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Ways to Avoid Fatigue While Traveling Near and Far

Beating jet lag is a problem for almost every traveler. Whether you’re traveling a great distance or even a short distance, it can be difficult to avoid fatigue under the best of circumstances. Although flyers with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) that utilize a CPAP machine may have to use a little more forethought, all of the tricks to avoid fatigue and jet lag will work for them just as with any other flyer.

An overseas flight means that it can take your body’s internal clock several days to catch up to that leap, which we all recognize as jet lag. Keep in mind that even a short flight that occurs at an odd time can cause fatigue that mimics jet lag for many people, and especially for those with OSA.

It’s more than just coincidence that the symptoms of both conditions are the same. They both include daytime sleepiness, nighttime insomnia, poor concentration, confusion, hunger at inappropriate times or lack of appetite, and general malaise and irritability.

Just as the CPAP machine helps the person with OSA avoid the aforementioned symptoms, the whole idea of using these tricks and tips is to avoid the symptoms of jet lag altogether. In order to avoid complications from one condition infringing on the other, let’s look at common ways to avoid jet lag through the lens of someone using a CPAP machine.

Most experts acknowledge that jet lag doesn’t really kick in unless you’re traveling across at least two time zones. While this can necessitate sleeping onboard the plane (depending on direction and duration of the flight), that act in itself can potentially pose challenges for someone with OSA.

Fortunately, several CPAP machine manufacturers have developed full-feature devices that have the small size, battery power and other features necessary to facilitate use during the flight. This has been the topic of discussion among users of a CPAP machine in various flight forums. These discussions provide insight and answers on the what, why and how of flying on international flights where you may need to use your CPAP machine.

When it comes to jet lag specifically, one of the primary ways to avoid it is to gradually shift your sleep and meal times to coincide with the destination time zone over about four days. You can also opt for overnight flights, which make it easier to sleep onboard international flights. By scheduling a flight time that will arrive at your destination in the morning or afternoon, it becomes easier to adjust your internal clock and avoid jet lag.

If it fits your budget, the roomier seats of first class can provide more ideal sleeping conditions for restful sleep during a flight. Some airlines provide premium economy seats with more leg room for a less expensive alternative, or you can opt for an exit row seat in whatever class you fly.

Window seats help as you can use an additional pillow against the window for extra padding. You should try to avoid seats in the back of the plane as you will feel inflight bumps to a greater degree. Also avoid seats near the galley or lavatories to cut down on the traffic and commotion.

If you use a CPAP machine, you already know to avoid alcohol as it can induce snoring and make it more difficult to get the benefit of CPAP therapy. Sleep aids are a bad idea unless prescribed and recommended by your physician as they can also interact counterproductively with sleep in general and CPAP therapy specifically.

Be sure to turn off cell phones, iPads, and laptops an hour before you take an inflight nap as they emit blue-spectrum light that interferes with your circadian clock, which makes it harder to fall asleep. Also avoid caffeine in the form of coffee or even chocolate. It’s a good idea to stay hydrated with water. Just keep in mind that too much can increase your visits to the lavatory.

Spending a lot of time in the sun immediately after you arrive will help your body quickly adjust to the new time. If you arrive in the evening, stay up until your regular bedtime rather than take a nap. After arrival, spend a lot of time out in the sunlight, which will help your body reset its natural time clock to coincide with your new surroundings.

Since Monday May 12, 2014 is designated as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) Awareness Day, it is a good time to speak up in solidarity for those suffering from this debilitating condition. Not only are OSA and CFS complex conditions, they also share a number of key symptoms.

The symptoms of CFS include malaise after exertion, chronic and severe mental and physical exhaustion, cognitive difficulties, and unrefreshing sleep. Other unique symptoms include widespread muscle and joint pain, sore throat, headaches, and more.

If you use a CPAP machine and/or if you are going on a long or short flight, the symptoms of fatigue can be troubling in the short term and impinge on your ability to enjoy a vacation or perform optimally on business trips. Remaining compliant with your CPAP machine and adhering to some or all of the tricks covered here will go a long way to avoiding the effects of jet lag.


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