It can take several days to adjust to a new time zone, and many long-distance travellers find themselves feeling exhausted. So what can you do if you’re planning to return from a holiday or business trip and go straight back to work the next day?
There is a way to keep your eyes open, and it doesn’t involve matchsticks. Experts say travellers should consider beginning to alter their routine before they return home.
“Depending on where you are, you should start going to sleep one or two hours earlier or later a few days before the return flight,” says Professor Ingo Fietze, who leads the Interdisciplinary Sleep Medicine Centre in Berlin’s Charite university hospital.
So if you live in Europe and are going on holiday to the East Coast of the US, you should set yourself an earlier bedtime because it will be later in Europe than in the US.
If you are travelling from Europe to Asia, on the other hand, you should go to sleep a bit later as your return home approaches. Such planning allows travellers to adjust more easily when they return home.
Once you get back, you should spend as much time as possible outdoors during the day, move around a lot and get plenty of sunlight. “That helps the body adjust,” Fietze explains.
It is also important to immediately switch meal times back to normal. That means you should not be raiding the fridge at night.
If you have to be fully operational immediately and you need some help sleeping, Fietze recommends melatonin. By themselves, jet lag symptoms will only go away after about six days.