The instant you hear the word ‘long haul’ a various mix of reactions comes to mind from many travellers. As a seasoned traveller I guess there are many different ways to cope. Each person has their own strategies but why do we get fatigues, and what can you do?
What is jetlag?
The big thing people often forget is that at the root of jetlag is actually multiple different things compounding to make long haul air travel an impact to your short term health.
But the main concept behind it, is the fact it is likely that you are travelling from one time zone to another. This matter because our bodies naturally align to a sleep wake cycle that spans around 25 hours – which is about a day; and this is also known as the body’s circadian rhythm.
Yes it’s actually 25; studies showed that when people where taken outside the normal 24 hour day cycle, their bodies actually went into a natural 25 sleep-wake cycle.
It isn’t just timezone; I’m tired of hearing this!
So apart from the time zone, the actual process of flying takes it’s toll on the body. And there’s so much behind it, but basically everything altogether means that your body fatigues quicker due to dehydration and the fact that sleeping on an aeroplane (unless you’ve paid first class) isn’t going to be of much quality.
Ongoing fatigue is usually the result of ongoing exposure to stress (and if significant released chemicals in the body that aren’t good over long periods of time), and things like accumulation of sleep debt.
Contrary to belief cabin air is recirculated along with outside air in order to keep ensure Carbon Dioxide doesn’t accumulate inside the aeroplane.
Cabin air is pressurised to around 8’000ft (around 2.5km up in the air). Because of this, you are actually receiving less Oxygen than you would be at ground level. (And if you smoke, you could be receiving way less Oxygen, which makes you partially hypoxic)
Because of the higher altitude air pressure in conjunction with air conditioning systems; cabin air humidity is lower leading to faster dehydration.
So what can you do?
Alcohol – whilst tasty can dehydrate you like no tomorrow, but I guess I do enjoy ‘complimentary drinks.’ Make sure you rehydrate with as much water as possible.
Strategize your sleep cycle – I like to align myself with the destination time zone as soon as possible. For me I do this by accident because of last minute packing. When visited the US I stayed up all night in Australia so I’d align with New York time. I end up pretty tired, so I end up sleeping during a morning departure, and wakeup in the American afternoon. You can do the research yourself, or:
Get the app – A new app calculates the idea exposure to light at the right time, and to make sure your in darkness at the right time.
In fact, the type of light you expose yourself to can effect you sleep cycle. Things like using your computer/tablet can impact the quality of sleep.
F.Lux – can be use to combat bad light emissions and install it to your PC to tweak your graphics settings to keep your screen from emitting too much blue light. Get it here: https://justgetflux.com/
Fly first class?! Although if you flew Etihad in their new “Residence” Suite, you’d get some decent shuteye. Yes, it’s actually on their new A380 (flying to Australia next year!)
Sleeping pills – I’m really skeptical on this. If you time this incorrectly, or take in alcohol you could firstly send the wrong message when you are at the Gate and appear intoxicated. Similarly would hate to think if you had to get back off the aeroplane if your flight suddenly gets cancelled.
Breathing exercises/meditation – Probably good in order to relax (and in general!). Try learning some breathing exercises beforehand. I meditate before because it’s easy to get air crazy.
Drink water – Always bring a water. I have a Bobble (but there are plenty of other kinds out there) because of some journeys where I can’t guarantee water quality. Make sure you empty it out before going through are transferring flights; there is usually a place to refill anyway.
Moisturize – Because a bit of manscaping never went to bad. Extra tip is to aim for something that reduces oil, as dehydrated can become oilier.
Fly on newer aircraft – Not always possible, but newer aircraft like the Airbus A380 Superjumbo or Boeing 787 Dreamliner not only fly quieter, but fly with lower cabin altitude and a higher humidity.