Jet lag is part of the game if you work in aviation, business, humanitarian aid, movies, theatre or do shift work. You are expected to be a top performer, but your body and mind never really catches up with constant jet lag accumulating over time. What is jet lag, and how do you tackle it? How can you deal with jet lag in the short and long-term, and what are some of the tips that might help?
Jet lag: What is it?
In aviation, transport, humanitarian aid, medicine, industrial plants the health and safety of others depend on you. As an Actor or Performer, you must sparkle and shine. Family and social life have their demands on you too. Jet lag is part of how you react, think and respond to everything from a simple question to a real emergency.
I walked into the wall somewhere between Japan, USA, and Brazil. The bathroom wasn’t where it was supposed to be, and the wall smacked me right in the forehead. Hard! The next day, I felt, sounded – and looked – like a Klingon. I was in Germany to interview and somehow managed to find super candidates, despite having traveled over too many time zones over too few days to make sense. I was jet-lagged.
Jet Lag Defined
Jet lag refers to our inner body clocks reaction to fast travel across time zones east-west or west-east. Our natural circadian rhythm, or body clock, will be upset as sleep-wake, eating and working times are out of sync. Our hormone regulation and body temperature are likely to react too. Until our new environment is in sync with our internal clock we will show signs of being jet lagged. For the leisure traveler, the symptoms of jet lag and the time it takes to adjust is somehow part of the holiday experience, and it’s almost ‘a bit cool’ to be jet lagged.
The Infographic to the left shows symptoms and gives some tips on how to tackle jet lag.
Another really good information sheet comes courtesy of Iceland Air – Click on the picture on your right to get the link to the site.
If Job involves Constant Jet lag?
Aircrew, medical staff, businessmen, humanitarian aid workers, actors, performers and shift workers have all shown similar symptoms that show that constant exposure to a body clock out of sync has long-term effects on health. It does differ from individual to individual, but Scientific reports have made a strong case that is of concern to employers (and employees).
Improperly designed work schedules which do not take into consideration our present understanding of jet lag effects can significantly impact the health of industry workers such as airline pilots. These health effects include a chronic dysregulation condition with consequent increases in psychophysiological disorders, a higher incidence of stress related emotional changes, and diminished life expectancy. (Advances in Therapy 27(11):796‐813; 2010.)
The airline industry, and many others employers have spent time and good effort to introduce changes that diminish the long-term effects of jet lag, however, the fact remains that it is also up to the individual to take some precautionary measures to help with the constant stress your body (and mind) is under.
Jet lag Do’s and Don’ts on the Job
Jet lag gets to anyone that shift around their hours – and you do not need to fly to feel the effect of it. By looking at people who work outside of what the average population does, patterns emerge that makes it clear that there are a few Dos and Don’ts.
- Avoid medication, alcohol or drugs if you are in a job where your health will impact others. Despite many reports that Melatonin is a savior for jet-lagged people, there are still just as many reports against.
- Do not jump into bed in the new time zone if it is a day at home, as you will make your body clock go even crazier. This is contrary to the advice given to the leisure traveler or if you will remain in the new time zone for more than three days.
- Stay away from the party scene, or midnight clubbing even if work socialites would prescribe this. Your stress levels and the jet-lagged hangover will suffer even more.
- Don’t order unfamiliar foods with too much spice, doubtful ingredients or hygiene. The last thing you want is to increase the dehydration that comes with jet lag by getting food poisoned with all its consequences.
- You can’t jump straight into a HIIT exercise, sauna, steam or hot bath as this plays havoc with your blood pressure, and can be directly dangerous after being in a pressurized environment. You know of course that going diving is prohibited for 48 hours before a flight – as it can cause the bends.
- Sloth around by laying on your hotel bed eating junk, drinking sugary drinks and avoiding showers? Your body will react to processed foods, sugar, salt and dirt – and you will feel like the gunk that you have ingested.
- Stay on the time that makes the most sense. Choose the time zone where you spend the most time and stick to it wherever your destination takes you. Your body clock will thank you for sleeping, eating, moving and taking medication (including contraceptives :)) at the same time even if it is nighttime where you have landed, and daytime in your zone. Hotel lobbies are wonderful meeting places for midnight breakfasts!
- Move. Exercise gently as soon as you as you can by stretching, walking, taking a swim, and if you are in an unsafe city use the stairwell to jump up and down.
- Eat healthy. High Protein foods keep you alert, and carbs will send you to sleep. The Argonne Jet lag diet works well for anyone who is in a time zone for more than three days – but for the person who zooms in and out of time zones keeping light, fit and healthy when it comes to food will make life easier.
- Bring your comforts with you. Take your healthy trail mix, favourite mini pillow, sleep mask, beauty treatments or whatever makes for a ‘home from home’ feeling that you can recreate to get much-needed de-stress and zen. A large part of jet lag is the stress that your body and mind gets put under so the more ‘home’ you can get into your system the less stress.
- Enjoy as much water as you can in every way possible. Drink it to hydrate; swim in it to de-swell; shower to get your body temperature in check.
- Get App’d up so you can stay in touch with family and friends. You are away from them, and they love to see/hear you. How about reading them a bedtime story via Face time?
- Make the most of the time you are at home, but make sure that this includes rest, recreation and reorganisation of your gear.
- Get the ‘prefect travel bag’ (is there such a bag?) that can easily be packed and repacked with all your bits and pieces without too much stress.
- Do get a pair of really dark sunglasses to wear when you are exposed to light – when you need to stay on night-time. Likewise, there is a new invention that shows promise as it gives you light when you need it. To seek or stay away from light is key to helping your body clock.
Jet Lag and You
Chronic Jet Lag plays tricks on your body and mind, we realise this. Staying healthy in any job can be a challenge with the crazy, busy lives we lead. But – getting into healthier ways is essential to prevent the added stresses that comes with unusual working hours, and conditions. You are not a machine, remember that! Living healthily is a way to plan, think and add years to your life with the added advantage of feeling and looking fab too.
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Recommended and Related:
- Symptoms of Jet Lag – The Mayo Clinic
- How To Beat Jet Lag (The Ultimate Guide) – sleepybliss.com
- A Frequent Flyers Tips to Beating Jet Lag – The Huffington Post
- Jet Lag and Shift Work – Harvard Medical School
- All About Jet Lag for Frequent Fliers – Precision Nutrition
- 4 Ways to Overcome Jet Lag – ameliemettenheimer.com
- What happens for your body when you fly? – Livescience.com
- Flying and Diving – Virgin Atlantic
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