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Jet Lag

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Jet Lag
Summary
  • Jet Lag is a condition resulting from rapid travel across multiple time zones which causes a disruption to the body's normal 24 hour patterns of sleeping and eating.
  • Arriving at the destination at roughly 10pm local time (or the usual time of sleep) may help to reduce the effects of Jet Lag.
  • Alternatively, try to sleep on the plane and arrange to arrive at the usual waking hour local time.
Description

Jet Lag is a condition resulting from rapid travel across multiple time zones which causes a disruption to the body's normal 24 hour patterns of sleeping and eating (circadian rhythm).1<R>Jet Lag. Hyperhealth. V95.1. CD-ROM. Tele-Health. 1995.

Jet Lag is a common problem for transcontinental travellers. It is an alteration of body rhythms caused by the body's inability to adapt to time zone shifts of 4 hours or more. Not all cases of Jet Lag are the same. Flying eastward often causes more severe symptoms of Jet Lag than flying West. Most people adjust to a new pattern of sleeping and eating at the rate of about 1 hour per day. Thus, after a 4 hour time zone change, the body will usually require about 4 days to fully adapt to a new circadian rhythm2.

After long trips across multiple time zones, it is recommended that travellers plan on 24 to 48 hours of rest upon arrival. It is a good idea to avoid major commitments or making important decisions during this adjustment period as poor concentration and confusion are common symptoms of Jet Lag3. If the travelling involves an important meeting or event at the destination, arriving 2 or 3 days in advance may allow the body to adjust and avoid the inconvenience of feeling Jet Lagged.


Prevention

  • Arriving at the destination at roughly 10pm local time (or the usual time of sleep) may help to reduce the effects of Jet Lag.
  • Alternatively, try to sleep on the plane and arrange to arrive at the usual waking hour local time. 
  • Getting adequate sleep before departure may also help ease the symptoms of Jet Lag.
  • Try to organise a stop-over for at least one night to break-up the journey.
  • Another strategy is to begin resetting the body's clock several days in advance to departure by adopting a sleep-wake pattern similar to the day-night cycle at the destination.
  • After arriving at the destination, instead of falling asleep during the daytime, try doing some moderate exercise.
  • It is a good idea to have watches set to the time in the destination time zone half way through the trip. This may encourage the passenger to start thinking in terms of the new time.
  • Counter dehydration by maintaining a good fluid intake and avoiding alcohol, tea, coffee and cola drinks.
  • Have light meals of food that are easy to digest (e.g. fruit and salads).  


Signs & Symptoms

The common symptoms of Jet Lag include sleep disturbance, fatigue, gastrointestinal upset and impaired mental performance.

  • Management

    It is important to seek the advice of your Doctor before travelling overseas. Ask your Doctor about the latest advice on treating and preventing Jet Lag.


    Lifestyle

    Diet Hints
    • It is important to have a healthy diet that is high in fresh fruits and vegetables to provide the body with the nutrients needed for all bodily functions.

    • A diet which is high in protein and low in calories is recommended before, during and just after a long flight. Protein (from fish or lean meat) is needed for the growth and repair of bodily tissues and the functioning of the nervous and immune systems which may come under stress during international travel4.

    • Special diet requirements (e.g. vegetarian, low-salt, low-fat, diabetic, kosher etc.) can be met by most airlines providing adequate notice is given. Twenty-four hours notice is usually required to ensure that special meal requests are processed.

    • It is a good idea to eat foods that are light and easy for the body to digest (e.g. salads and fresh fruits).

    • The risk of dehydration can be reduced by drinking plenty of fluids and avoiding drinks containing caffeine or alcohol.5<R>Benincosa-LJ et al. Effects of acute caffeine ingestion and menopause on sulfate homeostasis in women. Dept of Pharma, USA. Life-Sci. 1995 Sep 8.57(16). pp 1497-505.


    Vitamins/Minerals/Herbs

    If the diet is considered inadequate, the following nutritional supplements may be of benefit:

    • The B group vitamins are thought to help to balance the nervous system8.
    • Vitamin C can be taken to help boost the immune system which may help to reduce the risk of becoming ill while overseas6.
    • The herb oats is believed to be a good tonic for the nervous system and may be useful if a person is feeling over-excited or nervous. Valerian is a herb which is available as a liquid, capsule or tablet and can be taken to help induce sleep.
  • Pharmacist's Advice

    Ask your Pharmacist for advice.

    1. Following the diet hints below may help to reduce the severity of the symptoms of Jet Lag.
    2. Ask your Pharmacist to recommend the best methods for avoiding Jet Lag.
    3. Eye masks are available from your Pharmacy which help block out light. Darkness stimulates the body to release hormones that promote deep, uninterrupted sleep7.
    4. The action of chewing gum can help to relieve the sensation which some people feel in the ears when adjusting to a new air pressure which occurs as the aeroplane changes altitude.
    5. Special head cushions and inflatable head and neck supports which have been specially designed for the comfort of travellers are available from your Pharmacy. Ask for assistance.
    6. Aeroplane cabins are air conditioned and may cause the skin and lips to become dry over a long flight. Your Pharmacy stocks a wide range of lip balms and moisturisers that may help to avoid skin chapping.
    7. It is a good idea to carry an extra jacket or travel blanket on the aeroplane as the air temperature can seem to become cooler in the cabin as the body's temperature drops during sleep8.
  • Notes

    References

    1. Jet Lag. Mosby's Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Dictionary. Third Edition. 1990
    2. Prevention of Jet Lag. Mayo Clinic. Family Health Book. IVI Inc. 1993. 
    3. Medical Aspects of Air and Foreign Travel. The Merck Manual. 16th Edition. 1992.
    4. Medical Aspects of Air and Foreign Travel. The Merck Manual. 16th Edition. 1992. 
    5. Tomaszewski-C et al. Effect of acute ethanol ingestion on orthostatic vital signs. Dept of Emerg Med, Uni Greenville, NC, USA. Ann-Emerg-Med.1995 May.25 (5). pp 636-41.
    6. Davies Dr S & Stewart Dr A. B Vitamins. Nutritional Medicine. 1990.
    7. Sies-H; Stahl-W.Vitamins E and C, beta-carotene, and other carotenoids as antioxidants.Institut fur Physiologische Chemie I, Heinrich-Heine Universitat Dusseldorf, Germany. Am-J-Clin-Nutr.1995 Dec. 62 (6 Suppl).
    8. Frieboes-RM et al. Growth hormone-releasing pep-6 stims sleep, growth hormone, ACTH and cortisol release in normal man. Inst of Psych, Germany. Neuroendo.1995.61(5).pp584-9.
    9. Nakao-M; McGinty-D; Szymusiak-R; Yamamoto-M. Dynamical features of thermoregulatory model of sleep control [comment]. Jpn J Physiol.1995. 45 (2). pp 291-301.
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