HOW TO BEAT JET LAG
JETLAG WOULD HAVE TO BE THE ONE DRAWBACK OF TRAVEL AND EVERYONE HAS AN OPINION ON HOW TO COMBAT IT. THESE RANGE FROM THE LUDICROUS, SUCH AS WALKING BAREFOOT ON GRASS UPON ARRIVAL, TO THE MORE LOGICAL, SUCH AS EATING HEALTHY MEALS. RECOVERY TIME CAN BE BUILT INTO A RELAXED HOLIDAY BUT THE STAKES ARE UPPED IF YOU ARE ON A BUSINESS TRIP AND YOU ARE EXPECTED TO BE ON TOP FORM.
Sleep deprivation is a particular concern for Australian business travellers given that most trips are more than eight hours long – a rather unpleasant geographical drawback. Reho Travel South Yarra managing director Karsten Horne believes that companies often demand a tight work itinerary to ensure they get a return on their high cost airfare investment. “I’d prefer my team emphasised the need for recovery time, searched for logical routes and suggested itineraries with flights that depart late in the evening or mid-morning,” Horne said.
Jetlag is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder and a general guideline is that it will take one day per time zone crossed to recover. A flight from Sydney to London crosses ten time zones so you may require ten days to acclimatise. The effects of sleeplessness can be debilitating with scientists predicting that you are one third less productive if you lose one and a half hours sleep. If executives average four hours sleep a night for a four-day period, statistics show they are just as cognitively impaired as the legal standard of drunkenness.
On that issue, forget about hitting the bottle if you are sleep deprived. Sadly for those who like a drink, one beer can have the same effect as six if you have gone through a period of reduced sleep. And finally, a lack of sleep provokes the same signs as intoxication. Reaction time is greatly reduced, your judgment is skewed and your ability to problem solve will become a problem in itself.
Even pilots are not immune to the pitfalls of sleep deprivation. It is an occupational hazard that came to light with the investigation into an Air Canada pilot who mistook the planet Venus for an oncoming aircraft. He wasn’t insane, he wasn’t drunk and he wasn’t vision impaired. He was seriously sleep deprived and waking from a nap. Scientists call this sleep inertia, the transitional period between waking and working out what exactly you are doing. Most of us cope with this bleary phase by taking a shower and the pilot incident proves that we certainly should not be doing our jobs during this time.
So what can you advise for your clients who want an optimum performance on their business trip? Travelling in business class may help reduce all the aforementioned symptoms, but if your clients do not have that luxury, seat selection can improve their experience. Checking out reviews on websites such as seatguru.com will make the choice of seat an easier one for your client. Beware of booking the back seats in economy class, for instance – these seats usually do not recline and are often reserved for families with children.
The Travel Authority Crows Nest managing director Peter Hosper has surveyed his clients to find out the best strategies for coping with long distance business. “Given a choice, pick the longer overnight flights over the shorter ones to maximise your rest time. For example, travel from Europe via Bangkok instead of Singapore to maximise your opportunity to sleep on the Bangkok to Sydney flight,” Hosper said.
This is advice echoed by Emirates vice president of aviation and occupational medicine, Dr Fiona Rennie. “One of the ways to reduce jet lag and time consumed in the air is to choose flights appropriately. For example, Emirates offers a same-day service to Europe from Australia, allowing travellers to arrive in Dubai for lunch and Europe for dinner,” she said.
“Take advantage of a longer stopover to make more of your holiday and discover a new destination. The new 72 hour visa free stopover in our hub of Guangzhou means you can have a taste of China on the way to London or Vancouver, and you’ll feel better when you get to your end destination,” China Southern Airlines regional general manager Henry He said.
What other steps can you recommend to business travellers? First off, as counter-intuitive as it may sound when you are sleepy, getting out for some exercise is a proven sleep-booster. A study by Alertness Solutions found that 61% of exercisers fared better than their non-exercising counterparts on business trips.
As far as crossing time zones goes, jetlag is generally reduced when you are gaining time and not losing it. So flying from London to Sydney is easier than adjusting to Greenwich Mean Time after a flight from Sydney to London.
Of course, sleep is the ultimate cure. The days of sleeping across rows of bucket seats in the bustling airport terminal or upright in the business lounge may be numbered. A new Russian design called Sleep Box is a narrow white box that contains a single bed, desk, TV and mirror. But until it becomes a regular fixture in airports around the globe, check out for the best airport napping know-how. For your clients’ benefit, Skytrax voted Singapore’s Changi airport as the best airport for 2011 thanks to its snooze chairs, swimming pool and 24 hour massage facilities.
Elsewhere, British Airways has a jet lag calculator on their website. A tailor made recommendation is provided with the optimum times you should seek and avoid light in your destination.
And the Swissotel in Berlin has also joined the jetlag-relief bandwagon by offering a 60 euro ($85) rate add-on which provides a power nap lounge, sound pillow, aromatherapy session, herbal breakfast drink and high wattage lamps that replicate sunlight. If you’re in a rush, you can have your sunlight to go with a portable headset that channels light into your ears.
Tips for staying on top flight form
Avoid alcohol – it acts as a sedative initially but when your blood alcohol level drops off your sleep can come to an abrupt end.
Get a good night’s sleep before departure – no last minute packing!
Pack earplugs and an eye mask.
Avoid caffeine on the flight as it dehydrates you.
Upon arrival, get as much exposure to natural sunlight as you can possibly take between meetings and long lunches.
On long flights aim to sleep toward the end of the flight.
Choose a hotel that emphasises a good night’s rest; some hotels aid sleep by offering pillow menus, quiet floors and aromatherapy sessions.
Sniff lavender before bed or spray your pillow with lavender oil. Researchers have found it engenders a deeper sleep.
Try the flight drink 1Above which contains electrolytes and up to 133% of daily B vitamin requirements.