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Top Tips! Frequent Flying.

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With so many flights booked and so much fun to be had, the last thing you want is jet lag dragging you down.

Samantha Wong has some solutions.

Sit bolt upright in a narrow, hard chair; breathe recycled, dry air; deprive yourself of sleep; hur tle your body through the troposphere at 500 miles an hour in a cylindrical tin, and hey presto… you’re ready to do business or enjoy your holiday. Not likely.

Most of us have experienced jet lag and are familiar with the symptoms – fatigue, disorientation, ir rationality, dehydration and aches, followed by sleepless nights, short-term memor y loss, lack of concentration and reduced motivation. But why do we suffer from it, and how can we minimise the symptoms?


Everyone has a body clock that controls their optimum time for sleeping, waking, exercising, eating and being mentally active. If we ignore our body clock, or mess it up by taking a longhaul flight, our so-called circadian rhythms are disrupted, and we end up feeling stressed, anxious and fatigued. Usually, jet lag is worse going east than going west, so if you’re heading to Europe you won’t be as hard hit as you’d be arriving in the US. This is because flying westward, the normal cycle is temporarily lengthened and our circadian rhythms can extend in line with their natural freewheeling period of about 24 hours, and thus catch up.

NASA estimates that we need one day for every time zone crossed to reset our body clocks and regain normal energy levels. So for a five-hour time dif ference, you need five days to recover. But surely there are tried-and-tested ways to minimise jet lag? The best way is to switch to the new time zone as soon as possible. As you get on the plane, adjust your watch to the destination time, and try to sleep at the appropriate time for your destination. An eye mask, earplugs and blow-up neck pillow are obviously travelling essentials.

Short-duration sleeping pills can be useful. There are times, however, when it’s inadvisable to re-synchronise your circadian rhythms. For instance, if you’re a business traveller and your intention is to be away from home for 72 hours or less, it is much better to stay on Hong Kong time as far as possible. If you keep your circadian rhythms in mind when planning your day’s meetings, you’ll be more likely to per form when it counts. An example would be when visiting the UK, try and hold important business meetings in the morning when you feel at your best. Avoid meetings in the late afternoon (night time in Hong Kong).


Of course it’s not just the time changes that effect our post-flight condition. Often, we have a mountain of things to check-off before we travel, which may leave us feeling over-tired or stressed and therefore more liable to get sick on board (where the air is far from fresh) or on arrival. A simple but effective solution? Take Vitamin C. While Vitamin C does not reduce frequency of regular colds all that much, stress-related colds (when you’re tired and run down from lack of sleep etc.) are halved by high doses of the supplement.

So take 1,000mg three times daily, from the day of your flight for the full week after. On board, the dry atmosphere can be a problem, especially if you’re used to the humidity of Hong Kong. Cabin humidity usually ranges from 5% to 15%, and this dry air can cause headaches and dry airway passages. It’s the per fect environment to catch a cold, cough, sore throat or the flu. With this in mind, make sure you drink plenty of water before and during your flight. Staying hydrated is essential. Avoid all diuretics (alcohol, tea and coffee) as they cause the body to lose water. This can lead to dehydration which makes the effects of jet lag that much worse. Note too that the effect of alcohol on the body is two to three times more potent when you are flying. Exercise helps blood flow, so on long flights be aware of the need to get up and stretch.

Get up several times throughout your flight, walk to the bathroom and stretch your legs and arms as much as possible. You can do several effective exercises in your seat, such as moving your ankles in a circular motion to decrease swelling, stretching your arms above your head, and pulling your shoulders back. Long-haul travel (over four hours) brings with it a risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Smokers, the immobile, pregnant women, those taking oral contraceptives and people who have inherited an abnormally active clotting mechanism are most at risk.

DVT occurs because of dehydration, immobility (possibly made worse by sedation) and the pooling of blood in our feet that happens at reduced pressure. The best ways to prevent it are by keeping mobile, walking regularly and keeping well hydrated. Antiembolism stockings to the calf or above can also be useful. Those who have had recent operations or suffer from a chronic disease often take an anticoagulant injection prior to a flight.


The inability to sleep at the appropriate time, after crossing several time zones, can turn a holiday or business trip into a living hell. But there are remedies. If sleep really is eluding you, take Melatonin, ideally sublingual Melatonin as it is quick acting and bypasses the stomach. It’s the body’s own sleep hormone, and it’s safe for short-term use at any age. Melatonin shortens the period you experience jet lag by half; and it halves sleep latency (that time spent tossing and turning in bed before falling asleep).

Melatonin works, it helps you fall asleep but it’s not a sleeping pill and it won’t ‘knock you out’ for hours or leave you feeling groggy the next day. Before you turn in, open the cur tains a little and set an alarm, so you’ll wake up bright and early in the morning. Drag yourself out of bed, even if you don’t want to, and spend as much time outdoors as possible. Daylight, which helps to realign our circadian rhythms, is probably the single most useful tool you can use to ease jet lag.

Keep yourself busy, do a bit of exercise, drink plenty of water and find a way to push through until the evening. By ignoring your body’s desire for a sneaky midday nap, you should win yourself a good night’s sleep – and wake up ready to make the most of your well-deserved trip.


1. Leave home well rested
2. Use the flight to recharge and reset
3. On arrival, stay awake until an early local bedtime
4. Keep well hydrated
5. Soak up plenty of sun
6. Take Melatonin and Vitamin C

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