Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Whether you’re traveling for work or for play, here are a few tips to keep sleep disruption to a minimum. Sleep strategically.
Three days before you’re scheduled to travel, begin moving your bedtime an hour earlier (or later, as appropriate) than you normally would. Add another hour the second evening, and a third hour on the third day. It takes one day per time zone for your body to adjust, so planning ahead can help ease the transition.
Go with the local flow (usually).
After you land, try to sync up with the local schedule. “If you’re landing when people are awake in the middle of the day, that’s what you want to do, too. Sleep as much as you can on the plane,” she says. “If you’re going to be landing at night, do your best to stay awake on the plane and sleep at your destination.”
Abide by the two-day rule.
“If you’re going to be staying somewhere fewer than two days, try and keep to your own schedule. By the time your body adapts, it’ll be time to come home,” she says. In these cases, she suggests requesting that any obligations or meetings happen during the equivalent of your peak waking hours at home whenever possible.
Let there be light.
If your flight touches down first thing in the morning as you travel east, bring along a pair of sunglasses to minimize light exposure. It’s preferable to get maximal light exposure in the late morning and early afternoon, which shifts your rhythms closer to your destination’s time zone.
“The goal is to recalibrate the clock so that it’s closer to bedtime at your destination,” she says. If you’re traveling westward, which is less disruptive, aim for light exposure in the early evening. Eat outdoors or go for a walk to push your rhythm a bit later.
Move your body.
When you’re ready to begin the day, take a warm shower and head outside for exercise to signal your body that it’s time to get going.