What is jet lag and how you can beat it

It’s the bane of all trav­ellers — so how can we beat the time-dif­fer­ence hang­over? EMMA CHITTY re­ports

Pilbara News - - Lifestyle -

Go­ing away for the win­ter hol­i­days?

Get­ting away from the mid-year grind is one of the high­lights of the year for many of us — and a time we cer­tainly don’t want af­fected by the dreaded jet lag.

While it’s not pos­si­ble to com­pletely erad­i­cate jet lag, it is pos­si­ble to re­duce how much we’re plagued by it.

Ian Du­ni­can, re­searcher at the Cen­tre for Sleep Sci­ence, School of Hu­man Sciences at the Univer­sity of West­ern Aus­tralia, re­lays some in­for­ma­tion on how to do just that.

What are the main ways in which jet lag af­fects us?

“The main way jet lag im­pacts our bod­ies is to dis­rupt our cir­ca­dian sys­tem — a 24-hour cy­cle which ev­ery­one op­er­ates on,” Mr Du­ni­can says.

“The cir­ca­dian sys­tem can only be syn­chro­nised with nat­u­ral light, which af­fects what’s called the SCN in our brain — that be­comes dis­rupted when we go into a dif­fer­ent time zone.”

How does this af­fect how we func­tion?

“From a cog­ni­tive point of view, we find it very dif­fi­cult to process in­for­ma­tion — we make er­rors, we find it dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand things or do com­plex tasks,” Mr Du­ni­can says. “From a phys­i­cal point of view, you’re go­ing to find you get dis­rup­tion in the gut, plus we may get bloated and be hun­gry at odd times, with en­ergy lev­els vary­ing across the day.”

What are some myths you’ve heard to cure jet lag that aren’t sci­en­tif­i­cally sup­ported?

“Trav­el­ling north to south does not cause jet lag — if you fly from Perth to Sin­ga­pore, you can’t ex­pe­ri­ence jet lag from that,” Mr Du­ni­can says.

“Another thing we heard is that con­sum­ing al­co­hol to help you sleep on the plane is ben­e­fi­cial — this isn’t good be­cause you’re dis­rupt­ing your sys­tem, you’re go­ing to feel hun­gover and be dehydrated and it’s just go­ing to make you feel worse.”

Mr Du­ni­can says that con­sum­ing over-the-counter mela­tonin is not al­ways the best idea, ei­ther.

“We need to be care­ful when we start tak­ing sleep­ing aids such as mela­tonin or sleep­ing tablets — the mela­tonin you buy in a health food shop isn’t pre­scrip­tion mela­tonin, so we don’t ac­tu­ally know what’s in it,” he says.

“Us­ing it over the counter strate­gi­cally for jet lag may not ac­tu­ally be ad­e­quate what­so­ever.”

What can we do to re­duce jet lag be­fore we leave home?

“The first thing would be to try and con­trol light and dark be­fore you leave home — for ex­am­ple, if you nor­mally go to bed at10 o’clock and you’re go­ing to be trav­el­ling to Syd­ney, try to start mov­ing that back to eight o’clock to adapt to their time,” Mr Du­ni­can says. “You may also want to bring your meals for­ward.”

What can we do to re­duce jet lag once we’re at our des­ti­na­tion?

“I rec­om­mend fol­low­ing the lo­cal cues — if it’s 12 o’clock in the day when you get there, go and have some lunch,” Mr Du­ni­can says.

“Have din­ner around five o’clock, watch the sun go down and go to bed at a nor­mal time — at least try and get on to that lo­cal time zone.”

It is pos­si­ble to re­duce how much we’re plagued by jet lag. Pic­ture: Getty Im­ages

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