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How to dispel jetlag as soon as possible

Updated: Feb 27, 2023

With the world opening up (and hopefully staying open) I was invited recently to comment on a Wall Street Journal piece on optimising health in regards to jetlag.

Here is what I shared:

My name is Dr Susan Baxter (PhD) and I'm a fitness and nutrition educator for personal trainers and allied health. Day to day I work with clients on improving and supercharging their health. These clients work night shift; or are expected to travel frequently across time zones (there are 5 different time zones in Australia for example never mind internationally) or work with different time zones where they are expected to be available for example as a lawyer for legal advice to big companies in the USA at our equivalent time of midnight or 2am for example. You better believe they want to optimise their health and dispel jet lag as soon as possible; and I help them with that. Here are a few quick fire facts you might find interesting-

  1. Women suffer jet lag more than men, one reason may be that women have a different biological circadian rhythm and therefore tend to be more alert upon waking making them less likely to be able to fall back asleep again (1)

  2. In 2007 night shift work was labeled as a possible carcinogen and Danish shift workers with breast cancer were compensated.(2)

  3. Female Clients who regularly travel time zones or are night shift workers tend to find weight loss near impossible regardless of calories intake and exercise. Regular good quality sleep seems to be the answer

  4. There has even been evidence that chronic jet lag has effects on hormone health including infertility (4)

  5. Furthermore having chronic jet lag impairs cognitive ability (4).

1.Duffy JF, Cain SW, Chang A-M, et al. Sex difference in the near-24-hour intrinsic period of the human circadian timing system. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2011; 108(Supplement 3): 15602-15608. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1010666108 2.Wise J. Danish night shift workers with breast cancer awarded compensation. British Medical Journal. 2009;338, article b1152 3.Oral O, Kara E, Akdogan I, Isbilir M, Bekir H. Relationship between melatonin and exercise. Int Türkbilim J. 2014; 2: 1-15. 4.Int J Endocrinol. 2010; 2010: 813764. Published online 2010 Mar 8. doi: 10.1155/2010/813764 Practical ways to banish jet lag sooner which I employ with all my nightshift workers and jet lagged clients:

  1. If heading far overseas, set your watch to the new time upon leaving (and let your phone be the "local time"). Adjust to that time as soon as possible. I like to know how much longer on a flight etc so it's useful to have a few times available to see.

  2. Have a good night sleep before the flight (studies show that good quality sleep reduces impact of jet lag)

  3. Sunlight exposure upon waking to help use dark-light cycles to "reset" your time.

  4. During long haul flights wear noise canceling headphones. The constant burrrr of the flight is also fatiguing for the body. Removing that constant noise will reduce sound fatigue.

  5. Reduce blue light exposure before bed time (I have blue light blocking glasses from Quay and wear them 2 hours before bed so my brain doesn't mistake light for daylight).

  6. Wear eye pads if you are having a sleep in when there is daylight earlier than you'd like to wake up or sleep in a darkened room with light canceling curtains.

  7. Exercise or go for a brisk walk soon upon waking (this will help the body to reset your circadian rhythm) (3). I would recommend not heavy lifting when jet lagged.

  8. Drink lots of water during the day (the meals on the plane are very salty and you will be dehydrated). Even being slightly dehydrated can make you feel more sleepy.

  9. Take it easy on yourself and don't plan "first thing in the morning" meeting for the week after you return.

  10. Alcohol can feel like a good idea but reduces sleep quality, so try to avoid it.

  11. Eat nutritional food like veggies and lean meats and good fats to ensure that your immune system isn't under threat by being jetlagged plus poor nutrition.

Hope that helps!

Check out my other article about how sleep affects your gains in exercise and reach out if you have any questions.

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