Desynchronosis – the bane of existance for long haul plane travellers.
Otherwise known as time zone change syndrome, flight fatigue or plain old jet lag.
It is a temporary process which can upset your natural circadian rhythm, which is why it is referred to as circadian rhythm disorder by health and wellness professionals and sleep researchers.
Whatever you want to call it – it indicates a problem which occurs when you hop on a plane and cover several time zones in a relatively short period of time. Apparently traveling west to east causes more problems than east to west. As usual I do things back to front and it’s the reverse for me – possibly fuelled by the fact that my long haul flights almost always start west to east (Sydney to LA in most cases) and I’m usually so full of childish enthusiasm I neither sleep on the plane nor have any time lag issues at the other end. Coming back east to west, I’m an absolute horrific beast for about a week – but anyway this is not about me.
Why Does Jet Lag Occur?
There are 24 international time zones, each separated by 15 degrees of longitude. The International Date Line creates 3 more time zones, 25 military time zones are recognized by some nations, and there are more than 3 dozen local time zones to contend with around the world as well.
The 24 main time zones are 1 hour apart. So if you travel from one time zone to the next in less than 1 hour, you disrupt your biological clock. This can lead to insomnia, weariness, fatigue, slower brain functioning and anxiety. Diarrhea, headaches, irritability, sweating, problems with coordination and dehydration are also linked to jet lag.
This is not a condition which needs to be medically diagnosed. If you cross several time zones and feel any of the symptoms mentioned above, jet lag is the culprit. As you can imagine, the more time zones you cross, the longer it takes your body to adjust. However, there are some proven methods for avoiding or reducing the symptoms caused by flight fatigue.
Tips for Reducing Jet Lag
Try the following 8 tips and practices to protect your biological clock when you fly, and desynchronosis will not be a major problem for you.
1 – Heading West? Go to Bed and Rise One Hour Later Than Usual
If you are traveling east to west, begin a week or so ahead of time manually conditioning yourself for the change. Schedule your bedtime for 1 hour later than normal. Wake up in the morning 1 hour later as well, and force yourself out of bed even if it is difficult. After a week or two of this behavior, you stand a better chance of resisting jet lag than if you did not adopt this practice.
2 – Heading East? Reverse the Process Just Mentioned
The same holds true when you are traveling west to east, which creates more jet lag problems than a westbound flight, since you are basically “losing time”. Wake up and go to sleep 1 hour earlier than you normally would for a couple of weeks in advance of your flight.
3 – Hit the Gym and Quit Eating Garbage
Healthy people resist, and recover from, jet lag better than unhealthy travelers. Get plenty of rest, keep hydrated throughout the day, exercise regularly and eat right and flight fatigue won’t be a major problem. Working in Australia for US corporations meant staff travelled a lot to the US and to Asia to global and regional headquarters – a packed gym bag in the luggage was always a staple.
4 – Avoid Airport Food
The day of your flight, and the day before, eat a light, healthy meal and drink lots of water. Avoiding the greasy takeaway fare normally available will not only save you a bunch of money, but it will also limit the amount of processed, unhealthy food you digest. The unnecessary strain on your digestive system that “bad” food delivers only exacerbates time zone change syndrome. Oh and I swear this recommendation has nothing to do with the week holed up in a hotel in Prague after a flight from Rome Airport – which started with an arancini ball and salad from the airport food court – I swear! It’s always the salad!
5 – Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine
Sometimes flights are associated with holidays and celebrations. Sometimes they are with a whole lot of work colleagues off to a sales conference. Either way this can mean too much alcohol late at night, which often requires a lot of caffeine-rich coffee the following morning. Coffee and alcohol weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to the symptoms of jet lag. Limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you have on your flight, as well as for 24 hours in advance of your travel.
6 – Move Around on Your Plane
During your flight, get up and move around. Stretch your legs and arms, especially if you’re covering multiple time zones. Sitting for extended periods of time is extremely unhealthy in any situation, and those negative health consequences are compounded when you do so while crossing several time zones. No one thinks your weird if you start doing yoga poses in the aisle… really!
7 – Drink Plenty of Water in the Air
While you are up there in that tin cigar, drink lots of water. You should be consuming at least 8 ounces of water for every hour that you are flying. You need to do this even if you don’t feel thirsty. Hydration is important for every aspect of your health, and can help limit your exposure to flight fatigue symptoms. Try adding some therapeutic grade oils to your water (only those marked for internal use – and follow directions on the bottle). Geranium and lemongrass rebalance hormones and reset the natural clock. Peppermint or rosemary are great if you need to stay awake a while longer, but if you want to sleep or calm down try Roman Chamomile. You can add the appropriate number of drops to hot drinks or water. And a couple of drops of lemon is always refreshing.
8 – Get Outside When You Arrive
Your circadian rhythm is dictated by your ancestors. Human beings used to live outdoors. Even the first societies which lived inside man-made structures spent most of their time outside. As soon as you arrive at your destination, go outdoors. Spend as much time as possible outside.
Whether it is sunny and bright or night time, your body will begin to slowly reset your internal clock due to the presence or lack of sunshine it notices. It is also a great excuse to start exploring your new surrounds. Frankly I’m always too excited at being in a new place to crash in the room anyway!
Do you use any of these methods to prevent or reduce the effects of jet lag? Do you have other great tips that have worked for you? Don’t forget to share.
You can find this and other great posts on the Following Blog Links