How to prepare for international travel to protect your sleep and energy levels

A sudden change of timezone, combined with the often tiring experience of flying, can have a big impact on your body. Managing this process while performing at your best can be quite tricky, unless you take some key steps to prepare.

In today’s article and video I wanted to share with you how I help my clients with preparing for often quite extensive and international travel.

 
 

The body usually takes 3 days to fully adjust, so take care and plan ahead.

 
 
 
 

Dynamics of travel

Start by considering the frequency and pattern of your travel. Take into account if this is a weekly, monthly, or seasonal occurrence. Also consider the distance you travel, if it’s long or short haul, and what the time difference is.

Why is this important? Put simply, the length of travel defines the way you need to prepare.

For example, if you are traveling from London to a European City, the time zone difference is quite small. Therefore your preparation will be completely different to planning for a big change on a longer journey, such as from UK to Asia.

 
 

Time zones

To prepare for a small time zone difference of an hour, for example, all most travelers will need to do is start going to bed earlier a few days before travel. This way, when they reach their destination, they have already adjusted and shouldn’t struggle with tiredness.

To prepare for a significant time difference, there are two approaches my clients tend to use. The first approach is to begin changing their sleeping hours in the week before they travel, making it less of a shock to their body when they reach their destination.

The second approach, if life allows for this, is to travel a couple of days earlier to settle into your new daytime hours. If you need to perform at your peak then this is a really proactive approach.

 
 

Travel schedules

Another important thing to consider is eating to fuel you energy. If you schedule at your travel destination includes a dinner commitment, for example, then plan your other meals to suit that.

For example, if your dinner is going to be in a new time zone, your body might run out of fuel hours before it. Take on smaller, more frequent meals or snacks to keep you going.

 
 

Travel behaviours

If you are new to traveling for work then use your first trip as a way to note your behaviours that affect your energy and sleep.

If you are under greater work pressure to fit a lot into your trip, then this will have a big impact on you. Consider how differently you behave at home, for example, finishing work at a set time. On a work trip you may find you have to keep an eye on how much later you work and socialize.

 
 

Returning home

Plan to return to your home time zone with ease. If you know that you won’t sleep well on an overnight flight, then travel during the daytime and use that time to work.

This way, when you land at home at the end of the day (local time) you will be able to wind down at home and get a good sleep in your own bed. This makes the next day feel much more normal.

Keep in mind that the body usually takes 3 days to fully adjust, so take care to adjust well and get back into your usual routine.

Do you have a strategy for travel that works for you? If you have something to share that I haven’t mentioned, please do leave me a comment.

 
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