1. Remember the five keys to help combat jet lag and travel fatigue: time your light exposure, grab a bottle of melatonin, have proper hydration/nutrition, make time for physical activity, and structure your caffeine consumption.
2. However, if you’re traveling less than three time zones, or if you’re traveling again in one-two days, it might be more appropriate to stay on the timing of home and use strategies to combat fatigue (such as caffeine) as opposed to attempting to retrain your circadian oscillator twice.
These days, you’re not crossing a lot of time zones in your flights. But you likely have in the past, may do so in the future, and also could be travelling far and wide for vacations. So we’ve been talking for awhile about relieving jet lag as well as shift and travel fatigue.
Here is a review of some of the important strategies when dealing with work, travel and being out of sync with your surroundings.
- Key 1: Time your light exposure - Your circadian rhythm is highly regulated by the amount of light you’re exposed to during the day. One way to adjust your internal 24-hour clock is to expose yourself to light at strategic times of the day. If you want to delay your sleep cycle, expose yourself to light in the evening. If you want to advance your sleep cycle, expose yourself to light in the morning of the new time zone or the shift you’re adjusting to.
- Key 2: Grab a bottle of melatonin - Melatonin can be used in conjunction with light therapy to help adjust to a new time zone or work schedule. Take melatonin when you’d like to become sleepy. If you do travel afar and cross more than eight time zones, you should start taking melatonin three days before your departure – so long as it doesn’t interfere with your work schedule. Being alert on the job is a priority.
- Key 3: Proper hydration and nutrition – When on a flight, make sure you’re drinking 8-16 ounces of water per hour with electrolytes (rather than tea, coffee or alcohol). When at your destination or ending your shift, rehydrate with non-alcoholic drinks (water with electrolytes). Bring healthy snacks on the plane (apples, nuts, carrots, whole grain crackers are great).
- Key 4: Make time for physical activity – It helps you to maintain energy and alertness in general and can also assist with adjusting to a new bedtime if shift work tends to jumble your 24-hour schedule. Exercising with bright light will wake you up.
- Key 5: Structure your caffeine consumption - Use caffeine to reduce daytime drowsiness only when needed. Try slow-release caffeine options when possible and avoid caffeine six hours before bedtime.
Our body clocks aren’t easily disrupted by external factors. We tend to preserve our biological rhythms even in the face of daytime naps or waking throughout the night. However, it is exactly this resistance to disruption that makes it so difficult for our bodies to adjust to new time zones or shifts. In other words, our clock genes have substantial inertia that we have not yet found a foolproof way of manipulating.
If you’re traveling less than three time zones, or if you’re traveling again in one-two days, it might be more appropriate to stay on the timing of home and use strategies to combat fatigue (such as caffeine) as opposed to attempting to retrain your circadian oscillator twice. However, if you’re traveling further away or are planning on staying for a longer time at that destination, try to adjust your sleep-wake cycle using the techniques above.
Hopefully, you’ve had some time to absorb this topic and have tried a few strategies to address fatigue and shift changes. Keep it up! These are some small but effective ways to live better, be healthier and enjoy both work and play time more.
Today’s POWER-UP: Plan ahead
Check out this website to help you plan your strategies ahead of time.
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.