If you've lived through a jet-lagged business trip, you've probably thought long and hard about how to never let it happen again. Two hours on the tarmac plus four scotch and sodas does not equal a dynamic next-day presentation. And after 12 restless hours on a plane, you don't want to waste any more time in a blackout shade-induced slumber. There are meetings to attend, meals to expense. We spoke with Dr. Ramani Sriram, an expert in Health Coaching and an Enzyme Therapy Specialist at the Positive Health Center in New Canaan. Just call her the sleep guru. With her tips, you can beat the clock before it beats you.
Just Say Om
Anyone who travels knows that there's no easy way to combat jet lag. The key to managing it is a multi-strategy approach before, during, and after your flight. Before your trip, get yourself both physically and mentally prepared. If you haven't started hitting the gym, do so optimally a month before a big trip, or at minimum two weeks. A strong immune system is the foundation for beating jet lag. Experts recommend at least a half hour of exercise, which can be on the treadmill or skipping that taxi and walking to work. Yoga also does the body good. Just say "Om" -- breathing exercises and downward dogs will get you in a positive mental state. Sleep patterns go haywire when you travel, so try to adjust slowly. One week before travel, sleep an hour earlier than your normal schedule. If you're going from west to east, get up a little earlier each day.
A Liter of Water a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
A healthy diet is key. Specifically, an alkaline diet, which means greens, nuts, and fruits. Even if you're not looking to beat jet lag, this applies to you. Dr. Sriram recommends taking a daily probiotic, which flushes your system and keeps the immune system and your gut going strong. And if your insides are strong, everything else falls into place.
Not only should you drink a liter of water every day, but note that what time you drink it makes a difference. It's best to consume the largest quantity of water in the morning, less by the afternoon, and by 7, to have attained your liter goal. And no, that doesn't mean that then it's time to start boozing. If you're following doctor's orders, to stay fully hydrated, you should limit alcohol about two days before travel. Dizziness, anxiety, and backaches are all symptoms of dehydration, and not what you want on your long-haul flight.
If you're the A+ student, a month before you leave, take some natural enzymes that are anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Also, consult your doctor, and load up with your annual flu shot because, as we all know, the airplane isn't the healthiest environment, with the recycled air, close quarters, and germs.
Up in the Air
If possible, book your flight on an airline with cabin mood lighting engineered to combat jet lag. Bonus points if you can convince your company to splurge on First Class Emirates seats. Somehow, First Class seems to make it all better. Once you're in the air, sleep as much as possible, up your H2O intake and - dare we say it again (but this time we mean it) - limit alcohol. If you're flying economy, always carry water with you. These days, it's just the bare minimum in steerage.
On your flight, wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes so you can exercise your feet. Move around as much as practical, as fluid stagnation is not good. When you're in your seat, do yoga poses and breathing exercises. This keeps your lungs open and mind and body relaxed.
While we're not saying the food is going to be a gourmet, sometimes you just don't have a choice on a 12-hour flight. Eat the dinner, but keep it light, like a small piece of fish or chicken. Even in First Class, avoid steak, which is difficult to digest in your sedentary state.
When you're in the air, use a nasal spray to keep your nasal passages moist, to mitigate infections. Almond oil is also good, smells great, and while not scientifically proven, can be calming. Also not scientifically proven but a nice luxury is a plush memory foam eye mask and cashmere blanket. When they shut off the lights, at least close your eyes and put on those noise reduction headsets and earplugs.
Still can't sleep? The question that comes up often is the one of drugs. Dr. Sriram advises to be careful with melatonin and other sleep aids, which can leave you feeling groggy. Her recommendation? Consult your doctor about a natural enzyme called Rest, which has virtually no side effects. Sign us up.
As your flight is coming to an end, get up in the morning for breakfast. Brush teeth and wash your face to energize. With light, your brain starts thinking it's daytime, even though your body may still be fatigued.
Just Hit It
If it's during the day, the key is to just hit it when you arrive. You want to get on local time as soon as possible, so plan an activity upon landing, preferably something to energize you. As if you need any excuse to shop 'til you drop or check out the cultural sights before the lines start. Change your watch right away and follow the local schedule, which means spending time in cafes, enjoying a light meal to acclimate, and taking a nice long walk to stretch out. And follow your pre-trip and in-flight strategy and hydrate as much as possible. If your hotel room is available, shower up but don't sleep. The moment you sleep, you are succumbing to jet lag. If you absolutely can't go without a nap, take a 30-minute, not 3-hour, nap. Also try to get to bed early that first night - 9pm. Of course, a blissed-out massage never hurts, either. That's a business expense, right?