Jetlag
The curse of the fast travel world we now have

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 them??

There are many theories as Gaya Avery espouses.

Adjust your 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.

But now, 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).

The key, researchers say, lies in the brain chemical vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, or VIP.

The 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.  

But when 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 jetlag.

According 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.

“We found 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.

However, 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 reported.

Instead, Professor Herzog wants to find a way of coaxing the brain to release more of its own stores of the compound.

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 phenomenon.

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 two theories.

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 Michigan.

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.