
  • Alcohol. Alcohol can negatively impact the quality of your sleep. Try to limit or avoid it as much as possible.
  • Caffeine. Be strategic about caffeine consumption and make sure you align it with the routines of your destination.
  • Exercise. Like caffeine, exercise can be a tool to adjust if you time it just right. Try to exercise in the daytime and limit it in the evenings.
  • Water. Due to the low humidity on planes, you get dehydrated much faster than usual while flying, which can lead to feeling more fatigued. Increase your water intake before and during your flight.
  • Medication. For more frequent business travelers, a gentle supplement like over-the-counter melatonin can help you sleep better. Ask your doctor how to use sleep aids responsibly and effectively.

More tips to manage jet lag on your business trips

To optimize your corporate trips, here are a few more tips to get you going.

  • Consider the direction you’re traveling. Jet lag after traveling east is generally more severe than westward travel, so prepare accordingly.
  • If you have a layover or a travel delay, find an airport lounge to get some extra rest. Use an app to navigate unfamiliar airports and book lounge spots in advance.
  • Explore flight options and book seats that facilitate sleep, for example, economy comfort or business class if your travel policy allows. Fully reclining your seat can make the difference between staying wide awake or getting some shut-eye.
  • Don’t drive or operate a vehicle until you’ve acclimated to the new time zone. Even if you don’t feel tired, your reaction time and concentration could still be affected.
  • For shorter business trips, stick to your regular schedule. If your trip is shorter than 48 hours, it might not even be worth adjusting to the time zone. You’ll likely just end up having to deal with worse jet lag back at home.

Conclusion

There’s no sugarcoating it. Jet lag is a drag. When you’re investing the budget, time, and energy into business travel, you’ll want to get the most out of every moment. With the right preparation before and during travel, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running on your next business trip.

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