My first job in the sleep field was working in the Neurosciences Division of the Royal Air Force Institute of Aviation Medicine (IAM). At the time (the early 1980s) the IAM had one of the best sleep laboratories in Europe and much of its research looked into jet-lag and shiftwork.
Jet-lag occurs because your body clock is unable to cope with the lengthening or shortening of the day that is involved when we travel across multiple time zones: our body rhythms become out of sync with local time. As a result, you may feel fully awake at odd hours, or very sleepy during important meetings. Your appetite may be affected and your mental and physical performance reduced.
Almost all travellers will suffer some of the effects of jet-lag. Unfortunately, the only real way of completely avoiding its effects is to go by sea, as it gives your body time to adapt to the changes in time-zone! As a rough rule of thumb, it will take about 1 day to recover for each time zone you cross: for example, it can take up to a week to get back to normal after a flight from New York to London.
The following advice may help reduce the effects of jet-lag.
Dr. Neil Stanley
Dr Neil Stanley is an independent sleep expert who has been involved in research for over 35 years. After starting out at the R.A.F. Institute of Aviation Medicine, he moved on to the University of Surrey's Human Psychopharmacology Research Unit, where he was Director of Sleep Research. Today, he travels the world lecturing on various aspects of sleep to both healthcare professionals and the public at large.