Friday, 27 July 2012

Smart meters:Correcting the Gross Misinformation

A mix of issues is really what makes up the conversation around Healthy Flying & Jet Lag not least our decreasing immune resistance, spearheaded by radio frequency electromagnetic waves. This article adds to the chorus of scientists and professionals urging a cautious approach for the sake of human health.Smart Meters: Correcting the Gross Misinformation

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Monday, 23 July 2012

Jet Lag: Why A Magic Pill Is Not the Answer

This article is subtitled "Pharmaceuticals Are Not An Option For Frequent Business Fliers" for good reason. If you look back to my previous article I make the assertion that when the challenge is great looking to extremes for a solution will provide the greatest benefit. Heavy duty frequent business travellers are an extreme. Moreover business fliers requirement for successful outcomes has made pharmaceutical drugs a convenient choice for many. This article takes a closer look at some of the challenges of using pharmaceuticals to beat jet lag and offers hope to those looking for a better alternative.

Drug companies want a slice of the jet lag market.

The discussion about pharmaceuticals and jet lag would be incomplete without a mention of the sleight-of-hand the drug company Cephalon tried to deal the traveling public in 2009/2010. Cephalon* applied to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the right to prescribe its drug Nuvigil as an off label prescription drug for jet lag. Ultimately the application failed on the basis of insufficient proof. Cephalon had in effect tried to re-categorise jet lag as a disease rather than an inconvenience. Although Cephalon failed in one respect it did succeed in another. It fanned the flames of the argument that jet lag is treatable with pharmaceutical drugs. It is an application and extension of the maxim "better living through chemistry".
Up till now better living through chemistry has applied to a consistent environment (the human body and being at sea level). Frequent fliers with the constantly changing environments of the plane, their biochemistry and a cacophony of hormonal changes face some limitations in this respect.

Aviation Medicine sheds light on the environment.

The practice of Aviation Medicine* at altitude is a testament to the differences and limitations regular drugs can have at altitude. Aviation Medicine acknowledges the efficiency and efficacy of drugs used at altitude may differ due to factors at altitude which are not present on the ground. While human biochemistry does have an element of adaptability to cope with this it is not inexhaustible. This is important to note because tapping this adaptability too often is vitality sapping and stress inducing. This ought to give champions of a drug led approach pause for thought.

How are you defining Jet Lag?

For the sake of brevity the pharmaceutical and scientific communities like to define jet lag purely as a problem of the body-clock and the ability to stay awake or asleep when you want to. This definition has utility but it also shortchanges the discussion. A more precise definition for our purposes is

Jet Lag is a challenge to the body's normal mode of functioning in a compromised environment which upsets the patterns, reference points, energy and equilibrium of our being.

This definition underlines the fact that jet lag is not a singular problem of the body-clock. It acknowledges the body-clock but also acknowledges references which are not specifically to do with or controlled by the body-clock. Looking at jet lag in this manner means if it is not a singular problem there is no need to use a magic pill to find a singular solution.

Side effects and Practicalities.

Besides the scientific and pharmaceutical communities narrow description of what jet lag is and isn't there is the issue of the side-effects of using pharmaceutical drugs in any instance. As with any drug there is the issue of tolerance. How much of any said drug can your body tolerate before it develops its own resistance. Typically, in time a greater dose is needed to get the same effect as when you started taking it.
Another challenge of relying on drugs for your jet lag cure is the impracticality of drugs as a solution. Jet lag is not about how you travel but about how you arrive, after all the journey is incidental to your outcome. As a businessperson you cannot afford to turn up at a meeting drugged and groggy. The frequency of most heavy duty business travellers in today's world means they are on and off planes several times a week. If they were to rely on drugs they would not have enough time to recover before having to take more to counteract the jet lag of the next or previous flights - eventually it would all catch up to them. Simply put a short term fix for a long-term problem is not sustainable and this is what a pharmaceutical approach to jet lag offers.

Finally, in a world where Globalisation* and the Digital Age make the world smaller, when nothing beat being there yourself, presence is what it comes down to. No serious frequent flier would jeopardise his or her presence - that ability to hit the ground running and be fully functional for a pharmaceutical high that won't last the duration.
Healthy alternatives to a pharmaceutical approach do exist but they are fragmented in application because different fliers experience jet lag differently, piecing together the success these fliers have had will ultimately provide answers all fliers can benefit from.


- Regulators reject Cephalon's bid
Aviation Medicine
- The World Is Flat - Thomas Friedman
- Christopher Babayode

Monday, 16 July 2012

Forward Thinking: What Apple's EPEAT Fiasco Could Mean For Frequent Fliers

Is it or isn't it green? A simple question you might think. Apples come in green and red varieties but Apple is red-faced now after reversing on its decision to remove itself from the EPEAT green environmental standards for computer products. 

The truth is Apple can't  seem to make up it's mind whether it wants to be seen as green or not.  When you dig a little deeper the truth is not quite straightforward. Apple claims its products actually exceed the EPEAT standard and that the whole of its portfolio is not adequately covered by EPEAT hence the rational for removing itself from the program. Apple was said to have reversed the decision when it received complaints from large loyal customers including government agencies government bodies and universities worried about Apple's green credentials.

What has any of this got to do with healthy frequent flying you might ask? Apple's sizeable share in tablets and mobile phones means they are often the items of choice brought on aircrafts when passengers  choose to entertain themselves. The WSJ article Switch Off or Get Off highlights a potential problem electronic equipment may pose if Wi-Fi in the sky becomes the norm, which does seem to be the trend these days. The key passage to note reads as follows 

"Two studies to date highlight the possible dangers electronic devices may pose to aircraft. The first one conducted by researchers from Carnegie Mellon in 2006 measured cellphone emissions in-flight and found frequencies that could interfere with global positioning satellite systems. The other by RTCA Inc (an advisory body to the FAA) in 2008 confirmed emissions from personal electronic devices or T-PEDS could interfere with critical aircraft systems".

