Is it possible to cure jet lag?
Some describe jet lag as a mix of feeling slightly drunk, exhausted or like you’ve been hit by a truck. That unsettled sluggishness after a long-haul flight occurs as our body’s internal clocks are misaligned with our environment, eventually affecting everything from tiredness to hunger.
Two Experts Share Their Best Tips To Keep Jet Lag At Bay
Adjust Your Exposure To Light
Biological physicist Dr Svetlana Postnova from Charles Sturt University in Australia has been studying sleep and circadian rhythms for almost two decades. Each of our cells contains a circadian clock that controls the timing of everything, from sleep to hormone levels, she explains.
With jet lag, our internal clocks get misaligned with the surrounding, consequently affecting every activity. But it’s possible to help those clocks adjust by controlling your light exposure.
In other words, exposing yourself to bright light at the right time of day or night advances or delays your internal clock, letting it adjust to the environment you are travelling to.
Postnova and her colleagues, therefore, have been conducting experiments with Australia’s national carrier, Qantas, to see if adjusting the lights on long-haul flights helps minimise jet lag.
The scientists tailored the timing of light exposure on the flights to help their subjects shift their clocks in the right direction. Their findings were promising. According to Postnova, self-reported jet lag was shorter in the group exposed to optimisation.
Nevertheless, if you’re not travelling in a light-optimised flight, you can always try to adjust your light exposure on your own. But it could be tricky as you would need to take a number of factors into consideration. Postnova, therefore, would like the airlines to do the hard work for you.
Have Enough Shut-Eye In The Week Before Departure
For athletes like artistic gymnast Heath Thorpe, jet lag can be much more than just a hindrance to their usual performance. It can be dangerous too, affecting their aerial awareness.
One of the worst times for him was at Italy’s 2019 World University Games when he got in about 24 hours before podium training and could remember falling on everything. Luckily, the worst portion of his jet lag had passed by the time the actual competition began.
Thorpe says Australian athletes are usually brought to their competition destinations at least a week in advance. But in the run-up, medics advice them to have as much of shut-eye in the week before travel as possible. “The sleep in the week before [departure] is our most important sleep.”