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When we travel across different time zones, our body’s normal circadian cycle is disturbed, and possibly altered temporarily. To most people, jet lag means experiencing a sense of fatigue, the inability to sleep at night, loosing concentration, or suffering from headaches and general tiredness.
All traveling interpreters, especially those who fly across continents to fulfill assignments in distant locations, experience a sense of confusion or lack of concentration together with other symptoms. As we reach our destination, the new environment our body is in influences the circadian cycle – e.g. day or night at a different time than usual.
The lack of synchrony is primarily caused by the alteration of the the light/darkness cycle, the changes in environmental temperature, meal times, physical activity, and interaction with other people. The body has some problems in adjusting to the new stimuli because changes in the body core temperature are relatively slow.

As far as returning to normalcy is concerned, some hormones like – but not limited to – Melatonin (the sleep regulator hormone) and Cortisol (the stress hormone) follow the natural circadian cycle. As such, they have a role, indeed not a marginal one, in keeping the body’s internal clock synchronized. The cognitive effects of de-synchronization may include reduced performance, altered mood, reduced motivation, and irritable behavior. Anxiety, irritability and depression, defective memory, longer reaction times, precision errors have also been observed.

So, what should interpreters and clients do? This is a short list of suggestions:

1. contract your rest with the client, including pay for non-working days

2. adopt solutions to limit or eliminate jet lag effects, including, but not limited to:

  • rest before travel
  • stay hydrated
  • avoid alcohol and caffeine
  • don’t remain seated for long time without exercise
  • bask in natural light

If you want to know more, just download the 19-page e-book I have written on this subject and let me know what you think!