It’s no longer fashionable to boast about how little sleep you need to keep your superpowers intact. Mostly because it’s a delusion: Losing as little as 90 minutes of sleep – for just one night – cuts your alertness by day about one-third. Yet despite the mountain of research that connects good sleep to health, performance and mood, most of us still aren’t getting enough of it.
Business travelers are particularly susceptible to deluding ourselves: We tend to perceive that we’re performing better and sleeping more than we actually do (a study reported in The New York Times cites a 20% drop in performance-over-perception). Another of surprising finding was that we tend to sleep even less the night before a trip, instead of wisely banking sleep or at least maintaining our rhythms.
Not only do road warriors have a reality gap, our survivalist mentality is a set up for jet lag.
Here are three elemental ways lack of sleep affects your body:
- lowers immunity, increasing susceptibility to infections
- increases carbohydrate cravings, due to increased leptin (the hormone that tells you you’re full)
- decreased alertness, concentration, memory, and reasoning skills
If you’ve already adopted Local Time’s Flight Pack, congratulations! You’re actively increasing your body’s adaptability to new sleep cycles through nourishing plant remedies. REST, in particular, is formulated to help you fall and stay asleep, improving sleep quality and quantity.
There are several practices that can likewise help course-correct circadian rhythms gone awry. (See our related blog, how to beat jet lag & feel amazing on arrival.)
But one key thing you can do to sleep better when you travel across time zones is: Exercise. This is where a little helps a LOT. Travelers who exercised during their 2 to 4-day trip across 2+ time zones performed an astounding 61% better than those who didn’t, according to the aforementioned research.
While the body’s circadian rhythm relies primarily on daylight, which cues people to be active, another factor is internal temperature. An increase internal temperature is linked to alertness, and physical activity heats up your core and moves up your body clock.
Underscoring the benefits of exercising while traveling, another study zeroed in on how to optimize workout timing based on the body’s natural hormone cycles through the day: “Exercising at 7 a.m. or between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. shifted the circadian rhythm to an earlier time, while engaging in exercise between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. pushed the body clock back.”
The good news here is that there are tangible, practical things you can do right now to skip the jet lag on your next trip. Beyond ritualizing your Local Time formulas, prioritizing some exercise means that the gratifying feeling of hitting the ground running won’t be an illusion.