We all know how the effects of jet lag can throw our bodies into a tailspin. Experiencing a flurry of time zones can leave you both keyed up, exhausted and generally feeling like you’re on another planet. Poor appetite, irregular sleeping schedules, fleeting concentration and mood swings all result when jet lag or dysrhythmia occurs after long-haul air travel, leaving your body clock out of sync with the new time zone you’ve landed in.

Furthermore, new studies are showing that the condition worsens with age, especially after 50, and may have a negative effect on memory and blood pressure – it’s even possible that it could shrink the brain. Without aid, some people take two to three weeks to get their circadian rhythm back.

The good news is there is help available, as Business Traveller discovered while consulting wellness experts and exploring some of the unique services hotels and airlines have developed to help customers arrive – and do business – in the best possible shape, both physically and mentally.

We have uncovered merely the tip of the iceberg concerning jet lag relief solutions, and more is certain to emerge with travel now an indelible part of modern lifestyles. Among the “cures”, exposure to light – or avoidance as the case may be – massage, taking melatonin or herbal supplements and physical exertion are often suggested, and it’s really up to the individual to see what works best for his or her particular body type and personality.

Here are some of the latest innovations for easing jet lag.


British Airways (BA) was one of the first travel providers to raise awareness about the impact of jet lag, hiring Dr Chris Idzikowski, aka “Dr Sleep”, to issue regular reports and tips about adjusting to different time zones. With his help, the carrier set up a “jet lag calculator” (available on BA’s website), which consists of these questions:

• What time do you normally wake up in the morning?

• Do you usually sleep well?

• What time is it in the place you are visiting?

• What time is it at home? This is followed by advice based on that information – after submitting the responses, a list of recommendations pops up to be accomplished over a two-day period, touching on light and exercise.

For example, I am planning a trip to New York, where I expect to land around 2.30pm, which makes it 2.30am in Hong Kong where I live. I am counselled to seek light on Day 1 between 2pm and 4.30pm and avoid light between 4.30pm and 7pm. On Day 2, it is suggested I seek light between 11pm and 1.30am and avoid light between 1.30am and 4am.

Any kind of light is sufficient, I am informed, although daylight “is best”, but if not available, “switching on a bedroom light” will do. Avoiding light can be done by drawing the blinds in the hotel room or wearing an eye mask, or even sunglasses.

Also working on the effect of light and dark on the human body clock, the Litebook company (www.litebook.com) has designed a series of therapeutic products, based on extensive research and testing. These include a hand-held device featuring a custom lens and diffusion system – combined with high-performance white LED – that produces a field of bright but soothing illumination, as well as light-blocking glasses that still allow you to navigate safely while walking or driving.

The latest model of the lamp, called Litebook Elite, offers a sleek design and added details such as a timer (15/30/60 minutes) and a rechargeable lithium-ION battery, which lasts up to two hours from fully charged and can be recharged like a mobile phone.

For those who find themselves falling asleep too early in the destination time zone, it is suggested they use Litebook Elite to tell their body it’s not yet time for bed. The gadget should be positioned 30-60cm from the face with eyes open to achieve the optimum benefit. Typical effects include heightened awareness and energy. Be advised that those diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, mood or sleep disorders or who are taking medication for the treatment of depression or mood disorders should consult a doctor before using this product.

The light-blocking shades come in a stylish wraparound design that can be worn over prescription glasses or on their own as sunglasses. During the “avoid light” times, they can be donned while watching TV or working on the computer. Using high-quality lenses, they are guaranteed not to distort colours and in fact, sharpen the clarity of both images and text.


Las Vegas might never sleep, but if you are a conference delegate who’s flown in to attend one of the many international trade shows, getting enough shut-eye is a definite priority. MGM Grand Hotel & Casino (www.mgmgrand.com), the Strip’s largest accommodation provider, believes the answer may lie in its STAY WELL rooms.

Rolled out in October in partnership with Delos – a real-estate company specialising in wellness-oriented projects – the 42 units on the 14th floor of the main tower integrate science and technological designs to help reverse jet lag. Delos co-founder Morad Fareed told Business Traveller that the products reflect four years of collaboration between them and doctors and researchers at Columbia University Medical School and the Cleveland Clinic (particularly renowned for cardiac care), as well as various architects, engineers and contractors, to produce an environment supporting an optimum recovery rate.

Some room highlights include:
• Advanced room lighting that can improve the body’s internal clock by assisting the regulation of melatonin production and sleep/wake cycles

• Wake-up light therapy that exposes the individual to short periods of blue-shaded lighting to increase energy and reverse jet lag effects

• LED lamps designed to illuminate pathways at night without disturbing the levels of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep and wake cycles.

