If you are traveling for a video shoot, photo shoot or interpreting event half way around the world, chances are that you will have a problem adjusting to the new time zone. Jet lag can be a real burden, especially when you are working on a project or attending an event that will require you to be at your creative best instead of sluggish, groggy and tired. If you don’t have several days or even a week to adjust to the new time zone in a foreign location then knowing how to manage jet lag can be the key to ensure you have a productive and efficient film shoot, photo shoot or interpreting event.
Mechanics of sleep
To understand how to combat jet lag, you must first know why you feel sleepy at distinct times of the day. Our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle called “circadian rhythms.” These rhythms are measured by the distinct rise and fall of body temperature, plasma levels of certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by our exposure to sunlight and help determine when we sleep and when we wake.
When you travel to different time zones your body’s natural “biological clock” becomes imbalanced.
Our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days. This results in our bodies telling us it is time to sleep, when it’s actually the middle of the afternoon, or it makes us want to stay awake when it is late at night.
Before, during and after you travel for your event or shoot a few simple behavioral adjustments can help minimize some of the side effects of jet lag.
Before Your Travel
- Several days before traveling, try to gradually adjust your sleeping habits to the destination time zone.
- Treat your body well before you fly. Exercise, sleep well, stay hydrated and stay sober. The worst thing you can do is get on a long-haul flight with a hangover.
- Once you’re at the airport, avoid the escalators and moving sidewalks. Instead, walk and take the stairs on the way to your check-in area and gate connections.
During Your Flight
- As soon as you board the flight, reset your watch for the new time zone.
- Sleep (or stay awake) like you’re already there. If it’s daylight at your destination, try to avoid sleeping on the plane. If it’s nighttime at your destination when you’re on the plane, try to sleep. Use earplugs, eye shades, and turn on the air-conditioning valve (cooler temperatures may help you to fall asleep faster).
- Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Dehydration makes it more difficult for the body to adjust to the new rhythm. Stay away from any beverages with alcohol or caffeine.
Once You Arrive
- Limit your sleep to no more than two hours immediately after arrival.
- Remember that daylight can help reset your internal “clock.” Take a one-hour walk as soon as you get up in the morning.
- Avoid excessive caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
- Practice good sleep habits while away.
- Bring along your own pillow and/or blanket. These may help you sleep more comfortably.
- Check your room for potential sleep disturbances, including light shining through the drapes. Bring along a sleep mask to block out any light.
- Request a room in the quietest section of the property and make sure that the room is away from any entrance areas or elevators. Use a fan or other “white noise” to cut down sounds of hotel neighbors or street traffic.
- Check your room’s thermostat. Your sleep can be disrupted if the room is warmer than 75° F (24° C) or colder than 54° F (12° C).
- Consider taking melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone your body naturally creates around the time you usually go to bed. You will want to take it within 30 minutes of the time you want to tell your body is your new “bedtime.” In other words, don’t take it when you might want to sleep, but isn’t the new bed time you are trying to have your body adjust to. Take it for four days after arriving at your new destination. Talk to your doctor before taking melatonin, to be sure it’s safe for you.
You may not be able to prevent jet lag from happening, but if you use these tips you can minimize its impact and make your video shoot, photo shoot or interpreting event a more productive and pleasurable experience!