Over 15 million people fly across multiple times zones and at anytime there are 500,000 passengers in the air. For those people who fly through a 2 or more time zones – especially if they fly east to west – Jet Lag can be a serious issue. It can leave us tired and confused, it disposes our body clock and effects our sleeping patterns. Here we have found ways to stay alert and focused during the day and have a good night's sleep.
If you are going away for more than two days, begin to acclimatise your body to the new time zone, by changing your appointment schedule in advance of taking off, it works best if you start 3 days before you fly.
If you are flying across eastwards across Canada from Vancouver to Toronto, then 3 days before you take off eat an hour earlier each day, and vice versa, (eat an hour later each day before the return flight)
2. Fly early
Regular business travelers attempt to organize their meetings in other time zones on a Monday, so that they can travel on Saturday or Sunday. This gives them more time to get used to the new time zone and help their body clock. The extra time really helps. There can be some complaints from employers regarding extra nights cost of hotel rooms, but as you are losing your weekend, they can not complain too much.
3. Stay Hydrated
Drink plenty of the water on the plane, and also avoid drinking alcohol and any caffeine based drinks while on the plane, all of these can dehydrate you and affect your internal body clock as well as make any jet lag symptoms much worse.
If you have an overnight flight and meetings in the morning, and will need to be on top form direct from the flight, book a first or business class seat, so that you can have some sleep. The upright seating position with little legroom in economy makes your body produce an adrenaline- like substance that keeps your blood flowing to your brain. This stops you from sleeping and even if you manage to drop off, stops you from falling into a deep restful sleep. Whereas lying down in a business class seat-bed with all the extra room and comfort that the upper classes offer, reduces the problem and you can be ready for anything when you arrive at your destination.
5. Carb up
Have a plate of spaghetti or linguine or other carbohydrate food for dinner the night before a flight. There is some debate upon the effects that carbs have on jet-lag, and whether it raises or lowers your ability to get a good night's sleep. Recent research on clock genes have uncovered that carbs can increase your chances of getting to sleep, especially when you fly west. No one knows why they help, but it is a fact that carbohydrates give your brain an extra source of tryptophan from which it can make serotonin that helps you to sleep.
6. Stay cool
If it is nighttime at your final destination when you are in the air, then try and sleep on the plane. Use eyeshades and earplugs to help you shut out the noise and lights on the plane, if you can adjust the air conditioning to a high level so you are cool. Your body clock interprets your being cool as time for sleep and as the temperature decreases around you, then your body's core temperature lowers and makes you want to sleep. Whilst a higher temperature raises your body's core temperature and tells your brain it's time to get up. To stop yourself being too cold, take a pillow and blanket set.
7. Do not eat the food
Your body clock is also affected by food, and as airline meals are served based upon the time at the departure airport, eating it can seriously damage any attempt you have made to adjust your body clock.
8. Sleeping pills
If you take short acting sleeping pills these will help you to drop off during an overnight flight, and can help you sleep through the first few nights at your destination. Beware that taking a pill later than you should will increase the effects of jet-lag. A greater danger is if the pill lasts longer than the flight, meaning that you arrive at your destination feeling drowsy and sleepy. Which can have serious consequences if you have to drive a car.
Melatonin is an over the counter medication, that once taken will assist you in trying to sleep. It has a weaker effect than sleeping pills, but has an impact on your internal body clock and nudges it towards sleep. Sleep specialists have calculated that if you are flying east you should take a 3-5 milligram capsule once you land and when flying westwards take a pill at bedtime at the local time. You do not need a prescription to buy Melatonin, but as it can affect your brain's chemicals consult a doctor before using, particularly if you are on other medication.
10. Eat Eggs
Having a protein-rich eggs Benedict, in the morning after you arrive, will help your brain produce the neuro-chemicals it needs to stay alert through the day.
11. Do not alter you watch.
If you're only going away for a couple of days, do not reset your watch, stay on the same schedule for eating and sleeping that you have at home. For example if you normally have dinner in Ottawa at 8pm then if you are in Edmonton for a few days have dinner at 6pm.
12. Or change straight away.
If it is a longer trip, then help your body to adjust quickly, by not only resetting your watch but eat, go to bed and wake up at local times as well.
Many hotels have gym or sports facilities, as well as swimming pools. Try and schedule a 30 minute workout when you are away. Pack you gym kit and you'll feel better.
14. Beware of Fuzz brain
Once you arrive at your destination, do not drive long distances or make important decisions for at least 24 hours after you land. If you are a tiny bit affected by jet lag, you ability to think and react is greatly impaired and can have consequences for you.
15. Stay in the dark
Even if the view from your hotel window is stunning, resist the urge to keep the curtains open, and close the curtains to help you to sleep when you want. Turn the air conditioning down as well, as this helps. If you can adjust the conditions you can induce your body clock and give it clear instructions to go to sleep.