Adjust to a New Time Zone Like the Travel Pro That You Are
A sleep expert and a fitness expert share their tips to combat jet lag.
From your universal charger to your wrinkle-free fabrics, you have traveling down to an art. You can turn an airport lounge into a functional office space in no time flat. But how are you feeling?
Changing time zones can leave even the most seasoned road warrior out of sorts and thinking less clearly. Unfortunately, that’s not the recipe for building relationships and closing deals. We asked Rebecca Robbins, PhD, a sleep researcher at NYU and sleep expert for The Benjamin’s “Rest & Renew” program, for science-based tips to get better sleep when traveling between time zones. Vanessa Martin, founder of fitness concierge service (and The Benjamin fitness partner) SIN Workouts, contributes her go-to exercises to rev up or wind down when a time zone change throws your internal clock out of synch.
Pack and Prepare
Eight hours of sleep in the nights leading up to your trip is the ideal so you don’t start out sleep deprived. When possible, a departure time in the morning is better. If an overnight flight is unavoidable, you’ll want to pack your carry-on bag with items to help you relax and sleep:
- If you can’t pick your seatmates, be prepared to block their existence from your senses. A lavender aromatherapy eye mask can block light and provide a pleasant and soothing scent. Noise cancelling headphones can discourage unwanted chatter and block out the sounds of the drink cart, replacing them with soothing music of your choosing.
- Bring your own travel pillow, or at least your own pillowcase.
- Dress comfortably and in layers so that you won’t be too hot or cold. Don’t forget some comfy socks.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before and during your flight. Altitude makes the effects of alcohol more pronounced.
- Bring a book, magazine, puzzle or game that relaxes you.
- Avoid the airplane meal, which tends to be high in preservatives. Bring light and healthy snacks, or have something light and healthy – vegetables and lean protein - at the airport.
It’s important to power down for sleep, both figuratively and literally. If you have in-flight wifiWi-Fi, disconnect from it. In addition to revving your brain up with thoughts about work or your “to do” list at home, the artificial light from your devices can hinder your ability to fall asleep. Stop working an hour before you hope to fall asleep and switch over to a relaxing activity like reading a book or listening to music.
Airlines do you a sleep disservice by having all plane lights off leading up to arrival, even if it’s 2pm in the afternoon at your destination. If it’s daytime at your destination, turn on your seat light or pull up the window shade to help your body realize it is daytime.
If you are switching time zones, change your watch and devices to reflect your destination time zone as soon as you arrive.
It can take a day or two to adjust to a new time zone once you arrive. If you are staying just a day or two, you may want to stay on your home time zone schedule for sleeping, rather than trying to adjust.
If you are switching over to your new time zone, you can use both natural light and exercise to help cue your body to sleep or be more alert on your new schedule.
Vanessa Martin’s Energizing Exercise Series:
Spike your heart rate, create blood flow to your extremities and release endorphins with this routine. Not only is this combination of effects physiologically proven to elevate energy levels, it will also circulate synovial joint fluid to awaken and loosen the body as a whole:.
• Squat jumps
• 1 push-up, segueing into 6 mountain climbers
• Caterpillar crawl outs. From top-of-push-up position, walk your feet towards your hands. Hold briefly and then walk your hands away from your feet.
• Rolling sit-ups to stand/hop
• Bicycle crunches
• Dynamic toppling eagle (right and left). Lying on your stomach, with hands on ground and chin resting on hands, take your left leg over to your right side. Recover, then swap.
Vanessa Martin’s Wind-Down Yoga Poses:
By coupling some key movements together in a wind down circuit, you can begin the resting process before climbing into bed. These yoga postures support slower breath and calming effects on the body, while also providing release on joints.
• 1-5 minute hold on each side of the body: Eka Pada Rajakapotasana aka “Pigeon Pose” (king of the hip openers)
• 1-3 minute static hold: Ananda Balasana aka “Happy Baby”
• 1 minute hold each position: Halasana aka “Plow Pose” to shoulder stand
• 1 minute: Supported bridge (can use pillow)
• 30 seconds each side: Seated spinal twist
• 2 minutes: Supta Baddha Konasana aka “Reclined Goddess Pose”
Rebecca Robbins’ additional tips after arrival include:
• Exposure to outdoor light (“blue light”) in the morning and exercising in the morning will help to wake you up and adjust to your new schedule more quickly.
• If you feel sleepy during the day, try a quick walk to boost alertness.
• Limit consumption of caffeine and alcohol.
• Eat lighter, healthier meals and try not to eat at all for an hour before bedtime.
• If you wake up during the night, don’t stress. Get out of bed, take a hot shower, read a book or do Vanessa’s yoga series. Let yourself get drowsy again before trying to fall back to sleep. Avoid passing the time on your computer or phone.
When You Get Home
As you are switching back, the same strategies apply in terms of exercise, light exposure and eating habits. Be patient. A little insomnia as you adjust back is natural and should be taken in stride. Use the same technique mentioned above to combat it. Get up and allow yourself to get drowsy again before trying to fall back to sleep. If you are still struggling, consider moving your bedtime by 15 minutes each night until you are fully re-acclimated.
If your travels bring you to New York, book at stay at The Benjamin for a fantastic workout and a good night’s sleep on the road. SIN’s single class service for The Benjamin’s guests includes personalized assistance in selecting and booking a class at one of NYC’s hottest boutique fitness studios. Rebecca Robbins, PhD created the Benjamin’s pillow menu to guide guests in choosing a quality pillow that suits their natural sleep position.