At a time when long-haul travel is more accessible than ever before, safer and more affordable, the concept of jetlag remains a persistent thorn in the side of many travellers. But could jetlag soon be a thing of our past?
With new commercial aircraft coming into the market boasting improved flight technologies, it certainly could be on the horizon. From meal services planned around sleep patterns to more spacious seating and cabin lighting designed to mimic specific time zones, these impressive new jets could be quite the game changer, particularly for business travel.
Upon a little research, it appears that avoiding jetlag requires a multi-faceted approach, one that has scientific backing. Aircraft materials, structure, cabin pressure and humidity are the major factors when it comes to touching down from a long-haul flight -sans jetlag. A little proactive planning also never goes astray, and can make you feel much more comfortable over the 14+ hours.
Two models that have recently hit the skies, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350, both feature several new-age technologies that have been tested and proven to reduce the exhausting condition.
While climbing to a flying altitude of 38,000 feet, most aircraft will pressurize the cabin when it reaches 8,000 feet, yet these new models will instead optimise the cabins at 6,000 feet. Why? When at a higher altitude, your lungs and heart need to work harder to pump blood, and therefore oxygen, around your body, catering to vital organs. This leads to exhaustion and fatigue because, let's face it, your body is working its butt off to keep you functioning as best as possible. Pressuring the cabin at a lower height will therefore reduce the stress on your body, allow you to sleep deeper, and ideally land feeling well rested and fresh.
To put this into perspective, 8,000 feet altitude can be experienced in Bogota and many other South American cities. According to Wikipedia, this height qualifies them as some of the highest cities in the world, whereas cities at 6,000 feet don't begin to make the list. Altitude sickness is a common condition amongst tourists who may experience sleepiness, muscle fatigue, shortness of breath or nausea, without exerting themselves physically. This is not dissimilar to symptoms experienced when flying, which lead to jetlag. A reduction of these stresses on the body will ideally lead to a more enjoyable flight mean less recovery time required.
The new Airbus A350 XWB boasts a high-tech filtration system that will circulate air every few minutes keeping cabins fresh, keeping you fresh, and (hopefully) keeping your neighbours deadly shoe scent at bay. It both cleans and purifies air, removing dust, allergens, bacteria, viruses and other irritating particles for the benefit of passengers and crew alike. Plane cabins are unique environments where high occupant density, low air pressure and humidity, not to mention airborne irritants and potent food and body odours, are present. This advanced air filtration will reduce these nasties, decreasing risk of sicknesses and increasing comfort levels, leading to a more relaxing, restful and cleaner flight.
Bulk bodies in a confined space equal more humidity - it's a fact. As passengers breathe and perspire, they also generate cabin humidity, which is required to an extent, however neither too much nor too little humidity is ideal. Both are major contributors to fatigue and exhaustion, again resulting in more severe jetlag. To reduce aridity, the new jets are able to regulate the amount of cabin humidity, containing required levels of passenger generated humidity and expelling the excess. More passengers, means more humidity needs to be expelled.
New technologies mean that these planes can maintain optimal humidity levels, simply by crew members programming them according to the number of passengers. Older aircraft models have been unable to perform this simple, no-brainer task, due to the structural materials used - mostly metals. Metal corrodes with moisture, eventually weakening it, however new carbon fibre can withstand these humidity levels. So improved resources combined with modern technology will lead to a much better environment, reducing the symptoms of jetlag.
Guests onboard these growing fleets of aircraft, are set to experience several other features that will provide benefits for the long-haul traveller. More spacious cabins, enhanced air quality, larger windows, higher cabin ceilings and improved technology designed to surpass wind guests and reduce turbulence, just for a start. Food and beverage serviced has too been redesigned. The Qantas Dreamliner, for example, will offer new menus served in an order to help stimulate sleep or wakefulness, depending on time in journey.
Together, these features will provide an overall operating system much more beneficial to long-haul travel, and hopefully the days of jetlag will soon be long gone. It may revoke that day off post-business travel, meaning you might actually have to turn up to work the following day. But all in the name of jetlag redundancy right?