Live well: Stop jetlag in its tracks

If you travel on business you don’t want to waste time dealing with jet lag. Cora Lydon’s tips will help you to synch body and destination to make best use of your time abroad.

• Michelle Baker, a clinical psychologist at the Kloof Family Health Centre in Durban, South Africa, advises settling in to the new time zone as quickly as possible. “Take 2-3 days to settle, before conducting important business. You may get to the point where you’re overwhelmed by the need to sleep.  This is one time a ‘catch up’ sleep will benefit you – but get back to your normal bedtime/wake time within 24 hours.”

• Use modern technology. The Jet Lag app can be used to restore your sleeping pattern and so combat many of the jet lag symptoms. You let it know where you are travelling to and when and it will calculate a schedule that gently alters your usual sleeping and eating patterns to minimise any ill effects of flying.

• Take measures before you fly. A small 2008 study in Italy found the dietary supplement pycnogenol could help frequent flyers. In the study, people who took the supplement three times a day for a week, starting two days before they travelled, experienced significantly fewer symptoms such as insomnia, mental slowness and fatigue, compared to the test group. And the symptoms they did experience vanished after 18 hours on average, compared to 39 hours for those taking a placebo.

• “Avoid alcohol and drink a lot of water and occasional fruit juices to boost blood sugar levels,” recommends Baker. “You may miss some of the meal times during the flight due to your flight schedule so try stashing some of the packed snacks – like cheese and nuts – for later. Have snacks such as provita-type biscuits, dried fruit or energy bars in your bag for those long periods between served meals.”

• As soon as you board the plane alter your watch to your new time zone – it’s a simple trick but one that really does help. “Make use of the eye pad (not your iPad!) and ear plugs to shut out sensory disturbances,” advises Baker. This will help you to get some rest on the plane and fall asleep more easily.

• Although experts advise getting into your new time zone promptly, Baker warns there are dangers to staying awake for extended periods. “If sleep is neglected for long periods of time ‘sleep debt’ accumulates. The consequence of leaving sleep debt unchecked can be a profound effect on quality of life.” So if you’re feeling tired, take a nap – but just a short one so you don’t disturb your night time sleeping.

• If you can fit it in, exposure to natural light will help your body to adjust to the new time zone. If you arrive in the day, schedule a walk soon after arrival. If you arrive in the evening, set your alarm and head outside for a walk first thing in the morning.