Published: 20 October 2016

Regular meals can help avoid jet-lag

A Surrey study has found that jet-lag in long-haul cabin crew is alleviated when meal times are regulated on their days off.

Long-haul cabin crew frequently suffer from jet-lag due to rapid travel across time zones. Evident especially on their return home, other symptoms include fatigue, impaired sleep, moodiness, loss of appetite and an effect on cognitive performance.

Sleep aids such as melatonin are not permitted for use by flight crew due to their sedative effects and, while well-known sleep hygiene measures, such as sleeping in a quiet, dark room and avoiding caffeine four hours before bedtime, can help promote alertness, they do not help reset the body clock.

For the study, 60 long-haul crew members took part in one of two tests – either a plan to eat regular meals on their days off or no plan for regular meals. The majority of the participants had three days off after their trip. The results found that meal times were important for the general wellbeing of cabin crew and for helping to adapt the body clock during days off.

Dr Cristina Ruscitto,from the School of Psychology, said: “Jet-lag is a common problem for long-haul cabin crew particularly during days off, as many prefer to adapt to local time on layovers as staying on the home time zone interferes with leisure and eating activities. However, adapting to the home time zone on days off is particularly important for fitting in with home life and ultimately for wellbeing. 

“We found that many crew tend to rely on sleep rather than eating strategies to alleviate symptoms of jet-lag, but this study has shown the crucial role meal times can indeed play in resetting the body clock. 

“It will be interesting to conduct further research to see whether the positive effects shown through a regular eating plan persists for a longer follow-up period and whether the effect is down simply to regular meals or whether timing and what you eat has an effect.”

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