Jet Lag: The
Hidden Costs of Travel
business success requires travel. Many travel-related costs-
fractional jet ownership, hotel, car- are obvious. But you may be
incurring untold indirect costs as a result of impaired abilities and
sub-par performance associated with jet lag. Jet lag exacts a toll on
every aspect of your functioning: your judgment and decision-making,
your reaction time, and your ability to communicate. It makes you
forget things, spoils your mood, and leaves you inattentive and
disconnected. But there are some things you can do about it.
What is jet
Jet lag essentially has two components: sleep loss and disruption of
the body's internal clock. A few basic facts will help clarify why we
experience jet lag.
Sleep is as
vital as food and water, and most of us need about eight hours of
sleep each night. Unfortunately, there are a variety of factors that
can conspire against healthy sleep, including age, alcohol, sleep
disorders, and yes- travel. If you don't get the sleep you need, the
deprivation builds into a cumulative sleep debt, which can build until
you are bankrupt from exhaustion.
internal clock-known as the "circadian clock"- has daily rhythms that
affect when we eat, sleep and wake, as well as our performance, mood
and alertness. Specifically, we are programmed to experience two
periods of maximum sleepiness (from at about 3-5 a.m. and 3-5 p.m.)
and two periods of peak alertness (about 9-11 a.m. and 9-11 p.m.) each
Here are a few things you can do to perform your best while on travel.
These example strategies are scientifically valid, practical, and easy
Sleep - Don't Leave Home Without It
For most travelers, one of the best defenses against jet lag is
simply to get one to two full nights of eight-hour sleep prior to
departure. Pre-trip chores such as running errands and packing can
rob you of sleep. But getting two hours less sleep than your body
needs for one night can significantly reduce your performance and
alertness the next day, and can start accruing a sleep debt before
you even depart. So when making your pre-departure list, put "Sleep"
at the top.
Napping - The Performance Enhancer
NASA research showed that a short, 26-minute cockpit nap taken in
flight by pilots improved their performance 34% and alertness 100%.
Imagine what a nap can do for you! Naps are a great tool for
promoting alertness (even a little sleep is better than none), but
there is an art to effective napping.
Nap for up to 45 minutes or for about two hours (to avoid waking
out of deep sleep, which can cause grogginess).
Allow 15 minutes "wake-up" time after a nap.
Avoid a long nap too close to your next sleep period.
Caffeine - A Shot in the Arm
Caffeine can work for you throughout your travels if used
Try to take caffeine in anticipation of when you'll be tired, not
as a pick-me-up after the fact.
To determine an optimum time, remember:
Caffeine takes effect within 15 to 30 minutes.
Its effects can last three to four hours.
Don't use caffeine too close to a planned sleep time.
Be aware that chocolate, coffee, ice cream, and other foods can
The amount of caffeine in foods and beverages varies widely.
cautious about anti-jet lag products. Find out for yourself:
Are their claims scientifically based?
Has the product been demonstrated safe and effective?
Then, after you've done your research, always "ground test" a new
strategy before using it on a trip.
information in this article is merely an introduction to the alertness
strategies available for business travelers. Learn more and then
develop a personalized plan to address the particular circumstances of
your next trip. Maximize your alertness, and make the most of your
This information was excerpted from the Alert Traveler Passport, created for business travelers by Alertness Solutions, a consulting firm in Cupertino, CA.