Welcome to Captain Doug's Blog

Fellow aviators...check out my website http://www.captainmorris.com/

Don't feel like posting but still want to comment?Email me:

Visit my latest postings for enRoute magazine:  www.enroutemag.com/en/articles/this-is-your-captain-speaking-4

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Jet Lag (Circadian Dysrythmia)

Here's an answer to a jet lag question submitted to my enRoute column.

Approach on 27 Right (Heathrow LHR)
I am travelling to London UK in June on a direct over night flight. Is it a good idea to try to adjust to their time a few days prior to my departure i.e.: starting to get up a little earlier everyday?
From my experience with circadian dysrhythmia (jet lag), remedies are as unique as the individual. What works for some doesn't necessarily work for the rest. Our Air Canada medical department suggest flight crew rest prior to an overseas flight i.e a one to two hour afternoon nap. For passengers, this is easier said than done because of the excitement of travel. Many passengers think they will sleep on the flight. But sometimes you may have a unsettled child nearby, a chatty seat partner or you may be entrenched with our on board movie selection.

Here is what I wrote in my book : From the Flight Deck: Plane Talk and Sky Science.
I also copied enRoute's March issue on jet lag.

I assume you are taking flight 860 (YHZ-LHR).

Enjoy the trip.

The Pros' Guide to Jet Lag

You know the symptoms: lethargy, dehydration, disturbed sleep and trouble concentrating. Doctors call the condition "circadian dysrhythmia," while the rest of the world knows it as "jet lag". It occurs when your built-in clock is out of sync with the outside environment, upsetting your bodily functions. Jet lag has been blamed for athletes losing competitions, politicians blundering in international relations and business people failing to secure major deals. Most people, including flight crews, succumb to it in some form or another.
Dr. Claude Thibeault, Air Canada's senior director of occupational health services, frequently advises Air Canada employees on how to cope with jet lag. According to Dr. Thibeault, there is no magical fix for everyone, but measures can be taken to minimize the effects of jet lag. And much of the solid advice he offers flight crews can also be applied to passengers.
Before the flight, Dr. Thibeault recommends plenty of rest. Many passengers think they can get caught up on their sleep during the flight, but it doesn't always work out that way. For a night departure, consider taking a nap for 11/2 to two hours in mid-afternoon, which is a low period in your circadian rhythm.
On the day of your flight, show up early, wear comfortable clothing and good walking shoes, and have everything you'll need, such as tickets and passports, readily at hand. Airports are getting larger and more congested, so they can present a real challenge to passengers who are running behind schedule.
During the flight, get as comfortable as possible. Take off your tie, loosen your shoes or, better yet, bring slipper socks. One common strategy to minimize jet lag is to avoid alcohol and drink lots of water, as this reduces dehydration. Consuming water is so important that members of flight crews are given an extra litre for every eight hours of duty.
Passengers can also follow the example of flight crews by stimulating their circulation during the flight. If you see a pilot walking down the aisle, don't be alarmed, as the pilot is probably just limbering up. At the very least, be sure to get out of your seat, if only to walk to the washroom. "Studies have clearly demonstrated that the most successful technique for combating sleepiness is physical activity," says Dr. Thibeault. You can also keep alert by reading, playing a game or conversing.
Once you arrive, your ideal sleep schedule depends on the length of your stay in the new time zone. If you are staying for only a day or so, as is the case with most crew layovers, it's better to keep close to your sleep schedule at home. But if you're staying longer, you should heed the motto "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Change your watch to the new time and try to adapt your sleeping habits accordingly. One day of recovery time is usually needed for each time zone crossed.
Dr. Thibeault suggests that if you don't fall asleep in 20 to 30 minutes, you should get out of bed so as not to associate bed with sleeping problems. Get up and read or watch TV, but don't use alcohol as a sleeping aid, because it upsets the natural sleep patterns. Incidentally, you don't necessarily need one long sleep; two separate periods of deep sleep can be just as refreshing.
The best way to ensure a sound sleep is to optimize your sleeping environment. Set a comfortable temperature, preferably on the cool side. Darken the room - wear a mask if necessary - and shut out any noise by using earplugs. Some crew members even refuse to take hotel rooms near the elevators and ice machines.
Working out can also help take the bite out of jet lag. Studies have shown that people who are fit tend to overcome jet lag faster than those who are not. Some members of flight crews make a point of heading to the gym during their layovers. It is a good idea, however, to avoid strenuous exercise immediately before sleep.
Everyone gets jet lag; it is a matter of personal difference as to how long you suffer after the flight. NASA’s suggests that it takes one day for each time zone crossed to recover from jet lag. The most effective approach to fight it may be to combine multiple strategies rather than to rely on a single one. Take your cue from flight crews, who are veteran troops in the war against jet lag, and keep the traveller's enemy at bay.

Do aircrew suffer from jetlag?
People are often surprised to hear that aircrew are affected by jetlag, although we do get accustomed to it. It helps to stay hydrated with plenty of non-diuretic drinks, such as water and juice, and studies show that physical activity is an effective remedy. I always try to work out in the gym on layovers, but walking also does the trick. And I usually adjust my watch to local time when the flight attendants start asking, “What time are we landing?”