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Scientists Call it Circadian Dysrhythmia, we Call it Jet Lag!

Your body is under stress when you travel at altitude. A number of our clients fly frequently and often long distances across several time zones. Whether flying for business or for pleasure, you want to get to your destination in fine fettle and raring to go!

In this article we  share with you the advice and guidance we give to our clients on the subject of jet lag.

What is Jet Lag?
Scientists call it circadian dysrhythmia. It’s a temporary sleep disorder where your body’s internal clock isn’t in sync with the time cues in your destination—daylight, dark of night, mealtimes.

We’ve all experienced it – dozing off over lunch on your first day in New York or being unable to get to sleep the first couple of nights of a vacation to Japan. “We have a natural rhythm to our bodies, and it’s pretty well set,” says Vivek Jain, director of the George Washington University’s Center for Sleep Disorders.

But jet lag doesn’t have to wreck your trip. Chris Winter, neurologist and author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How to Fix It.
says: “If you plan for it, you can do most of your acclimatising to your destination a few days in advance.”

A study carried out last September published in the scientific journal Chaos suggests that eating a big breakfast in your new time zone can help both your gut and your brain adjust. You can also use light exposure, sleep, strategically timed naps, and caffeine.

What’s the Best Way To Reduce or Resolve Jet Lag?
The key to getting over jet lag is to get your body’s circadian clock aligned with the sunrise and sunset schedule at your destination. Many steps can also be taken to minimise symptoms caused by jet lag.

Realigning Your Circadian Rhythm
Overcoming jet lag depends on getting your body’s 24-hour internal clock synchronised with the 24-hour day at your destination. However, the best way the achieve this varies, depending on factors such as time zones crossed, total travel time and length of trip.

Because of these variables, there’s no single remedy for jet lag and generic advice does not work. Instead, quickly overcoming jet lag typically requires a plan that involves appropriately-timed light exposure and melatonin. Both are power influencers of the circadian rhythm and can help retrain your internal clock.

Wake and Eat in the New Place
Try to ensure your flight lands during the day, since getting out into sunlight helps reset your body clock. “It jump starts you much more quickly,” says Luxembourg-based sleep coach Christine Hansen.

If it’s morning or early afternoon when your plane lands, a hit of caffeine can help you acclimatise. So can eating breakfast at the standard time in your destination. But you might want to forgo that cacio pepe fettuccini dinner your first couple of nights in Rome; the study published in Chaos found that skipping your evening meal while filling up at breakfast produced the quickest adjustments to subjects’ circadian rhythms.

The Dark is Your Friend
Blocking out light is key to getting sleep on the plane (a proven jet lag antidote on overnight flights). If your destination is several hours ahead, wear sunglasses until you’re ready to snooze, then strap on a sleeping mask. When your brain senses darkness, it starts to produce melatonin, the chemical that initiates sleep.

Get Comfortable
A 2021 German study found that worrying about having jet lag made it worse. So, if you believe a certain routine or item will help you drift off, it might just work.Use whatever tools you can to make your trip more pleasant and silent. “Basically, anything you can do to get comfortable enough to sleep can have a very strong placebo effect,” says Jamie M. Zeitzer, co-director of Stanford University’s Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences.

That could mean a pillow—either a traditional C-shape one or a newer wraparound model such as the Trtl or Ostrich, which resemble padded neck scarves and offer 360-degree head support. Also worth a test run: an airplane foot hammock (hook it underneath the seat in front of you) designed to relieve pressure on your legs and back during a long flight.

Add noise-canceling headphones or earplugs to set the stage for slumber. Silicone earplugs, which you mould to form a seal over your earholes, are more comfortable than old-school foam ones.

Sleep on it
Taking melatonin, which is also made naturally by the body, can help you doze off in the air or in a new time zone. Melatonin is available over the counter, but experts recommend consulting your health care provider before use. Unlike a prescription sleep drug, it won’t sedate you for hours.

Experts are mixed on using drugs to knock yourself out on a flight—or to quell insomnia once you’ve arrived. Sleeping pills are available over-the-counter (ZzzQuil, Unisom, etc., which work using the antihistamine doxylamine succinate) or prescription-only Zolpidem (Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo), which is a sedative or hypnotic.

Both types of drugs carry risks of mental impairment and grogginess—particularly if taken with alcohol, as some travelers do, against prescription warnings. Zolpidem can be addictive if used regularly. “But I don’t think Ambien is bad if people take it as prescribed,” says Zeitzer. “It’s worse to have anxiety keep you from sleeping and having that ruin your trip.”

A newer class of insomnia drugs, dual orexin receptor antagonists (DORAs like Belsomra, Dayvio, Quviviq), block the receptor in your brain that helps you maintain wakefulness, especially in the evening. Unlike sedatives, DORAs don’t force you into unconsciousness and aren’t considered addictive, so researchers believe the sleep they provide is much closer to normal.

Advance Planning
You can minimise jet lag by adjusting your bedtime, light exposure, and caffeine intake a few days before your trip. Smartphone apps Timeshifter and StopJetLag generate personalised pre-travel schedules and give tips on the best times of day to fly.

The Lumos Smart Sleep Mask is a new tool travelers can use to help them “pre-adjust” to new time zones. Developed using Zeitzer’s research, it emits targeted flashes of low-intensity light while you snooze. You use it the night before a flight and the first night in your destination. This reportedly shifts your internal clock forward three to four hours a night (as opposed to the usual one hour per day).

Sentinel Aviation

Sentinel Aviation


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