ExecuJet Africa is celebrating its prestigious status as operator of the first ever jet to land at St Helena Airport (HLE) in the South Atlantic Ocean.
For those not in the industry, travelling for work seems idyllic, glamorous, even enviable... In reality, it can be exhausting, time-warping and all-consuming. Jet lag is one of the most problematic side effects of travelling extensively for business, and the effort it takes to ward off symptoms and stay functioning is draining – particularly when you’re body clock’s thinking it’s the middle of the night, but you’re in the middle of a crucial business meeting. Jet lag can affect you both physically and mentally and, here, we’ve brought you 20 ways to handle its side effects.
Be aware of blue light and adjust your sleep schedule a few days before a trip
Blue light that comes from the screens of electronic gadgets, such as mobile phones and tablets, disrupt your body clock more than yellow or red light. You can use blue light to prepare your body in the days before a business trip.
If you’re flying west, delay your body clock 1-2 days before your departure by seeking blue-rich light later in the evening to keep you awake and also by staying up a little later. If you’re flying east, turn your body clock forward by seeking blue light in the morning and waking up a little earlier than normal or by using a sunlight-mimicking lamp. Then reduce blue-rich light exposure later in the evening by wearing sunglasses or going to bed earlier.
Rest before you fly
It’s important to get a lot of rest in the days before your trip. You should also try to get some sleep prior to the start of your flight to ensure that you’re well-rested before preparing your mind and body to adjust to the time zone at your destination.
Lounge around but avoid fatty meals
Before you go, make use of the airport lounge, but don’t eat rich, heavy dishes. Instead, go for lighter meals plus a side of veggies and salad. When you get on the plane, your stomach will thank you as it won’t have to launch into heavy-duty digestion mode. Make your pre-flight lounge meal your main meal.
Don’t always sleep on the plane
Once you board the plane, move your brain to the destination time zone. If it’s night-time at your destination while you’re flying, sleep on the plane before you arrive. If it’s daytime there, stay awake by simply relaxing or doing some work.
You can also set your watch to the local time of your destination and then divide your flight time to accommodate that time zone transition. For example, a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles could leave at noon and arrive at 5.30am. Noon in Sydney is 5pm in LA and the flight is just over 13 hours long, so stay awake for the first half of the flight and sleep for the second half.
Eat smaller portions and food that’s easy to digest. If you’re flying business class, opt for a small plate instead of the main course. You can also ask the flight attendant to set aside a second small plate for later on. It’ll be better for your stomach to take two smaller meals, with enough digestion time between them, than to take a three-course meal straight up.
Use sleeping aids
Take sleeping pills as well as some melatonin drops/pills to assist in-flight sleeping. Melatonin is a natural hormone that’ll help you sleep and adjust to the time difference. Only use sleep aids for a long flight that’s eight hours or more.
Prepare for environmental insomnia
Environmental insomnia is lack of sleep brought on by your immediate conditions. You may find it hard to sleep on a plane for several reasons: a screaming baby, a small seat, temperature that’s too hot or too cold, loud plane mates, flight announcements, turbulence, etc. You can prevent environmental insomnia by using earplugs, an eye mask, a neck pillow and a blanket, as well as wearing comfortable clothes.
Don’t watch a movie
If you need to sleep, watching a movie will not help you fall asleep – remember the blue light rule? Turn off your mobile phone, iPad and laptop an hour before sleeping because the blue-spectrum light emitted from these devices is very stimulating and can keep you awake after use.
Choose the right seat
First and business class seats are wider and have a deeper recline for a more solid sleep. But if you can only afford economy class seats, there are ways to sleep better. Opt for a seat in the premium economy section that reclines so you can stretch to a plank position, or ask for a window seat so you can put a pillow by the window for extra padding. Don’t sit at the back of the plane as it moves more than the front when you hit turbulence, and also avoid seats by the kitchen and restrooms where motion and commotion can wake you.
Drink water and avoid caffeine and alcohol
Make sure you’re well hydrated by drinking plenty of water – adequate hydration can help you sleep (but don’t drink too much water that you need to keep using the restroom!). Also avoid caffeine (coffee, chocolate, etc.) and alcohol. Caffeine will make it more difficult for you to sleep on board, whereas alcohol will give you fragmented sleep and you’ll feel groggy when you wake up. If you’re going to drink alcohol, drink three times as much water and sit next to the aisle for easy bathroom access.
Do some exercise
Try to keep moving throughout the flight to keep your blood circulating and prevent muscle cramps. Perform regular leg and arm stretches while seated, and get up and walk the aisles intermittently.
Fly first or business class for longer flights
Being in first or business class means you can tailor most of the in-flight service to your needs. For example, you can skip breakfast in exchange for an extra hour of sleep as well as eat whenever you want and how much you want, whereas in economy class you only eat when the airline tells you to eat. You can also sleep better and stand up or move around to exercise in first or business class.
Lounge around again and avoid heavy meals
If your flight has a stopover in Singapore, Hong Kong or Dubai while en route to Europe or the UK, for instance, also use the lounge at your transit point. Have another light meal with a side of veggies and drink fruit juice – remember, avoid alcohol, coffee and blue light if you’re hoping to sleep once boarding the plane again.
Hit the showers or walk around
Taking a shower at the arrivals lounge in your stop-over will wake you up and make you feel better. If you have an extra hour before you board the plane again, walk around the airport to get your body moving and your brain more active.
Get some sleep (if you need it)
Sleeping in airport lounges can sometimes be easier than on the plane itself. If you’re fading, it’s important to listen to your body and rest but – remember – tailor your sleeping time to the timezone of your destination.
Use the arrivals lounge
If you had an overnight flight and land around 6am but can’t check into your hotel until mid-morning, make use of the arrivals lounge. Grab a shower and eat a high-protein breakfast with a side of salad or veggies. If you like coffee, reboot your energy levels with a double shot. If you prefer a fruit-flavoured drink, take a shot of Berocca to help kick-start your day.
Live on local time
If it’s still daylight when you arrive at your destination but it’s night-time where you came from, sync up to the new time zone immediately by not taking a long nap or going to sleep early – you should go to bed at the same time you usually do, just in your new time zone. If you’re struggling to stay awake, expose yourself to outdoor light or blue-rich light. It’s important to run your body on local time.
If you want to go sightseeing after you arrive, try to walk rather than catch a taxi to get some much-needed fresh air and exercise.
Rest for a day before doing anything important
Don’t go straight to your meetings from the airport. If you’re flying overnight from Australia to Europe, for example, and land in the morning, it’s not a good idea to wake up and do a business presentation within 2-3 hours after your arrival. You should at least rest for one-half to three-quarters of a day to allow your body to adjust to your new surroundings before you do anything important.
Take a nap or go to bed early every few weeks
Travelling to places constantly can wear you down, so it’s important to catch up on sleep. Consider taking a nap and/or going to bed early for 1-2 nights every 2-3 weeks – once your adjusted to the time zone, of course.