The STEM 1.0 Airline Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. Symptoms of jet lag, shift work, and travel fatigue are not just due to changes in our circadian rhythm. They can also come about from dehydration and poor diet that accompany frequent travel. Fortunately, it’s possible to minimize these symptoms by taking care of your hydration and nutrition.  

2. You experience significant fluid loss, and accompanied loss of electrolytes, while flying. It's important to drink 500 ml of water (with electrolytes if possible) for every 2 hours of flying. 

3. Poor nutrition is likely a regular occurrence due to irregular meal schedules and limited food availability on planes and in airports. Simple changes to your diet can have a big effect on how fast you recover from meal disruptions and jet lag.

As we’ve been discussing over the past few weeks, shift work and long-distance travel can cause the desynchronization of internal and external cues. Basically, there are times when the outside world of time, light levels and work does not match what’s happening inside us. A night shift is a perfect example of this, and of course so is crossing time zones. Being out of sync can bring about various unpleasant symptoms such as daytime tiredness when working, nighttime alertness when it’s time to sleep, mood disturbances and decreased physical and mental performance.

However, symptoms of jet lag, travel fatigue or shift work are not solely due to changes in our natural circadian rhythm. They can also come about from dehydration and poor diet. It’s possible to minimize these factors while at work (and when traveling for pleasure as well).

1) Proper hydration 

Even in a pressurized cabin, crew and customers alike experience significant fluid loss due to the change in altitude. This is accompanied by a loss of electrolytes, including sodium, making it important to drink fluids with electrolytes – before, during and after a flight. I generally recommend that you drink 500 ml of water for each 2 hours that you are flying. So, or flights up to 2 hours, 500 ml, from 2-4 hours 1 litre, etc… This is to make sure your physical and mental health and performance aren’t compromised when traveling - and staying properly hydrated is one way to combat this.

In addition to dehydration, air travel is accompanied by other negative side effects. Dry air inside the cabin can have an impact on the upper respiratory tract, making it more prone to airborne germs. Staying hydrated keeps your upper airways moist which helps the immune system to work better. 

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2) Proper nutrition

Proper nutrition is another factor that can relieve some of the unpleasant side effects of shift work and air travel. Many of you have probably experienced some poor nutrition options because of irregular meal schedules and limited food availability on planes and in airports. Simple changes to your regular routine can have a big effect on how fast you recover from meal disruptions and restricted offerings. 

The takeaway here is that all of the discomforts of shift work and air travel are not only owing to disruptions to your internal clock. Basic food and drink issues also arise in your line of work. Act on some of the tips from today to enhance your wellbeing and live up to your incredible potential!

Today's POWER-UP: Tips for before, during, and after work shifts

1. Bring healthy snacks on the plane such as nuts, fruit, vegetables and a refillable water bottle.

2. Whenever possible, bring your own food. I know that’s not always possible on longer trips but you might be able to bring enough to cover the first few legs of your trip

3. Avoid coffee and alcohol (to avoid dehydration and performance decrements).

4. On any longer flights, adjust to the local time meal schedule once you arrive in the new time zone

5. If you have to eat before bedtime, avoid meals that are high in fat, fibre, or protein, instead favouring fruits and vegetables.

 

The information and advice provided in this program is intended to assist Sky Regional employees with improving their general health. It is not intended and should not be used in place of advice from your own physician or for treatment or diagnosis of any specific health issue. Sky Regional is not responsible for the content of this program which has been specially developed and is being provided to you by the Wells Group Inc., in consultation with Sky Regional. By participating in this program you acknowledge that undertaking any new health, diet and/or exercise regime involves certain inherent risks, that you assume such risks, and that you release Sky Regional and the Wells Group Inc. from any responsibility or claim relating to such participation.