Shooting sport athletes and coaches can be negatively affected by time-zone transitions, but they could benefit from non-pharmacological techniques and pharmacotherapy in order to avoid or reduce the effects of jet lag syndrome.
Shooting-sport athletes attend and travel to international shooting championships in every continent. Long distance flights can negatively affect shooters’ bodies and due to time-zone transitions jet lag syndrome can occur.
The jet-lag syndrome is a daily or circadian rhythm disorder caused by misalignment between internal and external clocks that can cause psychophysiological disorders and physical discomfort (Reference 1 to 4).
Individuals suffering from jet Lag Syndrome complain about insomnia, depression, headaches, loss of concentration and attention, irritability, fatigue, menstrual irregularity in women and/or gastrointestinal disruption (Reference 1 to 8).
Specifically, shooting athletes who travel through more than five time zones face with reducing grip strength in training sessions and poor performance (Reference 8). The effects of the syndrome usually decrease after a few days, almost one day for each hour of time zone change. As such, the syndrome is transient.
The severity of the symptoms will vary depending on the number of time zones crossed and also direction of travel (Reference 1, 3 and 4). Studies showed the eastward travel is more difficult than westward travel for adaptation, as the former can take up to 7 days and the latter up to 3 (Reference 1, 3 and 4).
Shooting athletes could benefit from non-pharmacological techniques and pharmacotherapy in order to avoid or reduce the effects of jet lag syndrome. The best way to reduce jet lag is by pre-travel adaptation (Reference 1, 2 and 4).
Non-pharmacological techniques and principles
- Planning sleep patterns: shooters who wake up early have less symptoms when flying eastward, shooters who wake up late have less symptoms when flying westward.
- Maintaining physical fitness is importance as physically fitness in faster adaptation (Reference 3 and 6).
- Having completed similar travel recently is also helpful to adapt faster to time changes.
- Natural daylight is preferred over exposure to high artificial light for adaptation (Reference 9).
- Planning arrival times can be useful as local time of destination affects jet lag symptoms: athletes with midday arrivals have fewer jet lag syndrome than did morning arrivals; while athletes who have a shorter interval between their last full nocturnal sleep in the departure and destination city face with less symptoms.
- Changing your sleep patterns by 1 to 2 hours closer to the destination time zone in the days before to departure can be helpful (Reference 3, 6 and 9).
In flight recommendations:
- Set your watch to the destination time zone.
- Drink a lot of water.
- If you want something else to drink opt for juice like apple or cranberry juice but avoid intake of carbonated soft drinks, caffeine and tea on the flight (Reference 3, 6 and 9).
- Eat small meals during flight (Reference 9).
- Consider napping or sleeping during the flight if it is nighttime in the destination time zone (Reference 3, 6, 9 and 10).
- Limit the use of electronic devices, wear loose fitting clothes and use eye mask for having a good sleep (Reference 5 and 6).
Post flight recommendations:
- Take a shower.
- Consider taking a short nap especially after trips going westward (Reference 3).
- Increase exposure to bright light in the arrival time zone for fast adaptation: in the evening for trip to westward and in the morning for trip to eastward (Reference 3 and 4).
- Try to limit intensity of training for 1 to 2 days after arrival to reduce the risk of injuries (Reference 3 and 9).
- High-protein breakfast can increase alertness and awareness in the morning.
- High carbohydrate dinner can reduce insomnia in the evening (Reference 3 and 9).
- Avoid sugary and desserts for your first few days to promote a good night sleep.
- Reduce intake of caffeine later in the day to promote a good night sleep.
Pharmacotherapy; the following are some non-prohibited medications that can be used to treat jet lag syndrome:
- Melatonin 0.5-5 mg per day: take melatonin in the morning for travelling westward, take melatonin at night for travelling eastward. Melatonin can help fast adaptation to the new time zone if you use it in the first few days after travel, especially for trips that last more than 3 days.
- Zolpidem 10 mg per day: Zolpidem is used for refractory sleeplessness in shooters. It’s better used in shooters who have previously experienced this medication.
- Caffeine 200-1000 mg per day: Caffeine can increase alertness and decrease sleepiness in the morning. Be careful and use limited dose because this is stimulant effect especially for dosage more than 1000 mg per day and maybe effect on your performance (Reference 3, 8, 10 and 11).
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