• Dawn simulator alarm clocks to gradually awaken the body

• Vitamin C shower infusions to promote healthy hair and skin.

• An air purification system to reduce allergens, toxins and pathogens creating better air quality and breathing.

• A water filtration system to reduce disinfectant by-products, chlorine, pesticides and some pharmaceutical and personal-care products for the cleanest, most purified in-room water.

• An electromagnetic field (EMF) protection system to protect guests from electrical equipment that produces sleep-disruptive EMF.

• Access to the Cleveland Clinic’s software on stress management, sleep and nutrition programmes.

• The STAY WELL Channel on the TV network showcasing celebrity guru and Delos consultant Deepak Chopra, who will welcome MGM Grand guests followed by an educational video on the in-room aids.

An additional US$30 per night is added to the prevailing room or suite rate to enjoy the STAY WELL environment.


Yanni Gaspar-Frivaldo, director of spa at EDSA Shangri-La, Manila’s CHI, The Spa (www.shangri-la.com) and a regional spa trainer, suggests using vetiver essential oil mixed with 20ml of sweet almond oil as a base for self massage, in a hot bath or tapping drops of pure vetiver oil onto water in an aromatherapy burner. The earthy, rich fragrance that is produced has been known to soothe headaches, a common symptom of jet lag.

If visiting the EDSA Shangri-La, Frivaldo, who has conducted extensive research on indigenous Philippine healing therapies, recommends Chi Spa’s 3.5-hour Himbing Trilogy (not on the menu but offered to corporate guests), a combination of three pressure-point techniques to send the mind and body into near Nirvana.

Kat Lai, aromatherapist at the popular DK Aromatherapy in Hong Kong’s Mid-Levels (www.aroma.com.hk), lists lavender, marjoram, neroli, orange, Roman chamomile and sandalwood oils as any of several options to burn in an aromatherapy diffuser. Five to 10 drops of these essential oils will do to create a soporific atmosphere in the room. For those with no time to pop by the spa, peppermint, rosemary or jasmine oil mixed with a massage oil applied on any aching area of the body can provide some relief, and a hot compress also works.

Another wake-me-up consists of putting three to five drops of the above-mentioned oils into a bowl of steaming water, placing a towel over the head and inhaling deeply from the mixture to feel an immediate clearing of the brain, says Lai.


Lindsay Eng, clinic operations manager of massage and osteopathy experts Sutherland-Chan Clinic (www.sccentre.com.hk), which has centres in Hong Kong and Toronto, stresses the importance of keeping one’s neck supple throughout the journey, describing it as  “the gateway to many of the nerves that control alertness and the sleep-wake cycle”. Upon arrival, an easy self-massage tool is to put two tennis balls in a tube sock and lie on your back with the tube and tennis balls under your neck at the base of the skull. Then, move from side to side to improve circulation and the nerve system that connects to the brain.


Chris Watts, director/exclusive DMT practitioner and master trainer of Motion Dynamics (www.chriswatts.bz) in Hong Kong, who specialises in teaching people to stretch purposefully, is vehemently against popping a pill, and recommends trying to keep awake until 9pm local time. Taking a brisk walk, popping into the sauna or steam room or dipping into the spa bath can help prop up the body system until bedtime, he says, adding that an aromatherapy massage should only be done before sleeping.

Thirty minutes before sleep, he advises taking valerian (a root) as drops in water or a tablet under the tongue. “This really helps you to get a good shut-eye naturally,” he says. Keeping the room in total darkness – no bedside lamp turned on (even on low levels) and the smartphone some distance away from the bed – is also an effective way of setting off the melatonin better than anything one can ingest, believes Watts, who shuttles frequently each month between Dubai, Jakarta and the UK.


JetLag Genie (www.jetlaggenieapp.com) is an app, compatible with the iPhone (OS 4.2) and iPod Touch and designed by frequent traveller Sasha Giacoppo, offering users a customised action plan to combat jet lag effects based on their flight info and personal sleep patterns.

It starts with entering your flight info, along with your regular sleep schedule. Then three days before the flight, your handset will wake you up a little earlier than usual, and a few hours later in the afternoon, a message will come in “to seek dark”. On the day of the trip, your internal clock should be adjusting to the time at the intended destination. For the next five days, the app leads you through instructions when to take naps, melatonin supplements and issue more wake-up calls.

“It’s not a silver bullet – and there will never be one,” says Giacoppo. “But if the traveller is up to the challenge and follows the programme, jet lag will be lessened.” For those of us who suffer badly on business trips, any amount of relief is worth the effort.