Settling into a new time zone is no joke. The faster you sync your body with a local sunrise, the sooner you’ll be able to sidestep jet lag and fully enjoy your trip (without feeling like you need a coffee close to bedtime or lunch when it’s time for breakfast). But W. Christopher Winter, M.D., president of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine and author of The Sleep Solution, tells Condé Nast Traveler that in certain circumstances, actively trying to not adjust to a destination’s local time can work in your favor.
Bear with us. Living in your home time zone during a trip often makes sense if you’re flying far away for, say, a short business trip. Of course, you have to consider the purpose of your travels, too. “I think it’s probably less of a threshold of how many days you’re going to be away and more about what your objective is,” says Winter. If you’re in Paris for a conference for 24 hours and you’re speaking at said conference, you likely have to be on, and would benefit from adjusting. But if you’re simply required to attend and face a full week of work when you return home, resisting the urge to adjust to a new time zone could work in your favor. “If you work hard to adjust and then come back, you’ve got to readjust and the first few days you’re back, you’re going to feel kind of rough,” says Winter.
So for quick trips that don’t require you to live like the locals, consider these techniques for staying on your home clock.
Eat meals at the wrong times.
Research finds that when and what you eat can affect your internal biological clock. “No one is going to wake up at 3 a.m. and have breakfast,” admits Winter. But having an earlier breakfast if you travel West or a later one if you’re headed East can help keep things regular. Keep your iPhone on the time at home and try your best to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner close to when you’d be dining at home.
Shy away from sunlight.
If you’re a New Yorker in Europe, commit to room service in a hotel room with the shades drawn. Waiting to see the sun for the first time can trick your body into thinking the sun isn’t rising until later in the day. Dark sunglasses can come in handy, too, says Winter. You might wear them throughout the day, taking them off in the late afternoon when the sun would be rising at home.
Plan around 4 p.m. your time.
Most of us athletically and cognitively peak around 4 p.m. in the time zone our body thinks we’re in, says Winter. “The chemicals that make us feel sleepy have not accumulated enough to make us sleep, so it’s a sweet spot of sorts right in that middle point.”
The longer you stay in a place, the more you’ll adjust to local time, but when you first arrive, “your brain doesn’t know you’ve traveled for some time,” he says. That means if you’re in London for 24 hours traveling from the East coast, a late client dinner could work in your favor (you’ll likely feel your best around 9 p.m). If you’re in Honolulu coming from the East coast, think about breakfast (alertness will likely peak around 10 a.m.).
If you’re a sleep-on-the-plane kind of person, an overnight return flight delivers you directly to your destination where you’ll wake up to natural sunlight and a full day ahead. “I find this helps people fall asleep quickly when they go to bed that night,” says Winter.