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How business travellers beat jetlag

Date
It's a delicate balancing to act to ensure you can hit the ground running when you get there.

It's a delicate balancing to act to ensure you can hit the ground running when you get there. Photo: istock

Jetlag is the bane of business travellers, but habitual high flyers quickly learn they either have to master or be a slave to it.

That's one of the easiest reasons to justify siting at the point end of the plane: it's simply much easier to deal with jetlag compared to being crammed into economy.

Indeed, frequent flyers quickly develop a personalised playbook to sync up their sleep cycle, remain productive and make the most out of the trip.

There's no single silver bullet, because the physiological cause and impact of jetlag upon your body is complicated stuff.

We've outlined plenty of tips and time-proven strategies in the past. But what are some of the extra tools available to frequent flyers who have the status to match?

Lounging around

Take full advantage of the airport lounge before you go. And no, that doesn't mean slamming down the five-star nosh and guzzling the top-shelf grog.

Nobody's saying you need to go all Jesuit before you jet off, but steer clear of rich, heavy dishes. Opt for lighter meals plus a side of vegies, and don't skip the salad.

By the time you're on the flight, your stomach will appreciate not having to launch into heavy-duty digestion mode.

I tend to make my pre-flight lounge meal my main meal and then eat light during the flight itself, using smaller potions and leaning towards food that's relatively easy to digest.

Qantas has made this substantially easier with last year's rejig of its international business menu to include "small plates" alongside main courses.

So, when flying Qantas business class for example, I'll usually opt for a small plate instead of the main course.

Sometimes I'll ask the flight attendant to set aside a second small plate for later on.

It's better for your stomach to have two smaller meals with ample digestion time between them than to wolf down a three-course meal.

And that's another plus of being in business class instead of economy: you can pretty much dine when it chooses you, whereas in economy you eat when the airline tells you to eat.

Your inflight timetable

Defeating jetlag is all about making a smooth transition between two timezones: the one your body is in right now, and the one it'll be in at the end of your flight.

The oldest trick in the book is to set your watch to the timezone of your destination once you're on the plane.

But the next step is to plan how you'll divide your flight time to accommodate that timezone transition.

A flight from Sydney to Los Angeles, for example, might leave at noon but reach LAX at 5.30am. Given that noon Sydney is 5pm in Los Angeles, and the flight is a bit more than 13 hours long, you should spend no more than the first half of the flight awake.

Once again, being in business or first class means you'll be able to tailor most of the inflight service to your own needs.

That can include skipping breakfast in exchange for an extra hour of shut-eye.

Achieving a sound sleep during your flight requires a few more tricks, such as choosing light clothing, carefully selecting your seat and wearing a good eye mask.

I've detailed some of these in an earlier High Flyer column, 'The six secrets of in-flight snooze', so click through to pick up some hints.

Stop-over strategies

If you're on a flight with a stop-over – such as Singapore, Hong Kong or Dubai while en route to Europe or the UK – take advantage of the lounge at your transit point.

Hit the showers: it's guaranteed to both wake you up and make you feel better all around.

Stock up on with another light meal, especially partnered with vegies, and hit the fresh fruit juice.

If you've got an extra hour before boarding, avoid sitting around: go for a wander through the airport to get your body moving and your brain a bit more active.

Use the arrivals lounge

I love a good arrivals lounge, especially on overnight flights. Two of my favourites are Cathay Pacific's in Hong Kong and British Airways' in London Heathrow Terminal 5, which are available to business class and first class passengers.

When your flight lands around 6am but you probably can't check into your hotel until mid-morning, there's no reason to rush into the city.

Head into the arrivals lounge to grab a shower, then hoe into a hearty breakfast. Aim for high protein, avoiding the fast and easy carb route, and get a good serve of salad or greens in there as well.

Like your coffee? Grab a double shot to reboot your energy levels. Did you bring a tube of Berocca? Take a shot of orange fizz into the bargain.

In no time at all you'll be feeling human once again, and if you've slept for much of the flight your bodyclock will now be reset to local time.

As a frequent flyer, what are your top tips for avoiding jetlag?

David Flynn is a business travel expert and editor of Australian Business Traveller.

Twitter: @AusBT

31 comments

  • I agree with most of the points in this story, other than the "lounging". Racking-up between 8000-9000 status-credits a year has left me feeling very jaded about airport lounges, and I'm now at the point where I check-in at the last possible minute to avoid spending even one minute more than necessary in the confines of the airport, no matter how lush the lounge is. It's just not that exciting anymore.

