By Ruth Ann
Allen, ATC and Peter
Chambers, DO, PhD
recovery are an important part of a swimmer’s training regime, and
maintaining good sleep habits (sleep hygiene) is a sure way to get the
rest and recovery time needed.
be truer than when an athlete travels across time zones. Athletes
competing at national and international competitions sometimes face
travel across three or more time zones, their normal 24-hour cycle of energy,
strength and flexibility will not match the day/night cycle of their
For each time
zone crossed, an athlete needs about a day to adjust (traveling across six time
zones requires six days to adjust).
adjustment time is called “jet lag.” Jet lag can result in feeling
disoriented, moody and low in energy. Athletes may even feel like they can’t
think clearly. Clearly jet lag can impact training and competition. Jet
lag will last until the body clock has adjusted to match the new environment.
of jet lag can include:
sleep during new night time.
getting to sleep when traveling east and problems with early awakening when
performance during new daytime at both physical and mental tasks.
feelings of irritability, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
or light headedness
problems, such as indigestion and/or constipation
symptoms tend to be more obvious during certain times of the day, and can vary
from athlete to athlete. Athletes may need to consider flexibility in
training schedules at their destination.
jet lag, there are many well-documented and easy interventions:
moving bedtime up 30-60 minutes per day if traveling east (reverse is true if
shades can decrease amount of light when trying to sleep.
not sleeping get up to stretch or walk.
a pillow from home or use a neck pillow. Some neck pillows are actually
more comfortable when worn under the chin.
earplugs or noise reduction headphones limit distractions from in-flight
announcements and general plane noise.
computer use or movie viewing before trying to sleep.
a watch to the destination time as a guide for sleeping or being awake.
good hydration. Dehydration from a long flight makes jet lag worse.
sleep medication during travel is an option; however, there may be side
effects. Medication may help you to go to sleep, but may not keep you
a sleep medication is going to be used (prescription or non-prescription) the
medication should be tried before traveling, and must be checked on the USADA
ear plugs and sleep mask from the flight can also be helpful for sleeping in
the hotel room.
the day of arrival, avoid naps greater than one hour before bedtime.
cooler room temperature at bedtime can help promote sleep.
using computers and the TV at least one hour before bedtime.
noise machines can be purchased before departure to provide white
noise or other noise blocking sounds.
exposure is arguably the most powerful tool for readjusting the body
clock. The surroundings should be light during waking hours
and dark during sleep.
jetlag is inevitable with flying over 3+ time zones, following simple
procedures can help to prevent and alleviate many symptoms which can affect
Jet Lag Countermeasures and Travel Strategies (for Athletes, Coaches and
contains specific guidelines for shifting sleep/wake cycle and specific
recommendations for time zone travel of 0-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 time zones in
both East and West directions.
Randy, PhD., Senior Sport Physiologist USOC Jet Lag: Preparation
for Torino 2006,
Track and Field, Jet Lag Reduction Strategies for 2001 IAAF Athletics
Championships, Daegu, South Korea
Heather, MD, How to Sleep Like an Olympic Athlete, www.webmd,
com/ sleep disorders
Deprivation and Sports Performance http://www.faqs.org/sports-science/Sc-Sp/Sleep-Deprivation-and-Sports-Performance.html
Chelsea The Traveling Athlete: Minimizing Adverse Effects
on Planes http://www.independenttraveler.com/resources/article.cfm?AID+270&category=13
Reilly, Atkinson, Edwards, Jet Lag: Trends and Coping Strategies, www.thelancet.com Vol 369, March 21, 2007
Thomas, Understand Travel Fatigue and Jet Lag Ergonomics
in Sport and Physical Activity
10. Manfredini, Manfredini, Fersini,
Conconi Circadian Rhythms, Athletic Performance, and Jet Lag, British
Journal Sports Medicine, 1998; 32; 101-106
11. Reilly, T, How Can Travelling Athletes
Deal With Jet Lag? Kinesiology 41 (2009) 2:128-135