Here’s How To Avoid Jet-Lag and Get Enough Sleep When Travelling

Do you struggle to sleep when traveling? I fly overseas almost every week, including recent trips to South Korea, Tokyo, San Francisco, and New York City. I have to adapt to the new time zone and get a good night’s sleep in order to feel energized and ready to lead a large audience at a conference.

Having struggled to adapt in the past I’ve devised and tested a protocol that allows me to instantly overcome jet-lag and sleep well. On my recent trip to Seoul, I was able to sleep 7–8 hours per night, as well as resting well on the flight. Here is my solution to helping you get the rest you need and perform at your best when you travel.

Some of these will require a shift in mindset but they are worth it so that you can get the rest you need!

  1. No caffeine– I used to have up to 8 espressos per day. I grew up drinking tea and could happily drink that all day long too. A few years back I decided it was time to cut back and immediately noticed the improvement in sleep. Now I avoid it almost entirely. Caffeine keeps you awake by forcing your adrenal glands to pump cortisol (stress hormone) into your body. This disrupts your ability to sleep when you need it, especially when shifting time zones. So I suggest pulling back from this in general and avoiding it completely when you travel.
  2. No alcohol– I used to drink on flights and even enjoy the mini-bar in an attempt to knock myself out. This just led to passing out and then being awake a few hours later feeling restless. Alcohol also reduces your ability to digest vital nutrients which you need to keep your immune system strong while traveling. On my recent trip to Seoul, I was craving a beer but knew I should resist because I had to ensure decent sleep to lead a large group event and then fly home to immediately run a two-day event. So I save having a drink for a time when I have days off to recover.
  3. Super sleep mas — since having young children I have discovered the benefits of investing in a high-quality sleep mask so that I can get back to sleep after looking after their needs in the middle of the night. My favorite one is made by ‘manta’ — this mask allows your eyelids to flicker in REM sleep, rather than being flat on your eyes. I also use ‘isolate’ earplugs, which block out almost all sound. This gives you a priceless cocoon so that you can sleep whenever you need to.
  4. Flying East? Sleep late– on long flights I go through waves of wanting a nap. This also happens in the middle of the day when on the other side of the world and wondering if I can get through until night time without sleep. The strategy that works best for me is to only sleep during the correct hours for the time-zone I’m in. As soon as I board a flight I change my watch to show the time-zone I’m going to. When flying east I wait as long as possible before going to sleep (so when flying to Seoul I waited until it was 11 pm Seoul time to have a nap and kept my eyes shut until it was effectively 5 am). On arrival, if you have flown overnight I also recommend a 90-minute power nap as soon as you reach your hotel. This will give you the energy required to stay awake until the correct sleep time in the evening.
  5. Flying West? Sleep early– If you are flying a long way west then you are effectively having a very long day and going to sleep extra late. So try having a nap as soon as you board the plane. This will allow you to keep the energy needed later in the flight to stay awake before you arrive.
  6. Sit by the window– it’s important to get your rhythm adjusted by seeing the light rays through the window. When you see that it is still light outside your mind will aim to stay active. If you see the darkness setting in you’ll feel more ready to have some sleep. The added benefit is that you won’t be disturbed by people climbing over you in the night!
  7. Exercise in the morning– rather than reaching for a coffee which will give you false stimulation, try going outside to see the early daylight rays and have a walk or run. This tells your body it’s time to be alert and will get your blood flowing for the day. It will also give you an extra chance to explore the area you are in, to orient yourself.
  8. Meditation– I’ve always had a busy mind, making it hard to switch off when I need to. Recently I have been trying various types of meditation and have developed my own 20-minute routine that I aim to do each morning and evening. This allows me to clear my head ready for a good day, or a night of restful sleep. You can find great apps like Headspace or Insight Timer, specific meditations like ‘Yoga Nidra’, or simply shut your eyes while sitting upright and say a mantra to yourself. This allows your mind to focus on something while clearing all of your extraneous thoughts. A word I have recently found very helpful, especially before sleep, is ‘release’. If you say this in your mind over and over, while breathing deeply, you can free yourself from worries and ease into a restful state. If you wake up in the night and are struggling to sleep again then you can also try this to clear your head before lying down again.

I hope this helps you when traveling to get the sleep you need. It’s taken me a few years of constant travel to find something that works and this has been life-changing for me. Do let me know if you have any other suggestions and see if this works for you!

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Richard Newman, CEO & Founder of UK Body Talk Ltd.

Richard Newman is an inspiring keynote speaker, and author of ‘Lift Your Impact,’ sharing ideas that tilt the world in a more positive direction.