Daniela Caputo's Destinations: Let's talk jet lag - Part 2

The management of it all

Light is the strongest for realigning a sleep/wake schedule, so careful control of this exposure can speed up the adjustments to time zones. The hormone melatonin is produced in dim light and darkness in humans, and it is eliminated by light (interesting, no!?!?!).

Direction of travel

North–south flights that do not cross time zones don’t normally cause jet lag. However, if you are crossing the Arctic Ocean or North Pole, obviously there is a significant time change. Seasonal differences like sunlight crossing the equator may create a slightly disruptive sleep pattern heading to your destination as well. In general, adjustment to the new time zone is faster for east–west travel than for the opposite. A westward adjustment takes approximately half the number of time zones crossed, and for eastward travel, adjusting to the new time zone takes days, approximately two-thirds of the time zones crossed. Studies have shown that performance in both individual and team sports is measurably better in athletes who have flown westward to the venue than in the opposite direction (another interesting fact).

Methods and mental health implications

Timed light exposure can be effective to help people match their rhythms with the expected cycle at their destination; sometimes special glasses, usually battery-driven, provide light to the eyes, so it inhibits the production of melatonin in the brain. Timing of exercise and food consumption have also been suggested as remedies, though their applicability and practicality for most travellers are not certain. Sleep medication can be used to improve sleep quality and timing. Sleeping on the plane is only advised if it’s within the destination's normal sleep time.

Jet lag may also affect the mental health of individuals. When travelling across time zones, there is a phase-shift of body temperature, rapid-eye movement, etc. (something to be aware of). Some studies have found that relapse of major affective and psychotic disorders occurred frequently when seven or more time zones have been crossed, within a week or so.

This is not to scare anyone - it’s just an FYI. If you or your loved ones are susceptible, I would investigate this further and speak to a proper physician.

Montreal Event Planner has become the go-to authority in the event planning business, not only because of its reputable success, but also because of the expertise and professionalism of owner Daniela Caputo, who combs the globe on a regular basis to find the best destinations for her clients (and our readers!).