Everyone who has flown on a long-haul flight has felt the effects of jet lag.
What is it?
Jet lag often occurs after you have taken a long-haul flight, which has crossed many time zones. Flying either east to west or west to east is the cause not the length of a flight and, going east is worse.
We are creatures of habit and when our bodies undergo changes in our circadian rhythms we feel the effects. This can vary from person to person depending on their age, fitness and lifestyle.
Symptoms are usually tiredness, fuzziness, irritability, and lack of concentration also, you can become disorientated and lack motivation, all of which, affect your ability to function in a normal manner.
You may find you are unable to sleep at the right time and it can take many days for your body to fully adjust to the new time zone.
If you are taking a holiday and have no set schedule, except to spend time on a beach and do little else, then jet lag is less of a problem. However, if you are flying for business and need to be alert for that meeting or business deal then jet lag can be a major concern.
Curing jet lag is all about resetting your internal clock, which means adjusting your circadian rhythms to the new time zone you are in.
To get back to normal NASA has estimated that it will take one day for every one-hour time zone you have crossed.
In the Air
In addition to crossing time zones the conditions inside an aircraft contribute to the affects of jet lag.
Apart from being cooped-up in a small space for hours on end your body has to deal with a cabin pressure of around 8000 feet when the airplane is cruising at an altitude of 30,000 feet causing tiredness and swelling, which is especially noticeable in the feet.
Also, the air in the cabin is dry and often stale. Fresh air from outside the aircraft is sucked in through the engines and this costs the airlines money therefore, some of the air in the cabin is recycled. Air quality is often better in first and business class. Stale air can give you headaches and make you tired.
What you drink and what you eat can also have an affect. Avoid alcohol if you can. Alcohol is 2-3 times more potent than at ground level and will dehydrate you. Other drinks such as tea and coffee can contribute to dehydration and should therefore be taken in small quantities. Orange juice can irritate the stomach if you are not used to drinking it. Instead, drink plenty of water during the flight.
Go easy on how much you eat and what you eat. Stomach upsets caused by bacterial microbes contaminating your food affect a large percentage of passengers and you should try and avoid certain none cooked foods such as salads and cold meats especially, on some smaller airlines in certain parts of the world.
Try and get as much exercise as you can on board. Do not sit in your seat for hours on end without getting up and walking up and down the aisle. Deep vein thrombosis (fatal blood clots know as DVT) is becoming common and all the airlines are recognizing this. Some airlines play videos showing exercises to do on board. You should do these exercises regularly especially, for your legs.
At present there is no known cure for jet lag, so frequent flyers have come up with their own remedies to reduce jet lag.
Prepare for your flight
The day before you fly is a day to relax, as you should have done all the preparation for your business trip or holiday in advance.
Avoid last minute packing and anything that might cause you anxiety. Be free of colds and flu as flying will exacerbate them and you may be infectious, which means there is a good chance you will pass your symptoms to other passengers in the enclosed environment of the aircraft cabin.
Get a good night’s sleep and avoid drinking alcohol the night before.
Get to the airport in plenty of time incase of any hitches; this will allow you time to sort them out before you fly. At the gate or airport lounge allow yourself to mentally adjust to the trip ahead of you.
During the flight
It is important to make yourself comfortable for the flight. On most long-haul flights you will be supplied with a blindfold, blanket and cushion and you can add to these by bringing on board sleeping aids such as, neck rests and ear plugs.
Wear loose clothing for the flight. You can change at the airport if need be.
Men should loosen neckties and belts also, undo their trousers so their stomach is not restricted when sitting. Remove your shoes and wear the airline socks or bring a pair of house shoes to wear during the flight. Elasticated stockings can also be worn to aid blood flow in the legs.
Drink plenty of water and eat little.
During the flight exercise as much as possible and especially do leg exercises.
Try and get some sleep at the time of sleep at your destination using your on board sleeping aids.
Adjust your wristwatch to the time at your destination, as this will help you to mentally adjust for the time change.
Avoid taking sleeping pills. They will put you to sleep, but they will also immobilise you and little or no body movement is a bad thing when flying as it can lead to DVT.
Melatonin is taken by some seasoned travellers and does have the affect of reducing jet lag. It works by adjusting the sleep hormone in the body and has to be taken at the time of sleep at your destination before you fly and at least three days after arrival.
Although it is a natural substance it has not been licensed in the UK. However, you can obtain it from pharmacies elsewhere in the world.
No-Jet-Lag is a homeopathic preparation and its main ingredient is extracted from the plant Arnica. The brand is manufactured in New Zealand and is compatible with other medications and available in most international airports, travel stores and pharmacies worldwide. It should be taken every two hours during the flight and before and after landing.
This is the most effective way of avoiding jet lag. Cut your journey mid-way and spend at least one night on the ground. This will help your circadian rhythms to adjust.
For short stop-overs on the ground try and take a shower if one is available, this will rejuvenate you and get tired muscles and circulation going again.
Adjust to the new time zone by eating and drinking at the normal times in that destination and even though you may feel tired try and stay awake until it is time to go to bed.