Photo credit: CC BY-ND 2.0 (Philadelphia 76ers, 2011)

Travelling across multiple time zones is no walk in the park. Changes to meal times and sleeping hours can potentially disrupt one’s internal body clock and result in jet lag, which is one baggage we’d rather not bring along on our holiday.

Imagine looking at the Swiss Alps, but your eyes are fighting a losing battle to stay open to take in the view, or standing at the Niagara Falls, but even the deafening roar of water is not able to drown out the thoughts of your comfy hotel bed. For sufferers of jet lag, even the most well-planned holidays can get bogged down by daytime fatigue, splitting headaches and stomach upsets that can last for days and mar your dream holiday experience.

While the effects of jet lag differ across individuals, they generally worsen as you pass more time zones, and more birthdays too. In fact, older adults tend to experience more severe jet lag and take a longer time to recover. As of now, there is no known cure, although Japanese scientists have recently discovered the set of brain cells that serve as the ‘master clock’ in the brain. It may be early days still before we can bid adieu to episodes of jet lag, but some members of the Quotient team swear by some tips — or tricks — to prevent and manage this mental-physical condition.

#1. Start adjusting sleep patterns on the plane, if not prior to the flight.
Prepare to land and spend the day as “day”, or to get ready to retire for the night if you touch down around bed-time, local time.

“Whenever I travel to and from the United States, I sleep most of the plane journey, only waking up for meals or the occasional movie. It works for me every time!” says our editor Vivian, who has been on three-day turnaround business trips to Los Angeles.

And if you are the sort who has difficulty sleeping on the plane, easily unsettled by the endless roar of the jet engine, the sound of the approaching stewardess with her trolley of food, the cries of a wailing toddler, try to deprive yourself of some sleep just before the flight.

Surely, not having slept for 24 hours prior to flying can only mean one will “K.O. when the plane takes off”, to put it in the words of senior travel consultant Hou Ying, who just returned from a 73-day Europe vacation.

#2. Come prepared for a good night sleep.
The noisy and cramped environs of the plane do not always make for optimal conditions for sleeping. It therefore pays off to pack some sleep essentials for the flight — an eye mask and ear plugs to block out the lights and sound, and if space permits, a small pillow to rest your neck and head. Heck, if it really helps you to feel at home — and hence get some rest — bring along that special stuffed toy bedside companion or put some drops of lavender essential oil on a scarf and wear it to sleep!

Lucky for her, travel consultant Bin Bin doesn’t need to pack any of these. The trekking enthusiast almost always asks for a glass of wine before she catches some winks, just to get a better quality rest.

#3. Set your watch to your destination’s time zone.
Another popular method among our staff is to adjust the watch to the destination’s time zone just after boarding the flight. While not a proper solution, it has the psychological effect of positioning the mind to adjust to a new routine and function according to local time.

#4. Engage substance assistance.
Rufus, our product development director, proposes a “cocktail of coffee, alcohol and melatonin”, half in jest of course. What he means is to consume coffee in the day to stay awake, alcohol for a better sleep at night, and melatonin to regulate one’s sleep cycle for better sleep. The disclaimer, however, is there that may been potentially negative effects on health — consuming alcoholic and caffeinated drinks can cause dehydration, which may disrupt sleep instead. If you do take to this advice, remember to consume lots of water!

Also, melatonin is a natural hormone found within humans that induces sleep, and is available as a drug that is commonly used by flight crew. Melatonin is best consumed two to three hours before boarding to allow time for the drug to be absorbed by the body. However, the long-term health effects and effectiveness of this drug in addressing jet lag have yet to be proven, so do consult your doctor before proceeding.

#5. Resume normal work routine after your holiday
“When coming back from a long-haul trip, the best solution is to arrive in the morning and come in to work so that you get your rhythm going!” says our co-founder Hui-Juan. Spoken like a boss indeed!