Jetlag is a condition that affects almost everyone’s sleep patterns who travels across more than 3 time zones especially if going east. Natural sleep is disrupted for as long as 7 days if nothing is done to counterbalance the affect.
Normally jetlag is an irritation after a long flight that leaves us unable to sleep properly at the right times and causes sleep drowsiness; it is a mismatch between our natural biological clocks and the time at our destination. the affect.
Long distance travellers going from west to east suffer more as the day is affectively shortened running against the natural drift of the biological clock. From a sport performance point of view this can have measurable consequences for teams travelling the “wrong way” for a game.
Here are 6 tips to aid natural sleep through and after a long haul flight where sleep patterns would otherwise be affected with the possibility of spoiling the start of a long awaited holiday or causing a team to lose by those 2 baseball runs or cricket wickets.
1. On the previous day of the flight make sure you have 3 well balanced meals. I think we all know what that means these days although the guidance on how many servings of fruit and veg is best, differs from country to country.
I would suggest 5 of fruit and vegetables (preferably green) plus a portion of protein in the shape of fish, chicken (or other low-fat meat) or tofu.
2. On the flight have your watch set to the time of your destination. Keep track of the times the airline brings you meals – they tend to be suited to the crew’s comfort and convenience rather than yours – and where possible keep something back, like your delightful cheese and cracker (no! I mustn’t go off on one about airline food).
Eat this at what would be the appropriate time for meals according to the destination time zone.
3. Now this one might be a little tricky to organise especially if you in cattle class with excited youngsters going somewhere exotic for the first time.
You need to block out the sounds and sites when it is time for sleep at your destination and turn on your night light and stay alert and active (as much as is possible) when it is daytime at your goal.
Use the mask and earplugs to try and get some natural sleep.
4. I expect you have been told this before. Drink loads of alcohol and avoid….oh sorry wrong way round…drink loads of water and avoid alcohol.
Because of the cabin’s false atmosphere you are more susceptible to dehydration, however it’s also very easy to drink a lot of water just because of the dryness. Don’t do what I did; I kept on drinking water whilst I kept glancing up at my halo which ruined my sleep pattern.
It got to a tipping point where I was traipsing down the aisle every 10 minutes to queue for the loo.
5. During the times when it’s “up and atem” where you’re going, try to maintain some form of exercise routine by going for a walk up and down the aisle.
When seated try some simple movements of your legs and upper body including neck, head and shoulders. Do this for a couple of minutes every hour or so – whilst in awake mode of course.
6. On arrival at your destination eat the foods that would influence your sleepiness. So if it’s becoming time for bed concentrate on carbohydrates which will make you drowsy and eat proteins for energy and attention keeping awake.
The best way to control your body clock and therefore the effects of jetlag is by using bright light. If your long haul destination is east then get an early night. Then on the morning of your departure at around 4am wake up and use bright light to reset your body clock.
Good luck with your sleep patterns when travelling long distances – I have done it many times between UK, US and Australia. I even went from Australia to UK and back to Australia in 5 days and totally fooled the old body clock and jetlag never took hold.