7 Proven Tips to Adjust to a Different Time Zone
Whether you're an aspiring digital nomad or a business traveller, already have a trip coming up or enjoy travelling often and want to master adjusting to different time zones, consider our 7 top tips to deal with jet lag.
This article was first published on Anyplace.com under a different title: Quickly Adjust to and Work in a Different Time Zone
One of the best things about remote work and being a digital nomad is that it gives you the freedom to travel and work in amazing locations. You could be in San Francisco for a month, the next in London, and Singapore after that. Quite often, your destinations will be in different time zones—you could spend 16 hours on a flight and still end up arriving at your destination in the day. That’ll certainly do a number to your internal clock and circadian rhythm, let alone your sleep schedule.
As digital nomads, an inherent part of the lifestyle is adapting to schedules with your team or clients. And to be successful at this, it’s essential to be productive when you get there – and there could be a time zone 8 hours ahead, or behind, your normal office hour schedule.
Luckily, there are tried and true methods to prepare for time zone transitions. Whether you’re an aspiring digital nomad, already have a trip coming up or enjoy travelling often and want to master adjusting to different time zones, consider our 7 top tips to deal with jet lag.
Intro – The Jet Lag Monster
Our body operates on a biological schedule known as the circadian clock that regulates the body’s function in a 24-hour cycle. Seeing daylight at specific times of day helps set this clock—but it’s slow to adjust when we rapidly fly across time zones. Enter jet lag.
As for the common symptoms of jet lag, some of it we already know: fatigue, insomnia, sleepiness in the day, headaches. But you can also experience the more serious effects of jet lag, including difficulty concentrating, disorientation, and gastrointestinal disturbances as well. Your physical performance can be affected too, and you might have difficulty concentrating on carrying out your tasks.
So if you’re planning travel that will land you in a significantly different time zone, you will most likely have to battle jet lag on some level. But severe jet lag doesn’t have to be inevitable—it can at least be mitigated. The 6 tips below should help you prepare for big swings in time zones so you can be at your level best with as little disruption to your sleep as possible. Let’s get into it!
1. Planning is Key
If you’re travelling today or tomorrow, this won’t necessarily work. That said, if you have several days (or more) before your trip, sleep planning is highly recommended. First, figure out what time zone you’ll be in at your next destination. If your trip is taking you east, try to get up earlier and go to bed earlier than normal. If you’re having westward travels, it’s the opposite—stay up later, wake up later. The goal here is to help sync your “body clock” to the new time zone.
Note: Keep in mind when your team or clients expect you to be available, and let them know how your new location will affect your availability/communication. This is huge! Don’t leave them hanging—reliability is essential to sustain a travel-based lifestyle for remote workers and digital nomads.
2. Stay Awake (If You Can)
It sounds like a bad horror movie title, but it’s pretty solid advice, especially if you land during daylight hours. Go for a walk, work in a cafe that’s nice and bright (or even sit outside), or get some light exercise. You’ll adjust faster to the sunlight and it will aid in your body clock’s reset process.
Much like pulling an all-nighter during your uni days (or for your startup), your craving for sleep will be particularly strong if you stay awake for a prolonged period, no matter what time zone you’re in. So with this in mind, don’t snooze on the plane. And when you arrive, resist the nap and try to stay awake until your normal bedtime based on the local time.
For example, if your normal bedtime in Singapore is 11pm and you fly to Berlin, stay awake there until local time 11pm. If you land in the morning and have to stay up all day, you’ll end up feeling exhausted when that normal bedtime actually comes around—this will help with a restful sleep!
“Your body may beg for sleep, but stand firm: Refuse. Force your body’s transition to the local time.”
– Rick Steves
Note: What if you land at night, feel tired and the local time is similar to your normal bedtime? Take advantage of it and hit the sack! It could help you speed up the adjustment process.
