Thursday, July 10, 2014

Jetlag-induced Stress Measured to Reduce Side Effects

Anyone who has ever traveled knows just how difficult it can be to adjust to a new time zone. The body just wasn't meant to switch gears so quickly. Meal times change, as do sleeping schedules. Not to mention the tired, rundown feeling we get from sitting on a plane (or in a car, or in an airport) for hours on end. And the combination of it all can lead to some serious jet lag. Jet lag that affects our moods, behavior, and our ability to fight off germs. Which is why people often become sick after traveling. That and the exposure to so many people and their respective germs.

Compiling all of these variables, however, undoubtedly leads to stress. Even the threat of jet lag is enough to cause many some seriously uneasy tendencies. Which is why one airline took it upon themselves to measure each of these stress causing factors. But what's even more interesting is how they did it. Through blankets called “happiness blankets.” 

For the experiment, British Airways compiled a plane of willing participants, and covered them each with a blanket that measured various bodily functions with nodules. Such as heart rate, temperature, etc., all of which were able to determine just how jet lagged or stressed a person had become. That data was then paired against outside causes, like length of flight, lighting, position of seats, mealtimes, and more. Then, by seeing which areas cause the most stress, they hope to adjust in order to make flights as comfortable as possible. One of the biggest finds is that it’s important to let passengers sleep for as long as possible. British Airways has been able to accomplish this by allowing seats to further recline, allowing for darker cabins, and avoiding multiple service routes through nighttime hours. 

Though flying is still likely to cause ongoing stress, airlines are looking into lowering those factors by the very way that we fly. Hopefully, by better adjusting toward jet lag-free routines, flyers of all lengths will have better experiences both before and after their traveling routine.