Airlines get serious about jet lag relief
Wednesday, February 05, 2020
While some airlines, such as Virgin Atlantic and JetBlue, are bringing out the music and mediation amenities to help passengers get the sleep they need as they fly across time zones, United Airlines is offering its loyalty fliers a free app that empowers passengers to get ahead of their jet lag. The app recommends sleep times, caffeine intake and times for light exposure for the quickest ways to adjust to new time zones.
Initial findings from research with long-haul passengers in a cooperative study of between the University of Sydney and Qantas showed 54% of people surveyed used ear plugs or noise-cancelling headsets to help them sleep on long haul flights, while 24% of passengers actively avoided alcohol, and 38% drank alcohol to aid their sleep. After arriving at their destination, 39% chose healthy food to help with recovery.
The study also looked into what passengers were not doing to help with the condition. Fewer than half of the travelers (47%) surveyed were not making a conscious effort to venture out into the sunshine upon arrival — a demonstrated way to overcome jet lag.
In fact, drinking more than a few glasses of alcohol will make jet lag worse by disrupting the quality of sleep the passenger will have and causing dehydration.
The National Sleep Foundation focuses on how our bodies work on a 24-hour cycle of "circadian rhythms" that are measured by rises and falls in body temperature, certain hormones and other biological conditions. All of these are influenced by exposure to sunlight.
However, while traveling at some 700 mph to a far flung time zone, our circadian rhythms are slow to adjust and remain on their original biological schedule for several days if no actions are taken ahead of time. Thus, our bodies think it is time to sleep in the middle of the afternoon, or time to wake up and be productive in the midnight hours — the common condition known as jet lag. The foundation recommends these workarounds:
Select a flight that allows early evening arrival and stay up until 10 pm local time. (If you must sleep during the day, take a short nap in the early afternoon, but no longer than two hours. Set an alarm to be sure not to over sleep.)
Anticipate the time change for trips by getting up and going to bed earlier several days prior to an eastward trip and later for a westward trip.
Upon boarding the plane, change your watch to the destination time zone.
Avoid alcohol or caffeine at least three to four hours before bedtime.
Upon arrival at a destination, avoid heavy meals and don’t eat chocolate.
Avoid any heavy exercise close to bedtime.
Bring earplugs and blindfolds to help dampen noise and other implements that protect from outside stimulation
Try to get outside in the sunlight whenever possible. Daylight is a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock. Staying indoors actually worsens the effects of jet lag.
The Timeshifter app
United Airlines customers can use the app as different way to handle their sleep on long flights without resorting to cocktails or Xanax. Through a partnership with Timeshifter, passengers can use an app that outlines the best time to see and avoid light, sleep and enjoy caffeine to adjust quickly to a new time zone.
To that end, all MileagePlus members can receive free access to the Timeshifter app and create an anti-jet lag plan. Premier 1K members receive a complimentary subscription with unlimited plans. The app is targeted at customers flying across three or more time zones and will be a helpful tool for them to manage their jet lag as they travel throughout United's global route network.
"We want to do everything we can to help improve the experience of traveling across time zones, whether it's a business trip to Tel Aviv or a vacation to Tahiti, our customers should arrive feeling fresh and ready to hit the ground running," said Luc Bondar, vice president of loyalty and president of MileagePlus. "Timeshifter takes all the guesswork out of avoiding jet lag and instead uses science and algorithms to design a customized, step-by-step trip across time zones. I was a believer the first time I used the app and I think our customers will love it, too."
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