Jetlag, sports performance and performance in general.
First, what is a jet lag: This is traveling to another time zone, which can be against the clock to the east and with the clock, to the West. If we do this, our body has to adapt in terms of its sleep / wake rhythm. The further away we travel to another zone, the longer it takes to get used and adapt to that new zone. Traveling North or South won't be against the time, so there is no jetlag to overcome doing this.
The word jetlag is derived from jet being an aircraft and lag from lagging behind. In others words lagging behind time due to traveling fast around the globe.
There is also a clear difference by clockwise or in flying counter-clockwise. The first one is easier to process then the second. In the first case, we delay our sleep and when we finally go to sleep we are really tired. So there won’t be too much problems into sleeping, although we may wake up early.
The second is more of a problem as we are not yet ready to do so, that's not easy for most people.
Not only is the going to sleep a problem but also the moment of awakening, our body will tend to wake up at the moment we woke up at the place we were coming from. I we travel west we will wake up too early, traveling east, against the clock we will feel like waking up in the middle of our sleep cycle. What can you do to handle a jet lag? The first thing you should do is making sure you are well rested before you travel, the fresher you are, the more resistance and energy we have to adapt.
Another method is to adapt to your new time zone in advance, you try to alter your sleep / wake rhythm before you travel to handle the jet lag. So when traveling east go to bed and get up earlier and to the west vice versa. If we stay a long time in the new time zone and we want to perform soon after our traveling at 100% again this is the preferred method.
There is also the method of ignoring the jetlag as much as possible. This is possible if you only stay briefly in the new time zone, and soon after will be traveling back to your normal time zone and pick up immediately our normal sleep / wake cycle. So in the new time zone you keep as much as possible your old sleep / wake rhythm and stay in the zone we are coming from. The big advantage of this method is that once you are back again in your own time zone we can pick up our normal rhythm right away.
What are the effects of a jet lag on our physical performance? For maximum performances our bodies needs to be 100% awake and alert and rested. Traveling to an other time zone makes this difficult to achieve, so performing in a different time zone will therefore often be not easy. Furthermore, we often won't sleep very well at first and therefore won’t be well rested, this also won't help performance.
Not only try to change your sleep / wake rhythm, but also adapt your training times, so earlier / later depending on the direction of traveling. Also exposing to light at the right times is important and will help. If you have to get out of bed early, make sure you get in the light right after you stand up, and that you stay out of the light before you go to sleep, also make sure you sleeping room is dark, and keep the daylight out.
One general point to handle a jet lag is that we can take as a general rule that for every hour time difference you travel we should take one day to adapt. Of course there are individual differences but do not underestimate a jetlag. It has a clear influence on our system and performances.