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Beating Jet lag

By Phumi Nkosi

So what's a girl to do with jet lag? I strut off the plane after 14 hours, and my friends and business associates expect me to look absolutely fabulous!

Welcome to my biggest enemy - jet lag!

It is a series of symptoms that occur when your body clock is disrupted. The body clock keeps us in tune with the pattern of day and night. Therefore a major change in time zones causes our bodies to get confused. Common symptoms include fatigue, confusion and lack of awareness. Oftentimes it can send people into a tailspin - as it did with me some weeks ago flying the ultra long haul Dubai-Seattle sector.

Even though I’ve travelled the world, my most recent journey on Emirates from Johannesburg to Seattle (via Dubai) took a major wallop, shutting me down for a few days. Experienced travellers will tell you that eastbound journeys are the worst for travellers: for example Frankfurt to Vancouver should be easier to recover than Beijing to San Francisco.

Nonetheless, upon arrival my body felt beyond exhausted. I felt a lack of alertness and my emotions were out of whack for a few days.

But I am sure that had I not practiced the following tips I would have arrived in far worse shape.

1. Reset your body clock before you fly

Shift your bedtime by an hour or two in the right direction starting three days before your trip. Try and alter your sleep patterns before departure to more closely match the time zone of your destination. Better to be fully rested before you travel and get a good night’s shut-eye before you embark. No partying up a storm the night before - trust me you will regret it!

2. Avoid drinking too much alcohol; instead drink plenty of water

Who can resist indulging in a glass of champagne or two or three, especially when seated in the front of the plane! I know - I normally do. Still, I advise people not to drink too much alcohol as it dehydrates the body and increases tiredness. Rather, drink plenty of aqua to keep yourself hydrated. If you can’t resist the temptation, switch to a ‘dry’ airline such as EgyptAir or Saudia (in fact in many cases their trans-Atlantic fares tend to be ultra cheap)!

3. Set your watch to the time of your destination

When you get on the plane, immediately set your watch to the time of your destination to get yourself mentally prepared for the new time zone. Do NOT mentally calculate what time it is back home!

4. Get some sleep or stay awake like you’re already there

Even if you sleep for a few hours on the silver bird it makes a huge difference, therefore try to sleep as if you’re already at your destination. If it's daytime try to stay awake and if its nighttime try to sleep. Take along noise canceling earphones - my favourite are Bose and some airports even sell them in upscale vending machines. Eye masks help keep puffiness down and shut the light out; even bring your own pillow with your your favourite scent.

5. Opt for overnight flights

I love overnight flights as you can board, have dinner, watch a movie and then doze off. If you are lucky you’ll awake for breakfast and be fresh enough to sprint off the plane and into the arms of your loved ones! This is the best way to replicate your normal schedule, and it’ll be easier for you to reset your clock. Speaking of daylight flights - don’t waste your hard-earned money on First or Business Class as you are unlikely to take advantage of the lie-flat seat beds. I suggest Premium Economy which are great for daylight, trans-Atlantic crossings.

6. Get some sun once you arrive

If it's daytime at your destination, spend as much time outside as you can. The exposure to sunlight will help your brain adjust to the new time zone. A bit of exercise or a brisk swim in the hotel pool will also help restart your life. Here’s another piece of advice: if you have a transit stop of a few hours after a long haul flight, use that time to help your body readjust. Forget the bubbly in the airport lounge, ditch the airport and head into town to explore the sights!

Remember: jet lag is caused by traveling across different time zones, the body needs a few days to recover and adjust. So maximize exposure to daylight, exercise, travel sensibly and, if you need to, nap briefly when sleepy. Most importantly ENJOY and take it all in, you are in a new destination!

Happy savvy travelling!