Jet Lag Tips: How to Best Optimize Your Sleep While Travelling
With nine Olympic Games under his belt, high-performance coach Peter Jensen knows a thing or two about getting a good night’s sleep while on the road. Here are a few of his tips to beat jet lag.
1. PREP FOR YOUR FLIGHT
On long flights when he needs to sleep, Jensen informs the cabin crew that he does not wish to be disturbed. He also sticks to drinking water, as alcohol makes him dehydrated. “Flying in business class, I used to try to get the most out of what was offered, but the most for me now is whatever is best for my energy level.” Jensen always travels with his eye mask and a pair of Bowers & Wilkins headphones. To sleep, he listens to SimplyNoise, an app that plays variations of white noise.
2. PERSONALIZE YOUR HOTEL ROOM
Jensen travels with a small framed family photograph that reminds him of what’s most important to him, and he also turns his hotel room into something more familiar. “Probably the best thing I do, though, is bring my own pillow. It’s a very lightweight contour pillow that reminds me of home.” He also brings along a small Bluetooth speaker that he places on his bedside table to play more white noise.
3. AVOID JET LAG BY STICKING TO A ROUTINE
For years, Jensen would find himself rushing to catch an earlier flight home, only to be too wound up come bedtime. “I couldn’t establish a routine. I didn’t go through a proper sequence to wind down from what I was doing and get better prepared to sleep.” Now, Jensen remains disciplined with his sleeping schedule and fights off jet lag by staying in his own time zone (Eastern) while travelling in Canada. “If people want to go out for dinner in Edmonton, I say, ‘Fine, but we are going at 6 o’clock.’”
4. WAKE UP ON TIME
Another app that Jensen swears by is MotionX, which monitors his sleeping patterns. “It’ll tell me how long I was asleep, how long I was in deep sleep and how many times I woke up.” Full sleep happens in 90-minute cycles, and this app helps Jensen respect that number by waking him at the right time. “If I set an alarm for 7 a.m., it might wake me up at 6:50 a.m. or 7:10 a.m. It’s going to choose the more appropriate moment in the sleep cycle to wake me.”
Beat jet lag with these apps: SimplyNoise and MotionX
5. REMEMBER TO BREATHE
“Multi-tasking is a huge energy-waster,” says Jensen. “And so is negative thinking.” Jensen uses breathing techniques employed by athletes to help avoid any frantic thoughts he may have and maintain his concentration. “Biofeedback tells us that if people breathe in for four seconds and then breathe out for six seconds, it brings them into a very relaxed, but focused, state.”
6. TAKE NAPS
Jensen is an ardent believer in napping, recalling that some of the world’s smartest people – Einstein, Madame Curie, Edison – worked naps into their daily schedules. “When glucose is used up in the brain, it’s used up… And so you could work for three hours more to get that assignment done, but the truth is, if you took a nap and then got up, you could get the assignment done in less time.” Twenty minutes, Jensen says, is the ideal length for a nap.
Things You Can Do in Your Hotel Room to Get a Better Sleep
● When booking, ask for the quietest room. Some hotels have “silent” floors that have a strict no-noise policy.
● If you are sensitive to light, ask for a room that faces west so that the morning sun doesn’t wake you. Attach binder clips to the curtains to make sure no light comes through.
● Some hotel chains, like Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, have a pillow menu. Swap the pillows in your room for something like the ones you have at home.
● Unplug all electronics to get rid of the distracting LED displays. And unplug the alarm clock, since the alarm is often set to the time the last person in the room used it.
● Make sure the air-conditioning unit is never set to “automatic” because it will switch on and off all night. Keep it on low instead.
● Turn off notifications on your phone (especially when in a different time zone).