You make a living flying to destinations near and far. While it can be fun and glamorous to navigate the skies and see the world from above, but it can come with a price, namely jet lag, otherwise known as circadian rhythm disruption.
Aircrew often travel across time zones and work when others would normally be asleep. This can affect their internal biological clock and disrupt normal sleep patterns that can lead to fatigue, difficulty sleeping, changes in mood, injuries, stomach and intestinal symptoms, and other health problems.
What can be done to reduce or eliminate exposure?
If possible, try to reduce your time working on very long flights, flights that cross many time zones, or flights scheduled for when you are normally asleep at home. These are flight conditions that tend to increase the amount of circadian disruption the aircrew is exposed to.
If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, it is important to maintain, as much as possible, a regular sleep schedule.
As your work schedule permits, keep the same times for going to sleep and waking up that you use in your home time zone. It is best not to change your sleep schedule on days off; try to get up at about the same time. If you need to catch up on sleep, go to bed earlier.
Use earplugs and eye masks to reduce noise and light when you sleep.
If you are sleeping away from home, set up a quiet, very dark, comfortable, and cool hotel bedroom. Block any light coming into the bedroom under the doorways or through the windows. Remember to pack an eye mask and earplugs.
Avoid alcohol and heavy meals, and limit caffeine 2-3 hours before bedtime.
Dr. Teresa (Terry) Sommese of Charleston Flight Doc understands the particular health concerns facing pilots and other air personnel. When it comes time for your physical exam to clear you for flying, her specific training and medical expertise will ensure you meet all of the requirements for maximum air safety. Her exam includes a medical history review and a comprehensive physical exam. For more information, call today.