“Taking a holiday is good for the brain,” says renowned neuroscientist Dr. Tara Swart. “It gives us the opportunity to rest and recalibrate and go on a digital detox from our smartphones, laptops, and tablets.
“However, the effect of long-haul flying on the brain can be extremely disruptive. Research carried out by the University of California, Berkeley shows that acute disruption of circadian rhythms (our biological clock), causes memory and learning problems and long-term changes in brain anatomy, long after travelers have returned to their regular schedule.”
In a three-phase approach: pre-trip; in-flight; and on arrival, Tara has created 10 Top Tips to beat jetlag:
- Shift your internal rhythms before you fly. Depending on whether you are flying east or west, exposure to additional light in the morning or afternoon a number of days before departure will help the body make the necessary adjustments
- Only use prescribed sleeping tablets for a maximum of two days either side of a trip that involves more than a four-hour time difference.
- Fasting until breakfast time in the new time zone will help ‘un-stick’ and re-anchor the body’s rhythms.
- Drink at least 500ml of water for every 15kg of body weight. This will help to limit the particularly dehydrating effects of high altitude.
- Try and do some aerobic exercise once you arrive – this will help wake up the body and boost mental performance.
- Expose yourself to as much daylight as possible during the day.
- Adjust your sleep routine to the local time zone as quickly as possible by choosing optimal travel times. Allow your eyes to observe the transition from light to dark after arrival. Our internal body clock is controlled by the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, which is released by the pineal gland into our bloodstream when it gets dark.
- Avoid alcohol before bed as it does not induce a natural sleep that allows your body to recover.
- Avoid drinking coffee after 2 pm to mitigate its impact on the quality of your sleep.
- Limit your use of blue light-emitting devices, like smartphones, an hour or so before bed; they trick the pineal gland into thinking it is daytime and so inhibit melatonin production.