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Preventing jet lag

Anyone who’s travelled to another time zone knows how tough it can be for the body to adapt to the new routine. This doesn’t just affect people who fly on holiday, but a lot of business travellers as well. We show how a few simple tricks can help address the problem of jet lag.

Jet lag is a disruption of the circadian rhythms that govern our sleep-wake cycles. People with jet lag are often tired or have problems sleeping. Other symptoms include irritability, exhaustion, poor concentration and digestive problems. Sometimes it takes several days to get over it.

Nevertheless, it’s important to get back into a routine quickly once you reach your holiday destination – even more so if you’re on business. You don’t always have to have changed time zone to suffer from jet lag. Sometimes it affects people working irregular hours and night shifts. But you can reduce the effects with a few simple measures.

Arrival
You should take the first step already when organising your trip by scheduling enough time after your arrival for your body to recover. It’s best to arrive a day earlier rather than the day you have to be on form. And remember to reset your watch at takeoff.

Nutrition
Avoid starchy foods like pasta and potatoes, which tend to make the body tired. It’s better to eat protein-rich foods such as meat, eggs, red lentils or low-fat curd cheese (quark), which provide the body with the necessary energy and keep you alert. You should avoid eating a big meal right before you sleep. It’s also important to drink plenty after a long flight, because you lose a lot of fluid in the dry air.

Sleep
People travelling west often struggle with tiredness on arrival, because it would already be evening or night-time in their usual time zone. Despite this, you should try not to sleep during the day. This is the best way to help your body get used to the new day/night cycle. To inhibit production of the sleep hormone melanin you should spend as much time as you can outdoors rather than in a dark room. Before you travel it doesn’t hurt to go to bed a few hours later than usual. The reverse applies if you’re travelling east: in this case it’s a good idea to get to bed a bit earlier for a few days before you travel.

Medication
If you have trouble sleeping, it’s best not to take sleeping pills if you can avoid it. If you do have problems falling asleep, you may find relaxation techniques such as autogenic training or Jacobson’s progressive muscle relaxation useful. Exercise can also help reduce stress, so going for a walk isn’t a bad idea either. If you don’t fancy going outdoors, you may want to try a cup of chamomile tea, which can have a calming effect.

Insurance cover for travel abroad
In an emergency abroad your basic insurance will cover you for up to twice the cost of treatment in your canton of residence. Your basic insurance will often be sufficient to cover outpatient treatment. But it won’t be enough for inpatient treatment and treatment outside Europe. For this reason it’s advisable to take out COMPLETA TOP and INFORTUNA MEDICAL EXPENSES supplementary insurance, which supplement your basic or accident insurance and in the event of illness or an accident abroad provide full cover for outpatient and inpatient treatment, plus repatriation if necessary on medical grounds. You’ll find more information on SWICA’s insurance solutions here.

5 October 2016

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