In today’s jet setting age, air travel is the most preferred mode of transportation. It saves time and as we all know, in this fast-paced information age, time translates into money. However, air travel is not without its hazards, especially over long distances. Various effects of air travel have been recorded on many travelers. They include mild headaches, stomach disorders, mental disorientation, hypertension, disrupted sleep patterns and fatigue. The most common effect of trans-meridian jet travel on passengers is jet lag. The medical term for jet lag is desynchronosis. Desynchronosis refers to the body getting out of sync with long distance travel.
Causes of Jet Lag
Let us first understand the concept of trans-meridian travel. Trans-meridian travel indicates travel across many time zones across the east-west meridians. For example, to travel from New York City to London in United Kingdom one would have to travel across many time zones. As a result, the day and night pattern in the traveler’s body clock is disrupted. Jetlag is known to last a day or two. However, exceptions have been recorded, wherein people take many days to recover from it. As a rule the effects of jet lag last till the person’s body clock acclimates itself to the new time cycle.
Our body clock is controlled by the secretion of a hormone called melatonin. This hormone is produced by Pineal Gland; melatonin is available in the blood stream in varying quantities, according to the time of the day. Though the exact mechanism and efficacy of the hormone on human body is still a mystery, it is widely accepted that it induces sleep. When it gets dark, the hormone levels in the blood stream increase; melatonin sends signals to your body that it is time to sleep. Trans-meridian travel sends this internal system into a tizzy and that results in jet lag.
Symptoms of Jet Lag
The symptoms of jet lag include insomnia, stress, headaches, irritability, constipation, tension, dehydration, and excessive sweating. In some extreme cases, the person’s motor skills and memory also might become affected. Most of the symptoms are temporary, and will subside without medical intervention. However, if the symptoms persist, you will need to see a doctor or other practicing health practitioner.
Steps to avoid Jet Lag
Jet Lag can be minimized by following certain basic measures. These measures include:
Maintaining a balanced frame of mind
Maintaining a balanced diet
Exercising adequately a few days before boarding the flight
Getting adequate sleep a few days before the journey
It may also help prevent jet lag if you try to adapt to the new time zone in advance. You can do this by changing your daily routines to help your body clock prepare for the change.
While on the fight it is advisable to exercise a little bit while you are sitting in your seat. Your blood tends to pool at your ankles; you can help promote circulation by doing ankle pumps. You can also get up and walk to the rest room every once in a while to get some exercise. Some people find it hard to sleep on a flight, but if you can rest some on your flight it might help you to avoid the symptoms of jet lag upon landing.
Nowadays there are various drugs for jet lag available off the shelf. Some doctors even recommend a prescription of melatonin, but it requires a strict pattern of timing and dosage. People with mental illnesses, those consuming anti-depressant medicines, and pregnant women are at a high risk with these medicines; hence it is not safe for them to take Melatonin tablets.
Melatonin is not effective if the time of taking the drug does not correspond with the situation of traveling. Research is being done on the effectiveness of Sildenafil Citrate, more commonly known as Viagra. The effectiveness of this product is still being researched and is a highly debated topic among scientists and travelers alike. Often travelers indulge in popping sleeping pills on long flights to avoid jet lag. This is a bad practice; it could lead to fatal health complications. Ask your doctor about any over-the-counter products or prescriptions to help prevent jet lag.
Dealing with Jet Lag
Upon landing, it is advised that the traveler gets as much sun as possible in order to inhibit the production of melatonin, which is usually produced after sun down. A sensible eating pattern on and off the flight, abstinence from consuming alcohol and keeping the body adequately hydrated will help to minimize the effects of jet lag.
Jet lag cannot be avoided for those who have to fly across countries. But, if they follow the above mentioned tips, the effects of jet lag can be minimized considerably. For the chronic sufferers of jet lag, though, one possible alternative is to split the complete journey in to small trips, giving adequate bouts of rest and sleep in between the air travel.