Health and Community Services Department
INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL CLINIC
Circadian rhythms regulate our sleep patterns, and they need time to adjust to changes in local time (usually about one day per time zone crossed). Westward travel may be better tolerated than eastward travel but problems occur when traveling in both directions. The effects of jet lag include - sleep disturbance, loss of appetite, nausea and sometimes vomiting, bowel changes (e.g. constipation), general malaise, tiredness and poor concentration.
- A relaxed flight is important.
- Avoid traveling when you are already tired and take rest before departure.
- Remember the actual home to destination traveling time will usually be at least twice the actual time spent in the air since it will include waiting in airports and often unexpected delays.
- Breaking very long journeys halfway with a stopover can be helpful.
- On the flight get maximum sleep.
- Stretch and exercise as much as possible to aid circulation and prevent swollen ankles.
- Drink plenty of water or soft drinks and remember alcohol in spirits and wine and also caffeine cause dehydration (caffeine is present in coffee, tea, chocolate, Coca (and Pepsi) Cola).
- Jet lag is made worse by a hangover!
- Avoid heavy commitments on the first day. Be prepared for tiredness in the evenings and early waking which can last up to 5 or more days.
- Hypnotics (sleeping tablets) such as temazepam have been shown to help sleep and correspondingly alertness during the following day. They do not speed up adjustment the new time zone and therefore may need to be used for several nights.
Some travelers find taking regular melatonin helpful. It may help the body to adjust its circadian rhythms but its effect is scientifically unproven. It is not readily available in Britain but can be purchased in some countries such as USA and Hong Kong from health food shops or pharmacies.
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