Jet lag is a real problem for frequent business travelers and air crew and it is getting worse. People nowadays are traveling more and staying less.
There is a variety of countermeasures against jet lag. Some of them include drinking a lot of water, not eating before the flight, using a blue-light device or using special medication to attenuate jet lag.
Jet lag: A real problem
Jet lag is a huge problem for aircrews and frequent business travelers. The desynchronization between your biological inner clock and the outside world causes not only sleepiness when it is not time to go to bed or being awake when it is time to sleep but many symptoms that are much harder to cope with:
- General malaise and fatigue
- Disrupted sleep
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Memory loss
Furthermore, according to studies published in the NASA archives, jet lag can reduce decision-making, communication and over-all performance by 30-70%.
The business traveler’s disease
The problem is easily identified: The individuals traveling frequently, be it for business trips or because they work for an airline, are exactly those who need to perform on a high level without interruption. If a business meeting is scheduled for 3p.m. in Los Angeles and the participant flew in from Paris on that day, instant performance is needed although biologically it is midnight for the participant. Also, the development of the business world in the last years has been a reduction of time in the destination. That means that people are taking more trips and staying for fewer days, which aggravates the problem.
Countermeasures to jet lag
There are many simple tips and tricks to counter jet lag. Staying hydrated during the flight for instance. This is most probably a good idea, whether you suffer from jet lag or not. A more sophisticated countermeasure worth trying that is also connected to ingestion is not eating several hours before a flight when flying west. That way you can have a large meal upon arrival, getting the energy out of the food you just had and at the same time suggesting to your body that is (the appropriate) lunch time.
Blue light technology
Using a mobile blue-light device is a even more sophisticated countermeasure, using the power of natural blue light that is predominant in the morning, to reduce melatonin and boost serotonin, as it suggests to the body that it is a bright morning. One of the newest and most advanced devices on the market is Pocket Sky: a small and mobile, charges through USB, is easy to use and achieves an effect after only 20 minutes.
A study conducted by the director of the Washington Neuropsychological Institute and two of his colleagues researched the effect of Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide (NADH) on people suffering from jet lag. NADH is a cofactor found in all living cells. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted on 35 healthy subjects flying overnight from the West coast to the East coast. Upon arrival they were either administered NADH or a placebo. Then they had to do a series of computer-administered tests to assess sleepiness, mood and changes in cognitive functioning. The result was that half of the individuals experiences increased sleepiness and about one third has deteriorated cognitive function. Individuals who received NADH performed significantly better than the placebo-group. Since the study didn’t include many participants and the effects of jet lag were rather mild, it is to be taken with a healthy amount of skepticism. Nevertheless, since there were no side effects reported maybe it’s worth a try.