Travel Health – 5 Points to help you thrive when crossing multiple time zones.

I am writing this on my third flight in as many days. Once I land in Tokyo it will have been four consecutive days on an aeroplane and travelling through airports. These conditions are challenging to optimal health, therefore, optimal performance. Performance is a by-product of health. Here I offer my top five points to help make you thrive in conditions which challenge your state. State being your physical, mental and emotional energy. In addition, mitigate potential disturbances to your circadian rhythm i.e. jet lag.

1 – Pre-Flight – This can start up to 2 days before your intended departure date. Research claims 60-90-minute time zone shifts equate to 1-day adjustment of your internal body clock to your new location. This is a full adjustment to light and dark cycles. Considering not all business or sports commitments will require an individual to be in a location for more than 5-7 days. Therefore, our expectations must be realistic that we will not completely adjust but we can certainly reduce the negative effects. If you are traveling East, going to bed and waking one hour earlier for 2 consecutive nights will begin to shift you towards your forthcoming time zone. Upon waking seeing bright light (even artificial) will help and for evening times avoid artificial light / wear sunglasses indoors (a look maybe only suitable for the home.) Avoid blue light from tablets and smartphones. If travelling West, reverse this procedure. Start going to bed later and waking later if possible with the same rule to light/dark exposure as before.

2 – Onboard – transition to the new location as soon as possible. Set your watch immediately to your destination. This helps psychologically in adapting to your new timings. It also acts as a great practical tool for your in-flight patterns. For example, if you get on board and at your destination it is 3/4am but they are serving lunch, would you be having a meal at this time normally? Most likely not. So, avoid it on the flight. Ask the cabin crew if your meal can be put aside for a meal time that is in line with your regular meal times. Make use of sleep aids on board. Eye masks and ear plugs will assist in contributing to normal sleep conditions. Close or open the blinds on the window depending on your light/dark cycle requirements. In an environment that accelerates dehydration, avoid consuming alcohol.

3 – Onboard continued – Clothing and hygiene. If you are lucky enough to be flying in a cabin that allows you to lie flat, great. If not, these points will still stand you in good stead. You will have a better chance of relaxing and switching to sleep mode in comfortable clothing. Compression – A good pair of compression socks will contribute to good circulation and act as a good precursor to any light physical activity undertaken upon arriving at your destination. Carrying a small hand hygiene gel with you is always a great travel aid as ensures you are reducing the chances of picking up bacteria from the multiple surfaces and individuals you will encounter on your journey.

4 – Reflect – Being at 35,000 feet provides a great opportunity to reflect and positively contribute to your headspace and mindset. Speaking from personal experience, travelling a lot with work, the constant flux of leaving family, friends and loved ones back home for extended periods of time can cause a stress through conflicted emotions. This is where understanding your personality typology can be beneficial (see the post on the self and mindset). Disconnect from the internet/email and social media and write down some points that your grateful for, what you hope to go well and some affirmations. The effect can be profound on changing your state and the frames you hold for when you go way in the future. If combined with some form of meditative practice, 5-10 minutes of focusing on your breathing can enhance a state of calm and clarity on why you are doing what you have chosen and how it contributes to your performance and overall wellbeing.

5 – The other side – Depending on the time of arrival, if you are travelling East and land early morning, avoid light until after 9 am. Wear sunglasses from airport to hotel. Post 9 am, get out and see as much bright light, natural if possible. Even short intermittent exposure will help. Use caffeine little and often but stop after 2 pm. Try and go to bed at a normal time and sleep in as long as possible the following morning. Repeat this cycle for the next 2-3 days. Light exercise will certainly help to get the journey out of the system. Also, this will help stay up later to go to sleep at a normal time. Keep it based around light cardio. 20-40 minutes with a feeling of a 5/10 intensity.

For more bespoke travel plans and more information on the use of melatonin and supplements to assist health during long-haul travel please get in touch using the contact page.

Yours with Force and Grace,