What is Jet lag?

Jet lag is the disturbance to sleep patterns produced by travelling across several times zones when flying East or West.

It is usually worse when you fly East (towards the Middle East, China and Japan or returning to the UK from a stay in the USA) as the body finds it harder to accept a shorter day (in effect requiring you to go to bed early and sleep) than a longer day (requiring you to stay up longer and then sleep).

Jet lag is associated with a feeling of tiredness, confusion and lethargy. The most common problem is an inability to sleep at night in the new time zone. Sufferers will find it difficult to fall to sleep at the required time and despite only a small amount of sleep sufferers will often wake up very early at what would have been the normal waking time in their normal time zone.

If you take medicines at the same time each day, such as the oral contraceptive pill or insulin, you should discuss this with your pharmacist to ensure you do not miss doses or take too much.

Jet Lag

What are the causes of jet lag?

Your body has a natural body clock that dictates the daily pattern of waking and sleep. This pattern is called the circadian rhythm and is set to your local time zone by the hours of light and dark you experience. This circadian rhythm affects when you feel awake and tired, but also when you feel hungry, your body temperature and blood pressure and even when you go to the toilet.

When you travel across time zones it takes a while for your body clock to adjust, and so it may be making you feel wide awake when it’s bedtime in the new time zone or very tired when you should be raring to go. This can be a serious problem on business trips but also can spoil the first few days of a holiday that has cost you a fortune!

Treatments for jet lag

Most people find that symptoms of jet lag will gradually reduce over 2-3 days and the symptoms are not a serious health problem but can be rather disruptive and very inconvenient. You can help your body adjust by adopting the correct times for eating and sleeping in the new time zone as soon as possible. This may mean really trying to stay up when you first arrive. Spending time outside may also help as natural light will influence your body clock to adapt more quickly. Avoiding dehydration is also important to reduce jet lag.

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that can help to ease jet lag by “resetting” the body clock. Melatonin is naturally released by the body in the evening when it gets dark to let your body know it’s time to sleep, and production is reduced in response to light to help you wake up. It can be used to help jet lag by helping you to sleep at the appropriate time for the new time zone.

Is our love for the NHS bad for our health?

Dan Wellings writing at The King’s Fund: In the run-up to the 70th anniversary of the NHS, we’ve been talking with the public to better understand their relationship with and expectations of the service and their views on who is responsible for keeping people healthy.

It almost goes without saying that there is huge support for the NHS, with the vast majority of people supporting the founding principles of a service free at the point of delivery, available to all and funded largely by taxation. As one participant at our recent discussion events said, ‘I do have a love for the NHS, it’s part of our heritage.’

We hear views like this so often that it’s easy to take public support for the NHS for granted, but our findings throw up interesting questions about what the relationship between the public and the NHS means for our wider health. Could our love for the NHS actually be bad for our health?

National Helth Service

There are signs that this may indeed be the case.

First, there’s an argument that our attachment to the NHS means that we don’t demand enough of the NHS and that we sometimes tolerate a level of service that would be unacceptable in other areas of our lives. Although ‘rising patient expectations’ is often cited as one of the pressures currently facing the service, there is little solid evidence to back this up. The premise is that in other areas of our lives we have become a ‘right here, right now’ society and we bring these increasing demands to bear on what we expect from the NHS, but this work raises serious questions over how true this is.

People we spoke to were aware that they moderate their demands because NHS staff are under intense pressure and because their expectations are largely rooted in their previous experiences of the NHS. Some people also felt that because the NHS is so well liked, people were less critical of it even when their experience was not as good as it could be:

We give private companies much more of a hard time because they make so much more profit and have more money to play with.

This begs the question: should we ask more of the NHS and does our affection for it limit our ability to be sufficiently critical of the service we receive?

Second, there is an argument that if government funding follows popular support, then other areas that don’t top the polls are left struggling with the NHS crowding out the case for increased spending in other areas.

Sarah Wollaston, chair of the Health and Care Select Committee, speaking at a recent King’s Fund event, was asked what led to the government’s seeming about-turn on NHS funding and the answer was telling: they had listened to the polling over the past year showing rising concern for the future of the NHS, with increasing numbers of people willing to pay more tax to fund it. Does the public and subsequent political support for the NHS blind us to the need for greater investment in other areas – such as social care and public health – that would arguably have a greater impact on our health and wellbeing?

In work undertaken in partnership with the Health Foundation, we asked the public about its views on the future funding of social care. The contrast with the NHS was stark – most people were unclear what social care is and even less clear on how it is funded, which goes a long way to explaining why there has not been the public clamour to fix what is an increasingly broken system and why politicians have managed to avoid dealing with it. When the current system was explained to them they were shocked and understood the case for change. At our event, Paul Burstow, former minister of state for care services, said that this year is also the 70th birthday of social care but it is not clear whether there will be a cake, what the recipe is or indeed who will be paying for the ingredients.

On public health, a recent poll conducted by Ipsos MORI asked people which areas they would prioritise if the government were to devote more money to health and health care services. Number one was urgent and emergency care, followed by spending on mental health – a considerable achievement for all those who have been making the case for increased spending to improve parity of esteem. Bottom of the list was spending on prevention, arguably the area that would have the biggest effect on the overall health of the nation. Spending on public health has endured significant cuts in recent years and Jacqui Smith, former home secretary, argued at our event that the government needs to step up to the mark. People we spoke to at our events clearly understood the case for greater investment in prevention but it was not top of mind in the same way the NHS is.

There is no doubt that public support and concern for the NHS has been a significant driver behind the recent offer of more money to the system. However, once the birthday celebrations have died down it is time for the debate to shift to greater investment in public health and social care. If not, our support for the NHS will come at a price and one that could ultimately impact directly on the object of our affections.