It also helps to have a nice comfy place to rest your weary eyes. So make sure your choice of accommodation comes with an all-consuming bed. If you’re heading to Singapore and need an option, check this Singapore serviced apartment out! (Just look at those crisp sheets…)
3. Vitamin D is Your Friend
After waking up the following day, go and get yourself some sun. Light is the principal control of our day-night cycle, influencing everything from body temperature to metabolism to sleep. That said, it’s the most important factor in resetting your body clock.
If possible, get 15-30 minutes of direct sunlight after you roll out of bed. Go for a stroll, grab an acai bowl and eat it outside, or simply sit in the sun and flip through an interesting book or zine.
Note: Currently reading Radical Focus—it’s on the NomadStack list along with a bunch of other great reads for digital nomads.
4. Dazed & Confused? Daytime Remedies
This one is worth mentioning, but if you’re a seasoned digital nomad or business traveller, you’re most likely already all over this. If you’re dealing with daytime drowsiness, use the things that work for you at home and apply them in your new location.
Early on in your trip, find the cafe near your hotel/apartment/co-living space with stellar coffee, espresso or tea. Let that be your morning HQ. Being around people other people can combat drowsiness, too. We’d suggest finding a lively coworking space where you can be surrounded by fellow energetic remote workers and digital nomads.
5. Melatonin & Supplements vs. Jet Lag
Meds aren’t essential for combating jet lag, but the use of melatonin may help.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate our circadian rhythm by working as a darkness signal. It’s produced by a small gland in your brain called the pineal gland. It’s secreted in the absence of light, such as during nighttime hours. The presence of light suppresses melatonin production.
It’s been studied extensively, and supplemental melatonin is commonly used for jet lag treatment—it’s been shown to help with both sleep and reducing jet lag symptoms.
Now if you go with melatonin, make sure you’re going with the correct doses (Jodi Ettenberg breaks it down on LegalNomads). Alternatively, other supplements can help with sleep, such as valerian root or Magnesium. Do your research beforehand on these though, so you’re aware of potential side effects. Better yet, get some help from a healthcare professional. You could even just get a consultation online.
Note: Personally, I find valerian root effective, and use a supplement called Shut Eye. It contains valerian root extract, melatonin, passionflower and other herbs that are supposed to aid sleep. Just my two cents.
6. Prep For the Next Locale
As your current trip gets closer to an end, think about your next locale—where you want to stay and what time zone it’s in. Begin to ease yourself into that time zone, adjusting your bedtime/wake time in 30-60 minute increments towards the new clock setting. Also, lock down your sleep schedule according to the light cycle of your destination. Though you have to battle a lack of sleep. Still, if you sleep at the wrong time, you may just end up with sleeping schedules and sleep patterns that messes up your work schedule. Because your internal body clock can’t reset the cycle according to the hour of time zone of where you’re at.
Besides adjusting your sleep schedule before your trip, you can try getting natural sunlight exposure to cope with a new time zone. Sprinkle some strategic napping throughout the day, with the help of sleep aids or melatonin supplements. You’d have to try practicing good sleep hygiene by creating a conducive sleep environment and establishing a bedtime routine.
Addendum: Upside-Down Schedule
No, we’re not talking about Stranger Things, although we do love it (especially the music). We’re referencing a more unorthodox approach and working an “upside-down” schedule if it makes sense in your life, or if it’s the only way to work with certain clients.
This entails working nights and sleeping during the day. Usually, this will only come into play if you work with clients or a company with a major time difference to yours (i.e., 12 hours apart). Or, maybe you prefer this lifestyle! Either way, we will cover this in a later post.
Need more tips to keep yourself happy on your travels?
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7. Stay Hydrated
Mother knows best after all. Staying hydrated can keep the worst of jet lag and travel fatigue at bay. Frequent business travelers often have water bottle, especially when they’re getting on a long-haul flight. Because dehydration can worsen jet lag symptoms, so it’s important to drink enough water before, during, and after your flight to stay properly hydrated. Not to mention, air travel can be dehydrating due to the dry air in airplane cabins, so regular water intake while avoiding excessive caffeine or alcohol will take you extra miles when you’re travelling abroad.