Dealing with Time Zone Fatigue (Jet Lag)

Production personnel fly all over the globe to shoot commercials and films. Many have to deal with Jet Lag and be fresh on the set or to begin looking for the perfect location for the project. Below are a few tips to help deal with traveling far and wide.

Dealing with Time Zone Fatigue (Jet Lag)

Jet lag is one of those things that’s hard to describe to those who haven’t traveled. You can describe symptoms, you can talk about crossing time zones, but it’s hard to capture the bone-weary tiredness, the mental fatigue, that sense of lightheadedness until you’ve experienced it. And many people do. While information on the prevalence of jet lag is hard to come by, roughly 60%-70% of people who travel across more than two time zones in one trip experience jet lag in some form.

Jet lag is a disorder caused by the disruption of your circadian rhythms, which regulate our sleep cycles and other bodily functions. When we cross time zones our exposure to light is disrupted and light has a major impact on our circadian rhythms. The more time zones we cross in a given trip, the more likely we are to feel the effects of that disruption. Symptoms include fatigue, headache, irritability, soreness, digestive issues, mental confusion, and insomnia. Symptoms are also more likely to be pronounced when you travel east rather than west and also if you are older.

While there is no set way to cope with or prevent jet lag, there are ways to lessen its potential effects and to deal with symptoms when you feel them.

Shifting sleep cycles: If you have a schedule that will allow you to do so, one preventative method of staving off jet lag is to gradually shift your sleep schedule from the current schedule to one that matches the destination to which you will travel. This method essentially requires moving your sleep and wake times gradually toward the destination clock times.
Light exposure: There are apps available that will calculate the ideal times for you to be exposed to light to help set your internal clock to the new schedule at your arrival destination. By spending a few days pre-flight, exposing yourself to light at the times recommended by the app, you can adjust your circadian rhythms to lessen jet lag’s effects.
Sleep: Because the worst of jet lag’s effects often connect to disrupted sleep, making decisions about how to approach fatigue is important to coping with symptoms. Unfortunately, not everyone finds relief in the same method. You have to find what works best for you. Some people work best not sleeping on their flight and by staying up through the day of their arrival. Others swear by sleeping on the plane, While still others recommend short naps on the day of arrival. What is clearly important is to start training your body to the new schedule. Therefore, extended naps that keep you from sleeping at the proper bedtime in the new location are usually counterproductive.
Coffee and alcohol: Because jet lag is made worse by dehydration you are better off avoiding caffeine and alcoholic beverages that worsen dehydration. Furthermore, alcohol is actually counterproductive for deep sleep.
Eating: Indigestion and nausea can be symptoms of jet lag and you may feel like skipping meals, but eating some small amount at appropriate meal times will help your body adjust to the new cycle.
Activity: Make sure to get out and be active during morning and afternoon at your new location. This will encourage your bodily rhythms to adjust.
Medications: You are best off consulting a physician before using sleep medications to cope with jet lag. Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep, can be useful to some in adjusting circadian rhythms.

Written by Ivan Young in partnership with Marv Golden Pilot Supplies.

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