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How do travellers beat jetlag? If you want to be a world-class traveller, you need to read this

Posted October 22, 2019

We love travelling. It truly is the best kind of education, because you get to see things that are simply not there, where you live. And it is a great deal of fun, but some parts may be challenging. Have you ever experienced jetlag so bad you could literally sleep throughout the day? Scientists from The University of Sydney decided to see how travellers deal with jetlag.

Australian airlines Qantas are offering several long-haul flights and they can be challenging to some travellers. Image credit: Adam Moreira via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Australia is a perfect place to research jetlag. It is very far from Europe or North America – places of huge business and interest for many Australians. At the same time, people are also travelling to Australia to see its amazing nature and culture. Qantas, Australian airlines, are offering several extremely long flights. In fact, Qantas is currently testing the longest flight ever – over 19 hours and 16 minute flight from New York to Sydney. That kind of time in a tube will mess you up big time. But experienced travellers have some strategies to avoid the worst of jetlag.

Scientists found that 54 % of people surveyed used earplugs or noise cancelling headsets to help them sleep on the airplane. This helped maintaining higher energy and reducing the impact on the internal biological clock. 38 % chose alcohol to help them sleep even better, while 24 % thought that alcohol is going to make jetlag even worse. And scientists agree with them – specialist sleep researcher Dr Yu Sun Bin, one of the authors of the study, said: “Drinking more than a few glasses of alcohol will make jetlag worse. It might make us fall asleep faster but [beyond a certain point] it also disrupts the quality of sleep and causes dehydration”.

After arrival, 39 % of travellers ate healthy food to aid their recovery. This is a good idea, because jetlag is just a symptom of a damage that’s already done. You need to treat it as an injury – you need to rest, eat healthy and recover. This will not be easy, but it is just the way it is. If Qantas wants to make these long flights, it has to be certain that passengers and crew will be fine afterwards. There is no flight if the reviews are terrible and people get so sick they don’t want to travel again.

On the test flight on 18 October, six Qantas Frequent Flyer volunteer passengers took part in the 19-and-a-half-hour flight from New York to Sydney. That was quite a unique experience, we can imagine. Passengers were wearing devices that monitored most important parameters of their bodies. They also had to follow a specially designed sleep, food and beverage and physical movement schedule. It will be interesting to see what this research will produce.

Long-haul flights may sound terrible, but they are actually a great idea. If you want to travel from New York to Sydney, you have to stop somewhere, change planes and deal with airport nonsense. Layovers are tiring as well. Long flights save time, money and resources. We just have to figure out how to preserve our health during these long journeys.


Source: The University of Sydney

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