Our bodies have a built-in central circadian clock which regulates our energy, mood, and ability to stay alert and focused. When we travel long distances through multiple time zones, though, we tend to confuse and upend our clocks’ routines. This instance is commonly recognized as “jet lag.”
For most frequent business flyers, or any employees returning from a vacation across different time zones, dealing with jet lag is an inevitable and unfortunate side effect of travel. Luckily, there are many ways to combat these effects and help you recover from your trip much sooner. Here are some tips to help you get over jet lag as you return to work.
The sun is a circadian rhythm regulator, so when we go outside in the daylight, our body naturally syncs its internal clock to the environment. When you expose yourself to bright lights, it can shift your 24-hour biological schedule to the local environment fairly quickly.
Scientists have even proved this to be true. In a recent study, scientists found that they were able to minimize the effects of jet lag by having the participants wake up earlier and shift their circadian rhythms into their desired destination’s time zone before their departing flight. So, if you are working on getting over jet lag, it may help to take a break to go outside.
Jet lag affects our ability to solve problems, concentrate, and make proper judgments. With that in mind, it might be in your best interest to stay away from important tasks or making any important decisions within the first few days of returning from your vacation. Instead, this time is ideal for completing simple data or any other menial tasks.
The most important factor, however, is not to become anxious if you do make an error. According to sleep specialist Chris Idzikowski, “We all make small mistakes all the time. If you think you’re being affected by jet lag, then you’ll probably start noticing these slips, and it will add anxiety and distraction to an already difficult day.” So, ease into your day-to-day operations as you return to work, and be sure to give yourself time to recover.
Once you have returned from your trip, your temptations may push you to take an extra day off to “get back into it.” However, doing so might have adverse effects on you. According to another sleep expert, Dr. Neil Stanley, “if all you’re going to do is lie in bed sleeping, it is actually going to make things worse. The best way of getting back into sync is actually getting back into the routine of doing work.” You want to work your mind and body back into its regular routine. If you absolutely need some kind of rest due to feeling awful after an overnight flight, a two-hour nap before 12pm can help, but be sure it lasts no more than two hours and extends no later than 12pm.