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.Continue reading
Relaxation techniques used to help us sleep better have been around for thousands of years in one form or another so the problem of interrupted sleep patterns have also been a part of our lives for as long.
In their infinite wisdom the ancient Chinese believed insomnia and generally sleepless nights to be the product of a broken energy force or what they call qi.
This energy, according to Chinese medicine flows along meridians throughout the organs of the body, which is controlled by the opposing, but complementary forces, yin and yang.
Any sleep disturbance could be attributed to an imbalance of these two forces within a particular organ.
So, for instance, a restless sleep pattern is a signal that there is a problem with the energy force in the kidneys whereas broken sleep caused by illuminated dreams is the result of an imbalance that is connected with the heart or liver.
The Chinese beliefs in the properties of yin and yang in control of the energy force qi within the body and between the organs, was very strong and so they developed areas of discipline that tries to redress the imbalance.
It’s an exercise that uses distinct and slow movements and one ideally suited for relaxation in preparing for a good night’s sleep. It encourages better circulation of the energy force through the body as well as focusing the mind.
Whatever the Chinese believed about yin and yang and qi, the benefits of this relaxing form of exercise to promote good quality sleep is undoubted as it helps greatly in the release of physical and mental tension in preparedness for a relaxing sleep. This is great news for our anxiety levels. Anxiety is the prime reason for restless sleep and anything that is a relaxation technique for anxiety is also a good sleeping tip.
As well as physically and mentally relaxing, this exercise benefits our posture as well as increasing muscle strength, control and suppleness.
Tai Chi is a form of exercise first thought to have been used by an Indian monk in the 6th century. It then evolved and by the 14th century it’s positions were better defined and then it became a gentle movement from one static position to another.
Regardless of age or disability it’s an exercise that anyone can benefit from and the Chinese gather in large groups early in the morning to practise outside in the fresh air (maybe not as fresh in the cities these days).
However, Tai Chi is not only practised in the mornings and can be used just before sleep time as a way to create a wonderful feeling of relaxation in readiness for a good night’s sleep.
Anticipating a solid night’s sleep try a couple of exercises about an hour before retiring to bed.
Stand with your feet slightly apart in parallel with the shoulders. Bring your left and right palms up to meet your shoulders. Then make circular motions with your elbows as wide as possible. Go one way for half a minute then the opposite way for another half a minute.
Next standing as before, hold your arms, parallel to the floor. Raise one arm as high as you can, reaching for the sky whilst plunging the other arm to the floor.
Hold for 15 seconds then reverse the arms for a further 15 seconds.
Complete both exercises 2 or 3 times. For extra sleep promotion try doing the exercises in a quiet, coolish and darkish room which is how your bedroom should be before going to sleep anyway.
There will be more sleep relaxation techniques and sleeping tips coming soon.
This is the first part in a series of articles on sleeping techniques designed to provide an alternative, natural way of overcoming or alleviating common sleep problems. In this article we look specifically at relaxation techniques for sleep and the other benefits such techniques bring to our every day well-being.
How Cultural changes have Affected our Sleeping Techniques
The way we live today has changed enormously from 50 or even 20 years ago as we move inexorably toward a more urban, fast-paced, technology driven society. At one time a family working on a farm, for instance would get up very early and have a set pattern of work, interrupted only by the seasons or by one off events and would wind down naturally in the evening before retiring to a well deserved sleep.
Today the scenario is different; an urban family are likely to wake up immediately concerned about the day ahead. With pressures to get the kids to school on time, to catch the train to get to work, to finish looking at the notes for the days meetings the pressures begin at the beginning of the day and continue filled with coffee and crisis, before returning home to eat badly and finish off some emails. The modern family goes to bed feeling very tired from the exertions of the day and hit the sack, but then of course sleep is elusive.
During the day both the mind and body have been reacting to the stresses of the day and there hasn’t been an opportunity for a re-balancing to take place so we need to slow down and take the time to rebalance mind and body with some relaxation. There are some excellent relaxation techniques to try but going down the pub for 6 pints, followed by a curry, isn’t one I’ll be recommending.
Breathing may not sound much like an exercise; it’s something we do a lot of but if done “properly” it is very relaxing. So try it and see. Your breath should come from the abdomen not your chest, breathe through your nose for 3 seconds then breathe out through your mouth also for 3 seconds, pause for 3 seconds and repeat. Try perfecting this technique so that it becomes comfortable and do it for 10 minutes before you go to bed.
Mastering Yoga or even in the early stages of learning, can be an affective weapon in the fight against insomnia.
There are many forms of yoga but they are all a form of workout for your mind and body, bringing them
together for harmony and well-being. After some practice you will have more stamina, strength, flexibility and energy. You will have more control over your mood, be able to calm the mind and truly relax with a sense of inner peace.
Try attending a class to get the most out of Yoga. There are many different types but hatha yoga is probably best for the beginner. Most gyms, these days run popular forms of yoga; I’m sure the instructor will be able to tell you more about each one.
The corpse is a pose in yoga, often done at the end of a session to wind down and relax the mind and body. It’s good to try before going to bed. Lie on your back with your legs and arms slightly outstretched, palms resting on the floor and pointing upwards. Think nice thoughts and if you feel tension in your limbs, as if you want to stretch them out, imagine you are enormously heavy and that the floor is supporting you. Do this for at least 5 minutes. This is also a good position for meditation.
Progressive muscular relaxation (PMR) is an anxiety reducing method devised by Dr. Jacobson, a physiologist but is useful as a sleeping technique. Everybody, at some stage has had muscle tightness and fatigue, brought about by emotional stress, depression or anxiety. This method works by concentrating on tightening muscle groups for a few seconds and then slowly releasing the tension with a slow exhalation of breath. This can be done with the breathing technique mentioned before and you should start from one end of the body either lying on your back or standing straight.
This technique might sound like a chore at first but like anything, with practise you develop more effectiveness as well as it becoming second nature.
Meditation is a time efficient way of bridging the gulf between the physical and mental stresses of the day and the slow wave, deep sleep needed to be able to function at the peak of performance in the waking hours.
The picture you might get of someone meditating, cross-legged, arms outstretched and chanting a repetitive ditty might put you off but this is only one way of approaching meditation.
Prepare a quiet, bland space and sit in a straight backed chair and place a hand on your stomach. Concentrate on the sensation of your lungs filling with air as you take long slow breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Once you feel your stomach rise and fall under your hand you know its working. Again, like the other techniques it may take some practise and feel a little trite at first. One of the benefits is to clear your mind of all the worries of the world and this will come eventually even if, at first your mind is awash with them. It may help to focus on a singular item like a flower and to concentrate on the sensation of your breathing.
Eventually you’ll be able to take your technique and do it anywhere.
As you may have noticed these relaxation sleeping techniques for sleep are also useful for your general well-being. Although it’s use has been overused and it’s meaning diluted “unwinding” should an important part of your daily tasks but they should be done purposefully and not just as an excuse to zone out. Unfortunately there isn’t a relaxation topic here devoted to “lounging around”, so getting into the habit of trying one or more of these methods that suits you will hopefully aid in getting a restful nights sleep.Continue reading