Staying Ahead of Jet Lag A dozen time zones later, which would you rather be: An exhausted, achy mess or a world-beating businessperson?
(Business 2.0) – You've just gained an overseas customer, and you're packing for Asia to seal the deal. Mandarin phrase book? Check. Voltage converter? Yup. Socks for preventing blood from clotting while you're interminably wedged into economy class? Don't leave home without 'em.
Unfortunately, jet lag--and the other nasty side effects of long international flights--can reduce you to an exhausted mess. There's no silver bullet to prevent the problems, but that doesn't mean you have to meet your new client in anything less than top form. Here are five in-flight strategies that will let you hit far-off conference rooms running.
Adjust Your Clock
Taking well-timed doses of melatonin, a synthetic version of a brain hormone that helps keep you on a 24-hour cycle, will start to reset your body's circadian rhythm. If you're traveling to Europe, push the clock forward by swallowing about 0.5 milligrams of melatonin the night before your flight. You'll wake up earlier the next morning and have a leg up on the time change. As for journeying to Asia, prepare by postponing your bedtime. Dose up on two cups of espresso in the early evening, and take melatonin the next morning to delay your internal clock. You'll then function on a later schedule.
Seize the Daylight
Once you're on the plane, try to operate on the clock ticking at your destination. Emirates Airlines helps its passengers adjust to a Middle Eastern schedule by cranking up the cabin lighting when it's daytime in Dubai. You can create a similar midair scenario with disciplined use of a window shade and the overhead light. Or stay engaged in conversation, since talking keeps you energized. And for those who believe that acupressure can cure anything, there's the Jet Lag Eliminator ($20; www.jetlag.net), a flat, handheld disk that will direct you to pressure points on your body that stimulate the meridians documented in Chinese medicine. It also tells you when to push them.
Pop the Right Pill
If it's midnight where you're headed and the in-flight magazine isn't enough to put you to sleep, it's time to step up to pharmaceuticals. The state of the art in prescription sleeping pills is Ambien, which diminishes electrical activity in the brain to give you about four solid hours of rest before quickly wearing off. "Because it's short-acting," says William Forgey, author of Traveler's Medical Resource, "there's no hangover effect."
Sit and Spin
Moving your limbs and breathing deeply to increase oxygen flow to your brain blasts out any remaining cobwebs when you wake up and want to crack open the laptop. One recent study of business travelers showed that those who regularly exercised while away from home performed 61 percent better than non-exercisers on reaction and alertness tests.
For a workout that won't disturb your snoring seatmate, try a little yoga. Here are two poses suggested by Suzi Teitelman, national yoga director at Manhattan-based Crunch Fitness: First, sit straight with your back arched and your hands on your thighs. Look up while inhaling deeply, then slowly round your back and drop your head while exhaling. You'll feel the stretch in your undoubtedly tight neck and all the way down to your waist. Next, interlace your fingers, straighten your arms overhead, and extend your palms toward the ceiling while relaxing your shoulders. Breathe deeply. After hours of compressing your spinal column, you'll feel your entire upper body lengthen. Hold each position for three breaths and repeat each movement several times.
Let It Flow
Believe it or not, that mystery-meat Stroganoff is far from your biggest health concern on a transoceanic flight. Staying parked in your seat for hours on end can trigger a serious condition called deep-vein thrombosis, the formation of blood clots in the veins of your legs. If a clot breaks free, it can clog a vein leading to your lungs; a study found that 1 percent of airline passengers developed these potentially fatal blood clots. Strolling the aisle or just flexing the muscles in your feet every two hours will help avoid the problem. Another option is to wear tight, over-the-calf socks designed specifically for long flights ($10; www.magellans.com). You won't win any style points, but the socks do combat DVT by applying pressure that encourages the blood to keep flowing.
Robert Earle Howells is a freelance travel writer based in Southern California.