Leaders from across the world have gathered in India for the G20 summit, which is currently underway in the national capital of Delhi. Among the political dignitaries who are present for the G20 summit are US President Joe Biden, UK PM Rishi Sunak, Australia PM Anthony Albanese, Canada PM Justin Trudeau and many more.
Most of these leaders travelled across time zones to arrive in India for the G20 summit. For all of them, international travel is part of the job – which begs the question, how do world leaders cope with jet lag during diplomatic visits?
Jet lag, also known as desynchronosis or flight fatigue, is a temporary sleep disorder that occurs when a person's internal body clock is disrupted due to rapid travel across multiple time zones, particularly by airplane. Jet lag can cause a person to feel fatigued, sleepy and irritable – not the best way to travel as a world leader.
In 2021, the Hindustan Times published a report on how PM Narendra Modi, a frequent traveller himself, deals with the problem of jet lag. His first and foremost solution is to hold back-to-back meetings when travelling abroad. This way, there is no time for the body to feel fatigued.
Another thing he does is to try and accommodate some meetings on the flight itself – especially when travelling to several countries in one trip. Drinking a lot of water also keeps the prime minister healthy and hydrated as airplanes have very low humidity and can leave a flyer dehydrated.
Lastly, PTI reported, tuning your body to the time-zone of the destination is a good way of dealing with jet lag. “He does the same thing when returning to India and tunes his body and sleep cycle according to the Indian time, ensuring that he is fresh and ready to go when he lands during the day time,” the PTI report said.
According to The Washington Post, Henry Kissinger travelled a lot - both as President Richard Nixon’s national security assistant and as secretary of state from 1973 to 1977. He once found himself “on the verge of losing my temper at North Vietnamese insolence” while holding negotiations with North Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho. “From then on I never began a negotiation immediately after a long flight,” said Kissinger.
There are various strategies to minimize the effects of jet lag, such as adjusting your sleep schedule before the trip, staying well-hydrated, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and gradually adapting to the local time zone upon arrival. Controlling exposure to light – by dimming or increasing cabin lights – can also help combat jet lag.