Jet Lag ~ [Issue 0699-1]
Jun 23, 1999 13:23 PDT
GET THE JUMP ON JET LAG!
Jet lag affects not only travelers, but shift-workers, people in the
military and others who keep odd hours. Flight crews who are
repeatedly subjected to this kind of stress and yet must turn in
high-level performances are especially affected.
Recent scientific findings about the importance of light to human
functioning and well-being have so far not produced much of practical
use against jet lag. Humans are part of the natural world and, like
trees, flowers, and wildlife, are affected in various important ways
by daylight. A report in Nature stated: "humans are much more
sensitive to light than initially suspected, and are not
qualitatively different from other mammals in their circadian entertainment."
The term "circadian" means "about a day," or for those of us who live
in industrial societies "around the clock" might be more realistic.
"Entertainment" means, roughly, "following." Humans and other
creatures wake, sleep, and work according to internal biological
rhythms-an internal clock regulated by hormones and other factors.
Light is the most important clue, telling our bodies whether we
should be up and doing something-or sound asleep.
Your Natural Clock
Anybody who has ever experienced the disorientation in sleep patterns
that follows a long trip across at least three time zones, knows it's
no fun to mess around with circadian rhythms. For a day or more, your
body functions according to the clock you left behind. Westward
journeys are less stressful than eastward: it's easier for our clock
to set itself back than forward. Thus, adding a couple of hours to
the day may not disrupt sleep patterns, but losing a couple of hours
almost always does. Light seems to be the means for resetting your
confused internal biological clock. Small studies have shown that
proper exposure to light can reset circadian rhythms by as much as 12
hours, backward or forward. According to a recent report in the
Journal of Biological Rhythms, some studies of light exposure as a
cure for jet lag have had encouraging results, but others have not.
And the report in Nature found that low light, not necessarily
sunlight, is probably the synchronizer of our biological clocks. We
all know that it usually takes just a few days to get over jet lag,
but think about the factory worker who is changing shifts week after
week, all year long.
These recommendations can help you deal with jet lag:
- When traveling, try not to do anything that's likely to cause sleep
problems. On the plane, avoid or go easy on alcohol and caffeine,
which can disrupt sleep patterns. Drink plenty of fluids to prevent
the unpleasant effects of dehydration. Heavy meals can also interfere
with a good night's sleep, so avoid them, too.
- On night flights, use a sleep mask, wrap-around dark glasses, neck
pillow, blanket, or any device that may help you get a little more
shuteye. Stretch out if you can.
- Try going to bed and getting up an hour earlier each day for three
days before a long eastward trip. For a westward trip, go to bed and
get up an hour later. Not everyone changes sleep time so easily, but
this can help if you can do it.
- When you land in the new time zone, try to adjust as quickly as
possible to new eating and sleeping times, even if it means staying
up when you're tired, or eating breakfast when your body says it's dinnertime.
- Try to expose yourself to daylight after a long trip-avoiding
sunburn risk, or course. This can't hurt and might help.
University of California at Berkeley; Wellness Letter-Vol. 13, No. 5
Good nutrition day in and day out plus plenty of exercise both
contribute to your ability to deal with jet lag. We now know, too,
that the natural bodily hormone, melatonin (contained in SOMNISET see
http://www.aomega.com/ahs/s0200b.htm), helps to maintain your
circadian rhythms for natural sleep patterns.