Jet Lag Effects and Prevention Tips for Over 50s

Date published: 27 Jul 15

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Flying into a new time zone can prove problematic for the older traveller. Thankfully, there are a few simple steps you can take to lessen the impact of jet lag.

While air travel has become commonplace over recent years, it is still a relatively new phenomena for the human body to cope with. Travelling across time zones can sometimes cause a reaction in our bodies that can lead to short-term sleep disorders and disorientation.

Everyone can suffer from jet lag, regardless of fitness levels or other physical attributes. However, it does become more common as people reach their later years. Why this happens to be the case is unknown, but research shows that older flyers will be affected more by crossing time zones than younger passengers.

Can anything be done to prevent it?

Unfortunately, jet lag cannot be prevented completely, but there are a few simple measures you can take in order to reduce the affects of flying across long distances.

Prior to travelling

Adapt your sleep patterns before you leave home. A good rule of thumb is to adjust your routine according to where you are travelling. If you are travelling east, go to bed an hour earlier than normal. If you are travelling west, stay up an hour later.

Fly refreshed. This doesn’t mean having a drink before you leave! Rather, make sure that you get plenty of sleep before you head off, as flying when already tired can make jet lag worse.

Stay calm. Regulate your breathing wherever possible to relieve tension and lower stress levels. Arriving at the airport early can help to keep stress levels down too - relaxation is key.

Whilst in the air

Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids will keep your body hydrated and help to stave off the affects of a long flight. Watch what you drink, however, caffeine and alcohol can both disrupt sleep and make jet lag worse.

Keep moving. Whenever possible, get up from your seat and walk the aisle. Doing so will keep you body active and lessen the chances of deep vein thrombosis occurring. Seated exercises can also help to keep blood circulating during the flight.

Change your timepieces. Anything you are carrying that tells the time should be changed during the flight to help you adjust mentally to the new time zone.

Sleep. If you can, try and grab a few short naps while you are in the air.

When you arrive

Get into a new routine as soon as possible. Switching over to a new routine of eating and sleeping at the correct times for your destination will help you adapt both physically and mentally.

Get outside. Physical movement and the natural light of the sun will also help you to adjust to your new surroundings and time zone.

No naps. No matter how shattered you may feel, try not to nap before the evening comes. Further disruption to your sleep pattern will only enhance the effects of jet lag.

Jet lag can cause extreme fatigue, which can exacerbate medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, depression, epilepsy and various chronic pain disorders. Over 50s travelling with a chronic health condition are at a slightly greater risk of fatigue induced complications, which can quickly ruin a holiday. Purchasing over 50s travel insurance prior to leaving home is a must for any holiday, but will give you additional peace of mind if you are really worried about the effects of jet lag on your health. It is always best to be prepared for every eventuality.

However, rest assured that the vast majority of people do not suffer badly enough to warrant medical treatment. If you follow the tips outlined above you will lessen the impact that your journey will have and be free to enjoy a fabulous holiday abroad.

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