A Travel Doctor's Guide to Preventing Jet Lag

by Dr Bob Kass and Dr Maggie Phillips - June 23, 2015

Jet Lag Tips from a Travel Doctor

Want to get your holiday or work trip off to a flying start? Globe Medical’s travel doctors provide you with tips and advice that will help minimise the effects of jet lag.

What is Jet Lag?

Jet lag occurs when the traveller’s "internal clock" doesn’t match the “real time” at the destination or returning home. It’s more likely after crossing 3 or more time zones and when travelling eastwards due to a shorter day. There is both a physiological as well as a psychological component. 

Symptoms

Symptoms include fatigue, disorientation, sleep difficulties, poor concentration, anxiety and impaired physical performance. Some people may also experience a poor appetite.

How to minimise jet lag

Rest Up in Preparation

  • Start your journey well rested and allow plenty of time to get to the airport. 

  • Itinerary Design. Consider a stopover if your destination is more than 12 hours flying time away.

  • Choose daytime flights where possible. It will allow you to go to bed at a ‘normal' time.

Drink Smart

Avoid excess alcohol and caffeine and make sure you stay hydrated with at least 2 glasses of water per sector.

Daylight Walk on Arrival 

Arrange a daylight walk on the day of arrival. Light stimulates the optic to communicate with the pineal gland and this helps the body recognise the time shift. 

Avoid Big Decisions

Avoid important decision making in first 24 to 48 hours at your new destination. Your judgement may be impaired.

Protein Early, Carbs Late.

Protein rich meals at breakfast and lunch and carbohydrate rich ones at nights have been suggested to restore sleep-wake cycle.

Are Sleeping Tablets safe?

Short acting sleeping tablets such as temazepam are useful for a few days at the destination or upon returning home. They help the “early morning waking”. However, medication should be avoided while travelling as the sleep position is unnatural and DVT is a risk.

What about Melatonin?

Melatonin is chemical naturally produced in the pineal gland of the brain. It is secreted in response to light/dark changes thus controlling the Circadian rhythm and day-night functioning of the body. The chemical has been synthesised and is available on prescription in Australia. It is mildly sedating and helps improve the quality of sleep after crossing multiple time zones. 

Originally published in The Little Book by Globe Medical travel medicine specialists Dr Bob Kass and Dr Maggie Phillips.