For an executive flying more than a hundred days a year, clocking a quarter or even half a million miles in the process, the luxury of time to recover after a journey is something very few can afford. And a first class seat in the jet is rarely a help.
Hop on a plane, fly, land and start work almost immediately would what a typical appointments diary of such an executive would read like. There can definitely be no slot for jet lag. So what if the American space agency NASA says it takes a day to recover from every time zone crossed.
In this world where the only certainty may be death and taxes, jet lag all but makes the cut too. So how does the busy executive fight it?
There is no panacea as any health expert or the most seasoned of travellers will tell you. Following general to-dos might help, as will some solutions developed by individuals themselves who understand their own bodies better. Try PricewaterhouseCoopers India managing partner Deepak Kapoor’s remedy for instance.
“After an evening check in, I promptly put on my walking shoes and go for a 30-35 brisk walk. Besides getting my daily dose of exercise, it also helps me get familiar with the locality for the following days. This is followed by a light dinner and beer to put me to a sound sleep. And the morning brings with it a fresh day full of energy sans jet lag,” he says.
Of course, there is more one can do. Try these tips compiled from both experts and non-experts:
- Start well rested. Jet lag hits a tired, badly slept body harder than others.
- Get to your time zone before your flight does. In other words, set your watch to the destination time when you start and eat and sleep according to the new time. Carry your own food if need be so you can eat according to your schedule.
- Sleep well on board. Dress comfortably, use ear plugs and eye masks to ensure you have ample undisturbed sleep.
- Drink plenty of water. We all know the dehydrating effects of alcohol and caffeine, but such beverages also serve as alarms waking you up intermittently. These also stem the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone produced by the body to set the time clock. Keep sipping at the water. Colas and juices are no substitutes. Says Frenchman Emmanuel Cantegrel, General Manager in India for the international luxury furnishings brand Somfy, “I have limited my intake of wine to just one glass at a meal because of my jet-hopping lifestyle. That’s a big thing for someone from France to do. It has helped me, so there is clearly a message out there for frequent travellers.”
- Move your body. Stretch in your seat or in the open space near the exits and walk around the aisles. But do mind the flight attendants while they are serving. Mindtree Consulting chairman and managing director Ashok Soota says he looks forward to periods of transit between flights to manage some exercise walking around the airports.
- Eat light in the flight. Avoid salted foods and snacks as these raise blood pressure. Motorola India chairman Firdose Vandrevala says he always carries plain almonds with him to munch. “It helps me beat the in-between meals hunger pangs. With this craving for food taken care of, it also helps me limit how much I eat at the dinner table,” he adds.
- Don’t pop in sleeping pills. These induce a comatose state, and increase chances of death causing blood clotting sometimes experienced on long-haul flights.
- Soak in the sunlight when you land. A 15-minute exposure to the sun or bright lights help alleviate symptoms of jet lag.
- Take a shower, but don’t nap after you land. Ensure your body accepts the new bio-cycle. Sleep when it should be time to do so. Ditto, says Mr Kapoor.
- Wake up and sweat it out a bit. Always a good idea to exercise in the mornings following a flight. Fights any remains of jet lag besides keeping you fitter.
Does all of the above work? Ask TechTribe CEO Rohit Agarwal who has made it almost an exact science as he shuttles between San Francisco and Delhi every week. “For instance, I always board an evening flight at the end of a working day for Delhi after a good dinner. I go off to sleep immediately for four hours, wake up to work for 12 hours followed by a six hour sleep before landing in the early morning hours. It is a maximum of one snack on the 23 hour flight with strictly no alcohol for me. And a bit of exercise in the flight itself. By the time I am home in Delhi, my body is ready for a hearty breakfast and a full day’s work immediately after that,” describes Mr Agarwal.
With a bit of care lethargy, insomnia and disorientation need not come at you with your baggage on arrivals. And some closing words: Accept jet lag may still happen, and schedule your activities around it. Like a shopping trip to one of those crack-of-dawn markets found in almost every city in the world.