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Beacon Senior News

How to up your jet lag IQ

Jun 29, 2021 05:53AM ● By Carrie Luger Slayback

My husband, Paul, and I arrived in midtown Manhattan on a bright morning.

We’d just disembarked a red-eye flight from California. Both of us were unable to sleep, and Paul spent the five-hour flight cursing the torturous airline seats.

Having finally arrived at our destination, we found a hotel on Lexington, blocks from my sister’s place. The manager, observing bedraggled Californians stumble toward his desk, opened a room early. Paul sank into bed.

I remained in a lobby chair to wait for my sister. My eyes were glued to the brass-trimmed glass lobby door, and then...oblivion. I instantly tumbled from excited anticipation to coma-like sleep. In public.

When I opened my eyes, I found my sis and her husband at my side. They’d entered the lobby, spotted me and tiptoed over.

“Hope I wasn’t snoring,” I mumbled.

The problem was that traveling east, my circadian rhythms became arrhythmic. Is this a serious malady? You bet.


Why we need sleep

A scholarly article from the American College of Chest Physicians confirmed that the effects of sleep interruption are overwhelmingly negative: reduced attention, alteration in mood, and diminished memory and executive function. Between 1 and 3 percent of all motor vehicle crashes nationwide are attributed to driver sleepiness. Additionally, loss of one night’s sleep increases anxiety, depression and paranoia. Business travelers need to be concerned about reduced emotional intelligence and “its relation to critical thinking,” according to the article.

My husband’s nap probably saved our relationship, as sleep-deprived travelers score significantly lower on empathy, interpersonal relationships, impulse control and behavioral coping. Sleepy people are more likely to view neutral words as negative and forget the positive.

Sleep deprivation also affects innovative thinking, and the sleep deprived demonstrate significantly higher risk-taking behaviors. Besides that, the sleepless traveler feels lousy—airplane cabin pressure causes bloat, gastrointestinal problems, dehydration and drowsiness. It’s a miserable way to start a day.

Sleep deprivation also affects blood pressure, insulin production and normal appetite regulation. The metabolization of some medications can also be affected.

WebMD says that the loss of 90 minutes of sleep in one night reduces daytime alertness by one-third. Enough. Let’s take control and minimize all that distress.

Circadian rhythm greatly influences one’s quantity and quality of sleep. The brain’s pineal gland responds to patterns of daylight and dark by regulating melatonin, promoting sleep in darkness and reducing it for daytime alertness. Retrain your rhythms by exposing yourself to bright natural light during waking hours. At bedtime in your new time zone, eliminate brightly lit electronics. Pack a dim night light in order to find the bathroom without switching on lights. To further reset one’s circadian rhythm, a bedtime dose of 5 mg of Melatonin has been proven effective.


7 ways to up your jet lag 

• Pack ahead and sleep normal amounts the night before the trip. Research warns against starting from home with a sleep deficit. Some travelers adopt their destination’s bed/ wake times pre-trip.

• Limit “sleep-robbers” like alcohol and caffeine in flight, and stay hydrated. Limit carbonated drinks, which can add to gassy feelings.

• Adopt destination meal times immediately upon arrival.

• Exercisers have a 61 percent performance advantage over couch potatoes upon arrival at their destination.

• Naps improve reaction time, memory, attention, processing speed and reasoning—even for naps that last only 15-20 minutes.

• Some hotels provide “sleep floors” away from the street with double-paned windows, blackout curtains, quiet no-squeak hinges and rules against partying.

• Be nice to airline and hotel personnel. When delays drive you to wild hostility, you need them most. Ask sweetly for a room far away from the all-night disco bar.