Back in the
'good old days' of steamer travel and even during
the 3 days to London by flying boat we didn't really
have this problem!
We are led to believe the new Boeing Dreamliner will
be better for jetlag - pressurised to lower
altitude, more humidity with internal air. However,
this writer has flown long distance on the
Dreamliner and noted no difference.
I don't think it
is just me, but if I fly non-stop from Australia to
Europe I get off the aircraft (albeit feeling dry
and in need of shower) and function the next
morning. However, when I go from Europe to Australia
I take 4 to 5 days to recover total normal control,
including bladder empty times! It was the same thing
when I lived long term in the UK and Europe and
others have told me it is the same situation with
many theories as Gaya Avery espouses.
sleeping patterns prior to travelling; adjust your
sleeping patterns during travel; get drunk; avoid
alcohol; drink plenty of water; supercharge your
diet with extra protein. When it comes to cures for
jetlag, there are plenty of theories flying about.
scientists in the US claim they’re a step closer to
actually finding one – or at least in ‘travelling’
test mice – and it doesn’t involve taking Melatonin
tablets, ingesting Valerian (not Valium), or
avoiding airline food (though you may want to do
that sometimes anyway).
researchers say, lies in the brain chemical
vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, or VIP.
chemical normally synchronises the thousands of
brain cells that make up the body’s master clock, a
group of cells that regulate sleep based on light.
released in high amounts, scientists believe VIP
will actually cause the body clock’s rhythm to break
down, thus making it more adaptable to massive
changes in time zones – and less susceptible to
the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
journal, researchers found that when given a booster
shot of the compound, mice adjusted to a big
time-shift twice as quickly as usual.
that in mice we could cut ‘jet lag’ in half by
giving them a shot of VIP the day before we ‘flew
them into a new time zone’ by shifting their light
schedule,” the University of Washington (St Louis)
Professor Erik Herzog said.
thanks to concerns over potential side effects, it
is unlikely travellers will simply be given an
injection of the chemical, the UK’s Daily Mail
Professor Herzog wants to find a way of coaxing the
brain to release more of its own stores of the
How to beat
jet lag: Why is jet lag worse when flying east?
Michael Gebicki from the Age Newspaper travel
section imparts some more knowledge on this subject
that besets us all.
West if best, east is a beast. Heard that one
before? It's the rhyme of the jet-lagged traveller.
It is well known that travelling east, your body
takes longer to adjust than travelling west and
science has some fresh ideas that explain this
In an article in the journal, Chaos, researchers
concluded that for most of us, our circadian rhythms
– the internal sleep-wake clock that tells us when
to sleep and when to get up – are slightly longer
than 24 hours. Therefore travelling west, and coping
with a later sleep-wake time than at home, comes
more naturally than travelling east, and hitting the
sack earlier. So for Aussie travellers on holiday in
Europe, the jet lag is likely to be worse when they
get home than it is in Europe.
If our bodies are working on a longer-than-24-hour
clock, how is it that we are not wildly out of sync
with the day? The reason is that there are a couple
of external cues that help our body clock adjust,
and the big one is light. The bright light of day
resets our circadian clock and tells us to get out
and start hunting and harvesting, or sightseeing;
darkness tells us it's time for bed, and this is the
reason that science says the blue light of a tablet
device at bedtime could contribute to poor sleep.
Why is it then that waking up in your gasthaus to a
bright Bavarian morning on day one of your trip does
not reset your body clock immediately and say auf
wiedersehen to jet lag? According to researchers at
Oxford University, the reason is the protein, SIK1,
which inhibits the impact of light on the brain.
Bright light acts as a stimulant but then along
comes SIK1 and quietens things down again, limiting
our ability to adjust quickly when we cross time
zones. When the researchers experimented with mice,
halving their levels of SIK1, they found that the
mice could adapt to a six-hour change in the
daytime-night-time cycle in just one day, versus six
days for the control group. No doubt SIK1 is vitally
important for the functioning of our organism but
evolution just wasn't thinking about jet lag when it
was designing mammalian architecture. Any scientist
who finds a way to safely block SIK1 for humans is
on the road to riches, and you can bet there are
clever minds working on the problem now.
Armed with this knowledge, science says we can still
strategically use light to regulate our body clocks
and get over the effects of jet lag more quickly.
Let's say you've travelled from east coast Australia
to Italy, covering eight time zones, assuming this
is the northern summer. Travelling west, you want to
delay your body clock. If you normally hit the sack
at 10.30pm, that equates to 2.30pm in Rome. That
needs sorting, and exposure to bright light will
help you push back your bedtime, and here there are
According to Steven W. Lockley, a consultant to
NASA's fatigue management team, trying to fit in
with your new time zone right away is wrong since it
leads to exhaustion. "What you need to do is to ease
yourself into the new time zone by consciously
manipulating your exposure to light." Lockley
advocates a gradual shifting of sleep-wake patterns
until you're in sync with wherever you happen to be,
and using light to assist. Travelling west from
Australia to Rome, you want to push back your sleep
times and therefore you would avoid bright light
when you wake and ramp up your exposure later on in
the day, gradually cranking your bright-light time
closer to your wake-up time each day. There's even
an iPhone app to help you work out these gradual
changes in your light-exposure schedule, Entrain,
developed by researchers at the University of
Another jet lag study published in the Cleveland
Clinic Journal of Medicine supports this
softly-softly approach, and posits that most
travellers can push their body clock back by two
hours a day.