Traveling to exotic Asian destinations for work always sounds exciting, until you realize that the only interaction you’ll get with the tropical beach is through the conference room window. Plus, before you arrive there’s the hours taken up pushing through traffic to the airport, negotiating check-in and immigration queues, crunching yourself up in your airline seat and turning exhaustedly square-eyed, before landing in a different time zone, disoriented and dead beat.
Flying takes its toll – physically, mentally and emotionally. We’ve all experienced the joys of jet lag when our body clocks go haywire. As free-spirited as our minds may be, our bodies are creatures of habit, used to a regular pattern of sleeping, eating and drinking. Our circadian rhythms, the things that manage biological systems and hormone production, are also governed by external factors such as regular daylight. And they like their 24/7 routine.
Hop on a plane and fly half-way round the world and our central nervous system, which controls the release of cortisol (to help us wake up) and melatonin (to help us sleep), fires at the wrong times. Fighting against these biological processes results in shades of fatigue that range from irritation to total brain fog and, more often than you’d like to admit, an embarrassing lack of consciousness mid tedious presentation.
Numerous studies suggest that even with as little as one-and-a-half-hour’s less sleep than usual, you’ll be operating at 32 percent of your normal productivity. Cerebrally, lack of rest affects the memory, thought processes and how you process information – all key skills when under pressure to perform.
In addition, rather more personal issues like dehydration, headaches, digestive problems, nausea, anxiety and mild depression, as well as the dreaded insomnia, can hit at the least convenient times. The bottom line? Rest is important both long- and short-term.
Take a look online and it seems there are as many solutions to jet lag as people suffering from it. But one way of addressing the problem – without sleeping pills, countless cups of caffeine or complicated time difference calculations – is taking a trip to the nearest spa.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Stimulating your body’s circulation helps to expel fluid retention and toxins while helping your nervous system, body and mind relax. Certain treatments can also encourage your circadian rhythm to readjust, bringing you back into something resembling balance. Plus, a massage is great for ironing out the kinks created by airline seats.
It might not sound as fun, but some low lights, peace and quiet and a bit of TLC before you go to bed is a far healthier way to attempt quality sleep than relying on an alcohol-induced coma after hitting the hotel bar.
Amatrra Spa at The Ashok
For some authentic Ayurveda remedies, try the Amatrra Spa at the Ashok Hotel. The Delhi-based facility is a 20,000-square-foot space of wellbeing that includes a Kerala Ayurvedic treatment room plus steam, sauna and Jacuzzi – all good for starting the de-lagging work. Best in show for long-haulers is their Globe Trotter treatment, an hour’s work on your neck, shoulders and back (the parts of the body that hold the most tension and are most affected by being scrunched up in an airline seat). Alternatively if you’re suffering from insomnia you could choose the classic sleep therapy, Shiro-Dhara, where relaxing oil is poured onto the third eye for an hour.
Globe Trotter, 60 minutes, Rs4,400 ($66); Shiro-Dhara, 60 minutes, Rs5,500 ($82)
Aveda Lifestyle Salon & Spa
Aveda Lifestyle is a one-stop shop for wellness, from getting your ‘do’ transformed, to testing the latest skincare products, eating the healthiest vegan food and, of course, addressing jet lag issues in the spa. Here, in their calming, earthy treatment rooms, the recommended jet lag treatment is the Stress-Fix Body Treatment. Ideal for boosting your energy and de-frazzling your mind, the therapists take no prisoners with their pressure point and deep tissue massage techniques, even throwing in some reflexology to really rebalance things. Tailor-made for whatever aches and pains you’ve got, you’ll walk out feeling looser, lighter and full of energy to explore the nearby Omotesando Dori neighborhood.
Stress Fix Body Treatment, 75 or 105 minutes, ¥ 14,000 / 20,000 ($138/$198)
Bodia Spa, just back from the riverfront near the National Museum in Phnom Penh (there are also two in Siam Reap), is a spacious sanctuary decorated in wood and rattan with splashes of dark red. It may sound like a bit of a geographical non-sequiter, but their version of a Balinese Massage includes lymphatic massage to detox, firm strokes to loosen muscles and a caring touch to uplift the mood – just what you need. Choose from five essential oils for an aromatic boost – ylang ylang banishes mental anxiety, tangerine boosts the immune and the circulation systems, lemongrass relieves pressure in the head and aids the nervous system, eucalyptus energizes and ginger warms muscles, helping reduce muscle pain.
nBalinese Massage, 60/90 minutes, $34 / $44 US
Dragonfly Retreat at Kerry Centre
One of China’s longest-standing day spa chains, Dragonfly Retreats, has charming interiors and treatment rooms with low light, very conducive to slowing the pace down. Right in the middle of the CBD, the Kerry Centre Retreat is a study in earthy, neutral colors. Their Happy Landing package of Chinese Massage is highly recommended for jet lag. Based on the techniques of tui na (meaning push-pull), it helps to ease headaches, neck and back pain, and reduce stress. This is followed by 30 minutes of Oriental Foot Massage for balancing the body, and finally Foot Therapy to relieve any water retention based swelling. A trifecta of therapy.
Happy Landing Massage, 120 minutes, RMB458 ($69)
Nirvana at Ocean Plaza
Macau’s homegrown day spa brand, which will celebrate its tenth anniversary this year, recently expanded its outlets to include the charming, four-treatment room day spa in Taipa (as well as one at the Grand Coloane Beach Resort). Following overwhelming positive feedback, owner Cristina’s tough love massage recipe of deep tissue and Swedish techniques was made into the spa’s signature Heavenly Nirvana Massage. Tell the therapist how you feel and she will customize it to be as soothing or as therapeutic as you need. And if you’re concerned about the consequences of flight dehydration, their Aromatic Hydration Facial will fool your colleagues into thinking you’re feeling as fresh as a daisy.
Heavenly Nirvana Massage, 60/90/120 minutes, MOP450/550/660; ($56/$69/$83) Aromatic Hydration Facial, 90 minutes, MOP470 ($59)
Santal Spa at West Lake
Located near West Lake, an upscale area of restaurants, bars and shops, Santal overlooks a field of morning glory leading toward a temple, so head to their delightful rooftop to relax pre- or post-treatment and take advantage of the calming view. Full of ambient daylight, the spa’s interior features pale marble, stone and fabrics to create a peaceful atmosphere. The minimally decorated treatment rooms are arranged around a central courtyard. Linh, the spa owner, recommends Shiatsu for clocking in to the local time zone. A non-oil massage originating from Japan, it includes acupressure, using the thumbs, fingers and palms, on the body’s energy lines (or meridians) to unblock and restore the body’s energy levels.
Shiatsu massage, 30/60/75/120 minutes, VND450,000/750,000/900,000, 1,200,000 ($21/$34/$41/$55)
Spa Ceylon Boutique and Urban Spa
Colombo, Sri Lanka
A treasure trove of Ayurvedic inspired wellness products and pampering, Spa Ceylon in the Colombo Fort area has transformed the 400-year-old Dutch hospital into two floors of fragrant calm with low lighting and dark wood. It’s the perfect place to slow the pace down and prepare your body and mind for sleep. The Hot Sand Massage Ritual is the treatment that best addresses exhaustion by using compresses filled with herbs and warmed sand. Therapists knead the body with the blissfully hot compresses, helping to loosen any knots or joint pain, while also performing soothing massage strokes to help reduce stress. The ritual includes a relaxing herbal inhalation to enhance the calming effect.
Hot Sand Massage Ritual, 90 minutes, Rs6,000 ($44)
By Catherine Nicol