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Travel Tips Jet lag

Understanding flight fatigue By Tania Moffat


ver feel like you need a vacation to get over your vacation? Jet lag is a real problem for travellers and can last for several days depending on your body, and the direction and distance you have travelled. Today, jet lag is considered a temporary sleep disorder, but

for years it was written off as just a state of mind. Studies have now shown that the condition actually results from an imbalance in the circadian rhythms (physical, mental and behavioural) that regulate our body's natural or "biological” clock. Tese rhythms control sleeping and waking, the rise and fall of our body temperature, the plasma levels of certain hormones, hunger, mood and other biological conditions that are affected largely by our exposure to sunlight. Any time you travel quickly between two or more time

zones, as you do when you travel by air, your body’s circa- dian rhythms are affected. Essentially, your body’s biological clock becomes “stuck” on its original schedule, causing you to experience symptoms such as daytime fatigue, disturbed sleep, difficulty concentrating at your normal level, gastro- intestinal problems, mood changes and a general feeling of being unwell. Symptoms usually present themselves within a day or two of arrival. When you cross multiple time zones, cues such as light exposure, mealtimes and social engage- ments are disrupted, causing a de-synchronization between

your internal clock and the external cues your body is receiv- ing.

Te more time zones you cross the more intense the

symptoms you may experience. While the symptoms are temporary, they can affect your business or pleasure travel. Interestingly, symptoms are worse when you travel west to east, with the body requiring up to a day to recover from each time zone crossed. A person travelling from Winni- peg to Dubai, United Arab Emirates may take nine to 10 days to recover from the nine-hour time difference, but only need five days to recoup from the flight home. Why? Jet lag seems to be worse when you lose time than when you gain it. It can also worsen as you age and, unfortunately, condi- tions that we experience with air travel, such as the changes in cabin pressure associated with high altitudes, low levels of humidity, the lack of physical movement and possible de- hydration can increase symptoms regardless of time zones. Frequent travellers who struggle with jet lag should consid-

er seeing a sleep specialist or physician with training in sleep medicine. Light therapy, melatonin and prescription medica- tion can all assist with symptom control. Travellers crossing multiple time zones, flying east, who are older adults and fre- quent flyers such as flight attendants and business travellers are at the highest risk of experiencing jet lag.

Tips to try and reduce jet lag:

• Adjust your internal clock before you leave. If you are travelling west, stay up an extra half hour each night and increase in half hour increments for several nights before your departure when travelling west. If you are flying east, start going to bed earlier. Adjust your mealtimes slowly as well. • Go outside. Sunlight will help to regu- late your body, it’s a difficult but effec- tive process to follow. Advance your body clock if you are travelling east by seeking morning light and avoiding late afternoon light, to adjust to your earlier time zone. If you’re traveling west, you’d want to do the opposite and take advantage of evening light avoiding early morning light. Now if you combine your light exposure with exercise, you’ll help your body adjust even faster. Too much work? There’s an app for that, try

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Entrain or • If you absolutely must nap, keep it short. • Try to arrive at your destination in the early evening and stay up to 10 p.m. local time. • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants for at least four hours before bed. • Try melatonin. Melatonin is produced naturally in our bodies and helps to regulate our circadian rhythms. Its abil- ity to work on jet leg is inconclusive, but, if you want to try it, consult with your doctor. • Change your watch as soon as you get on your plane. • Rest or sleep on the plane if it is night where you are going or stay up if it is day. • If you have to be alert for an event, arrive a couple of days early if you can.

• Stay hydrated while travelling. • Get up and move. Don’t just sit in your seat the entire flight; stretch, walk the aisle. • Try a hot bath before going to bed. • Earplugs and masks can dampen the noise and provide better sleep, or try white noise from a fan, air conditioner or TV static to block out unwanted background noise. • Keep the room temperature below 24 C and above 12 C for optimal sleep. • Start out rested; sleep deprivation before you leave will make jet lag worse. • Some doctors recommend that you don’t adjust your internal clock at all if your trip is short and you’re not travel- ing over more than three time zones. Just stay on the same schedule you had at home as much as possible.

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