Jet Lag: How To Minimize It

Jet lag affects everyone a little differently.

Photo credit: stereogab via Open travel / CC BY-SA

Jet lag, also called desynchronosis and flight fatigue, is a temporary disorder that causes fatigue, insomnia, and other symptoms as a result of air travel across time zones. It is considered a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, which is a disruption of the internal body clock.

According to a 2014 study*, the more physically fit you are, the less prone you are to jet lag. To read the whole study (it’s a PDF file), click on the image above. It’s a very interesting read, and not too long.

Here are some highlights.

 Exercise and conditioning – a fit individual experiences less fatigue
 Brief naps prior to, during, and after a trip – builds the immune system
 Shift the sleep cycle – tricks the biological clock
 Avoid dehydration from air travel – a pressurized cabin is a dry environment, depleting the body of half a cup of water hourly
 Limit stress – by performing diaphragmatic or basal breathing exercises
 Maintain good nutrition – by eating healthy, balanced nutritional meals that include protein, carbohydrates, and iron
 Move around during flights – this will help with circulation issues that result from immobility

An Optimal Recovery Plan for Preventing Jet Lag

For Eastbound Travelers:

 Before leaving: Two days prior to flying, try to change sleeping tactics by getting in bed one to two hours later than usual, and then getting out of bed one to two hours later than usual (Lemmer, Lohrer, Kern, & Nold, 2002). Take time to nourish your body appropriately, keeping up your intake of fluids. For the most optimal traveling experience, your fitness regimen is an important indicator to how your body perceives stress. A workout will facilitate a less traumatic physiological response from flying long hauls.
 On the plane: Try to sleep once the first meal is delivered and removed. Drink plenty of water. Resist caffeine and alcohol. Move about whenever possible, stretching the legs, feet, and arms. When you board your flight, bring along a few healthy snacks to rely on if you find yourself hungry and needing fuel. The use of an eye pillow and ear plugs will allow an individual peace and quiet. Hydration is of the utmost importance due to the fact that, as stated before, passengers lose a half a cup of water each hour while flying. With cabin pressures above 8,000 feet, this leads to extremely dry air.
 After arrival: Depending on arrival times, you will need to adjust your cognitive appraisal and appropriately join in on what time of day it is where you are located. Stay awake if it is daytime, and go to bed at dark. Avoid afternoon naps. Light exercises are recommended for quicker adjustment strategies (Dodge & Kitchin, 2003).

For Westbound Travelers:

 Before leaving: Two days prior to flying, try to change sleeping tactics by getting in bed one to two hours earlier than usual, and then getting out of bed one to two hours earlier than usual (Lemmer, Lohrer, Kern, & Nold, 2002). Take time to nourish your body appropriately, keeping up your intake of fluids. For the most optimal traveling experience, your fitness regimen is an important indicator to how your body perceives stress. A workout will facilitate a less traumatic physiological response from flying long hauls.
 On the plane: Try to sleep once the first meal is delivered and removed. Drink plenty of water. Resist caffeine and alcohol. Move about whenever possible, stretching the legs, feet, and arms. When you board your flight, bring along a few healthy snacks to rely on if you find yourself hungry and needing fuel. The use of an eye pillow and ear plugs will allow an individual peace and quiet. Hydration is of the utmost importance due to the fact that, as stated before, passengers lose a half a cup of water each hour while flying. With cabin pressures above 8,000 feet, this leads to extremely dry air.
 After arrival: Depending on arrival times, you will need to adjust your cognitive appraisal and appropriately join in on what time of day it is where you are located. Stay awake if it is daytime, and go to bed at dark. Avoid afternoon naps. Light exercises are recommended for quicker adjustment strategies (Dodge & Kitchin, 2003).

*CWHP Health & Fitness Journal (Fall 2014 Issue). Alex Lambro and Kristina Porier – Optimal Prevention/Recovery Plan to Increase Physical Performance for Individuals Experiencing Jet Lag. Western State Colorado University

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