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Overcoming Jet Lag

Regular business and pleasure travelers on long haul flights across time zones have all experienced jet lag in some form or another. Advice on how to mitigate the effects abounds, from using pharmaceuticals to setting one’s watch to the destination time zone. Dr Neil Nerwich, a qualified practitioner of civil aviation medicine, says that there is no escape from jet lag. While it is an inevitable although temporary disorder for those traveling across several time zones, its impact can be lessened through some of the following actions:
  • Management of jet lag should start before embarkation. Be properly rested before setting out and when possible, adjust routine actions such as meals and sleep/wake times to the destination time zone all the way to the travel date.
  • Business travelers should plan meetings at their destination around the effects of travel. Wherever feasible, look for a point in the meeting schedule that is ‘office hours’ both at your origin and destination, if at all possible. This will avoid having your first meeting at a time equivalent to nighttime at your origin. Simple adjustments like this can make a big difference.
  • Sleeping during the fight may also help, depending on which seat you are in. Obviously the more comfortable fully reclining seats in first or business class offer a better chance of getting rest than the more cramped conditions in economy class. Eye masks and earplugs can help with getting comfortable for sleep.
  • Drinking coffee and alcohol are certainly not recommended, as both dehydrate the body. Alcohol also prevents rapid eye movement sleep, leaving you tired when you wake up.
  • Adapt your sleeping and eating patterns to your destination time zone immediately after arrival.

Exposure to sunlight or bright artificial light is important when adjusting to a new time zone since both light and darkness are triggers for the body’s biological clock.

  • Napping can help to ensure that sufficient sleep is being amassed over each 24-hour period.
  • Exercising in the early morning and late afternoon wherever possible may also help to reset your biological clock.
  • Dr Nerwich does not rule out melatonin as an aid to reducing jet lag but says that there is conflicting evidence of its efficacy and the drug affects individuals differently. “The jury is still out on this one and it is not a proven agent,” he says. “I recommend taking non-pharmaceutical measures first.”

If you have any further questions about your medical care in Indonesia, see the Ask the Experts.

We trust this information will assist you in making correct choices regarding your health and welfare. However, it is not intended to be a substitute for personalized advice from your medical adviser.

Our appreciation to International SOS, an AEA Company for their generous contribution of this article.