    Arrivals lounges are a different matter. Very useful, in my opinion.

    As far as sleeping goes:
    1. First class is the way to go;
    2. Wear the eye-mask provided or, better yet, get a 'fancy' one that doesn't compress your eyes;
    3. White noise track on the iPod, on repeat, with 'bud' earphones, drowns out disturbing cabin noises.
    4. Alcohol and sleeping pills are both things I completely abstain from. Airborne hangovers are ghastly, and the pills leave me dazed for 24 hours. I travel for business, and I can't afford to be out of it for a day after I arrive.

    Commenter
    Pete
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    February 12, 2014, 1:49PM
    • I relate to points 2 to 5 but have never flown 1st class. I just rest and relax all the way. Close my eyes (with eye mask on), chill out to some repeating soothing relaxing sounds on the buds and just doze…….. No movies, no computers or iPads, no staying up, not necessarily sleeping but just resting- only opening my eyes for meals and rest breaks. It is brilliant and now I actually look forward to my flights to the US as I get to have a total break from the everyday (especially looking at screens).

      Commenter
      Peter
      Location
      Fremantle
      Date and time
      February 13, 2014, 2:15AM
    • I agree about the screens, Peter. The first thing I do after takeoff is turn the screen OFF, and it remains-so for the duration of the journey.

      Commenter
      Pete
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      February 13, 2014, 8:27AM
  • Done more flying that most taking about 250 flights in the last 4 years and the secret is quite simple learn to sleep on the plane and organise your sleep the night before to make yourself tired when you need to sleep on the plane.

    Commenter
    trigga
    Date and time
    February 12, 2014, 2:26PM
    • one word - COKE!

      Commenter
      Wired
      Location
      Online
      Date and time
      February 12, 2014, 2:48PM
      • Pete, does your 'fancy' eye-mask mean the Tempur one that you can do up really tight to exclude all the light?

        Commenter
        Tripper
        Location
        Byron Bay
        Date and time
        February 12, 2014, 2:53PM
        • Correct. Once it's on, no photon shall enter!

          Commenter
          Pete
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          February 12, 2014, 3:28PM
      • I swear by the mini-stop. always take the afternoon flight to Singapore, stay overnight and catch the daylight afternoon flight up to Europe.

        If you're travelling at the front and with carry on only, you will generally be in your hotel within 45 minutes from touchdown, and only need to leave the hotel about an hour and half before the flight.

        You get a good night's sleep in a real bed, real showers, change of clothes etc

        You only get there half a day later but never really suffer jet lag.

        When you fly up without a break, you get in at 0'dark:30, your hotel room is never ready until 3 pm and you can't work that day anyway.

        It's one of the reasons I love Singapore Airlines, they space their flights out during the day, so you choose when you want to leave and when you want to arrive.

        Commenter
        ricardo
        Date and time
        February 12, 2014, 3:40PM
        • The timing is very important for me, I fly to Singapore every fortnight in economy and it has to be the daytime flights for me.

          Leave in the morning or early afternoon and you get to Singapore in the afternoon or evening, ready for a good nights sleep. Leave on the evening flight and you arrive at midnight, then by the time you are in bed it's 2am, which is 5am Australia time and that screws your for the next day.

          Similarly coming back to Australia, I now always take the morning flight back, arriving in Australia in the evening and straight into the normal sleep routibe. The alternative is the evening flights departing at 9-11pm, which arrive back in Australia at 6-8am. If you do this you pretty much lose an entire night of sleep (Take off, eat, sleep 2 hours if you are lucky, get woken up, then land) and end up jet lagged for days.

          Commenter
          TheHawk
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          February 12, 2014, 5:51PM
      • Love all the comments First Class, Business class, courtesy lounges etc etc. HOWEVER most business travellers that I know are forced to fly economy either by company policy or company economics.. Why the continued focus on the front of the plane What about the majority of poor business travellers who are at the back and have no access to lounges. I am on a plane at least 2 times per month for business outside of Indonesia and I travel economy. Most of the business guys here I know likewise. The difference between business and economy is 4 times the price and first class, if available on the routes and its not always, is 3 time business. So what the hell do we do. As an aside I always have the feeling that these writers/contributors talk up the front end of the plane and conveniently manage to drop the airlines name into the article so that they can squirm their way into more "FREEBEES" Also whats the percentage of the total plane in business / first class as opposed to economy - needs to be substantially more focus on where the bums on seats are.

        Commenter
        tonybali
        Location
        Indonesia
        Date and time
        February 12, 2014, 4:11PM

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