Flying away to a distant paradise often has a price: an exhausting jet lag.
But luckily, science has a cure.
Meet jet lag guru Professor Leon Lack, a sleep expert from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, who reveals here why flying west is best and east is worst, and the ticket dream to banish the gloom of jet lag – light therapy.
Tips – land let there be light
Sleep expert Professor Leon Lack is pictured here with his ‘Re-timer’ light therapy glasses, which ‘are useful for overcoming jet lag’
Professor Lack says ‘the most powerful tool’ when it comes to readjusting your biological clock is ‘bright light’.
He explains, “Jet lag can be overcome more quickly after westbound flights by visual exposure to light (white or blue/green light) in the late afternoon and evening.
Jet lag can be overcome more quickly after westbound flights by visual exposure to light
“If the destination experiences sunny weather, outdoor lighting until sunset is helpful. In the more wintry times of sunset earlier in the year, a bright blue/green light source would be useful.
“For example, we have developed a portable light therapy device useful for overcoming jet lag.”
The device is called Re-Timerlight therapy glasses that, according to their dedicated website, “bring the sun inside when there just isn’t enough natural light during those long winter months.”
Professor Lack says melatonin can also be helpful and suggests taking a low dose (0.5mg to 1mg) of ‘rapid release melatonin’ when you want to fall asleep.
It can serve ‘at the same time as a mild sedative with no side effects, as well as to help resynchronize your clock to the new destination,” he explains.
He adds: “Sleeping pills are unlikely to be any more calming than melatonin and they have no direct effect on the synchronization of the biological clock and, if taken over a week, they may have sleep disrupting effects. related to weaning.”
What to avoid
Professor Lack says that after arriving at your destination you should “be active and out in the sun for the first few days”
QANTAS JET-LAG LOUNGES
To help passengers recover from jet lag, Qantas has introduced Jet Lag Friendly Lounges.
“Among the strategies already implemented, for passengers on Qantas’ longest journey, the Perth-London flight, is light therapy in passenger lounges to help customers acclimate to the new time zone,” said the airline company.
“An outdoor space encourages guests to get outside to soak up some vitamin D, and there’s a wellness studio in the salon where guests can take stretching classes.”
A Qantas spokesperson said: “We have also adjusted our lounge and inflight menu offering to incorporate lighter fare and plant-based dishes alongside traditional menu items.”
Professor Lack says: ‘Be careful not to take a midday nap after the flight to catch up on ‘lost sleep’ during the flight.
“It could turn into eight hours of sleep throughout the day and being wide awake at midnight.
“Better to be active and expose yourself to the sun the first few days.
“Some loss of sleep on the plane will not harm your health – avoid driving if you are sleepy.”
‘Save your sleepiness for destination night.’
Why going east is more tiring
Most people have a night-owl biological clock that tracks a 24.5-hour day, slightly longer than the standard 24-hour sunrise and sunset rhythm, says Dr Kieran Seyan on the Online doctor site Lloyds Pharmacy.
This “delay” means that traveling east across multiple time zones means forcing the body into an earlier sleep pattern, which it typically protests more strongly against.
For example, Dr Seyan explains, if a passenger takes off in London at 7 a.m. and flies for 11 hours in Tokyo, for that passenger landing it is 6 p.m. London time. So time for dinner and then bed.
But in Tokyo, it’s 2 a.m. the next day, so the passenger actually arrived in the middle of the night.
“Most people take a day or three to adjust to this change,” Professor Lack said.
Go west – why it’s not so tiring
Professor Lack says: ‘Flying west across time zones requires delaying the biological clock in order to synchronize with the destination clock and sleep when everyone else does and be available for work or play when other people at the destination are also playing.
“Since most people’s body clocks naturally delay if given the opportunity or encouragement, they will overcome jet lag more quickly due to a time zone offset to the west, and this will be especially true for evening types.”