I may not be a super elite status traveller but I sure do cross many time zones pursuing my journey to the Games. Arriving fresh and ready to take on the world is an art and I am going to share my best strategies to get your circadian rhythm back.
1.) Drink Fluids – I know this one seems obvious, but I don’t just mean that you should take that water offer when the host comes down the aisle. Pre-hydrating is the secret here and starting the day before takeoff is the way to do it. Hydrating well before your flight will allow your body to start absorbing the fluids, so the multiple pee stops happen while you’re still on the ground. When you’re finally in the air you won’t have to get out of your seat so often and can still keep hydrating. Water is the best to drink but getting any fluid intake is most important.
2.) Avoid Alcohol – As tempting as it is to have a drink pre or during flight to relax a little you should restrain. Even a single serving can be detrimental to a fresh landing and time adjustment because the effects of alcohol compounded at altitude. You might not care to notice but it could contribute to why you feel groggy upon landing. For some, like me, it disrupts sleeping making it harder to enter a deep sleep. Which can be even harder is avoiding alcohol for the first two days of your trip as you may be meeting up with friends and socializing but it will give you the best chance to adjust.
3.) Adjust Time – Even before you get on the plane change your watch to the time zone you are entering, the mind is powerful and the sooner you can think in the proper time zone the better. Always comparing what you would be doing somewhere else impedes your adjustment to the time zone you are now living in. When you arrive try your best to live in the current time. If it’s night time, eat dinner and stay up to at least 9 pm. If it is morning, do your best to make it through the day, depending on if you got some sleep on the plane or not, little naps are ok. Day time arrivals means you should go outside for at least an hour to get whatever you can of sun as it will help reset your internal clock and explore your new surroundings.
4.) No Devices – Looking at your phone/devices before sleeping will district your mind plus it has physiological effects on your body and sleep. If you want to get some rest when your body is already in an unnatural state give it the best chance, put your phone down and turn off the TV at least 45 minutes before you expect to catch some z’s, I read a real paper book or do crosswords.
5.) Unload the Senses – Hotels and new places and provide a lot of unfamiliar noises and as humans we are naturally curious as to where it’s coming from or whatever enters the imagination. Your mind is probably already busy and adding noises or light doesn’t help to calm it. I always have ear plugs and a sleeping mask while sleeping in new places to help limit the senses.
6.) Keep Sleeping – If you wake up in the middle of the night do not look at the time and especially do not look at your phone. These two things can set your mind racing and distract you from falling back asleep. I set an alarm and do not let myself come in contact with any light until that alarm has gone off. Even going to the bathroom I use as little light as possible, most of the time none, to get to the toilet. If you wake up in the middle of the night you don’t need to know the time or who’s sending you emails, you only need to know one thing…you need to keep sleeping! When you get good you can actually train yourself to sleep by inducing a somewhat meditative state, choose a mantra and go with it.
*Pro Tip – I use liquid magnesium that I take right before bed to help me fall asleep. Many people suggest melatonin but I steer clear of that because it is something your body should produce on its own and I don’t like playing with my hormones. If I am suffering really badly than I will take a light sleeping pill like a Tylenol PM.
7.) Sleeper Beware – I and many find that the second and third night/day are the hardest to get through. So have all of the tips mentioned above in place to help you get through those nights so you can give yourself the best chance to enjoy your travel and new challenges ahead.