If emissions from phones and tablets risk posing a danger to aircraft systems and peoples health on-board then Apple's change of heart is welcome and we should applaud it. Lest we forget the quality and availability of oxygen on a plane at altitude is suspect to begin with, polluting what little oxygen there is with emissions from mobile devices could become a problem for all fliers. It might be a personal preference but the best apples are always green!

References & Sources
TechBeast - - World's media tablet shipments by OS (2010 -2016)
WSJ Europe Article

Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Case for Jet Lag Needing A New Conversation

There is a distinction to be made between the Jet Lagged and the Jet Stressed. It is the same difference between the chronic and the acute. Jet lag is acute and jet stress is chronic. Jet stress is in fact chronically acute. The value of this distinction alone is what separates those who fly well and those who don't. A second valuable observation to our cause is that any time Man has conquered or thrived in an environment he has done so by taking his own environment with him. To beat jet lag in all it's forms you and I must do the same, frequent fliers more so than others. The current conversation surrounding jet lag bandies about buzz words like social jet lag, the body clock and melatonin. The conversation is long in the tooth with the same tired advice - get plenty of sleep, drink plenty of water and keep your mind active. This has been the standard refrain for the fourteen years I have been flying and yet we are no better off in our efforts to beat jet lag. Old wives tales and a pastiche of personal remedies exist alongside rigid scientific data. The masses of frequent fliers and business travellers are confounded and struggle to make sense of disjointed and often confusing information. Productivity, personal health, relationships and Global Business's bottom line suffer. For any of these reasons alone jet lag needs a new conversation.

The Most Frequent Frequent Fliers Hold The Key

I once read some very good business advice which preached the value of catering to the extremes of a target audience. The notion was that if they were catered for all other demographics within that target market would be well taken care of. So it is with jet lagged travellers. Frequent business fliers are representative of this extreme, they tend to be jet stressed rather than jet lagged. An article in Wired magazine* charted the travel paths of business fliers over a year demonstrating the intensity of travel schedules of frequent fliers. The goals of business travellers to maximise productivity while on the road, make the right impressions, close the deal and stay healthy bring home the urgency of the conversation at hand.

Jet Lag Doesn't Pay, The Costs

The price we pay for not dealing with jet lag and it's associated woes outweighs the benefits. The costs are measured on a personal and global business scale. You can measure it on the personal scale with the tendency towards weight gain, insomnia, tiredness, fatigue, adrenal stress, hormone irregularities, trouble conceiving and the list goes on and on. I know about this I witness as much flying for one of the UK's largest airlines week in week out. The cost to global business is measured in millions of dollars in lost productivity. A 2003 New York Times survey* estimated that heavy duty business travellers lost about 20 per cent productivity due to trans-meridian travel. A recent AirPlus Traveller Productivity White Paper* also highlights the link between business travel and productivity.

Jet Lag Solutions Need An Upgrade

Over the short ascent of global business travel and globalisation many advances and efficiencies have been made in the area of civil aviation. The hardware of the trade, the planes have seen many modifications including fly by wire technology and a new generation of fuel efficient planes to take us into the 21st century. Contrast that with the plight of the the frequent business flier, jet lag has remained a constant on the landscape.
There has been no respite, yet our world has become more demanding. Global mobile working is on the increase see the Worldwide ERC website* for confirmation. Look to Hollywood as an example of what I mean by this. A script is produced, a film is cast, locations are scouted out and the cast goes on location to shoot. Travelling to locations are incidental to the outcomes sought be it a film or a business meeting. Yet the quality of the end product can depend so much on the well being of the participants. As globalisation makes the world smaller and calls for collaborative groups to come together in the name of a common goal over a short period of time, the need to be fully functional and productive becomes a conditional necessity for success.

Pharmaceutical Interventions The Only Show in Town, Really?

Until now the loudest voice heard in this conversation has been that of the pharmaceutical industry. Representative of this was Cephalon's failed bid* to get the FDA to permit the sale of Nuvigil as cure for jet lag. It speaks to the default mode of operation, a pill for every ill and reclassifies jet lag from a costly inconvenience into an illness. This brings me to the point I want to make - better living through chemistry does have its limits. The entire idea that you can continually drug yourself out of jet lag over the span of your career of flying and come out ahead is moot. Workforce mobility and globalisation on the horizon should make this obviously clear by now. Any conversation about a cure to the problems of jet lag has to have an element of sustainability about it, and this is where current approaches fall down.

Let's Start with The First Question

The required change in tone of conversation is not complete without looking at the definition we give jet lag. Up until now it is characterised as being all about the body clock to the exclusion of anything else. As useful as this is it is limiting in the creativity we can bring to finding a sustainable solution. The discussion has to include a Jet Lag 101 course which asks questions like what is jet lag in its entirety? How does it affects you differently from me? How can you take charge of your solution? Are there guiding principles and methodologies we can all relate to and use? Without this first step we are doomed to looking at the same information but expecting a different answer. Scientific data is useful in dissecting the mechanisms of jet lag but we need to look beyond that to find a workable solution. Just to be clear any sustainable methodology has to be able to stand up to scientific examination to gain acceptance and credibility. However it starts with an inclusive discussion rather than graphing an old understanding of healthy flying and jet lag onto an environment and condition which is current dynamic and changing.


Wired Magazine - New Age Traveller Infoporn#14 October 2010

The New York Times
- Business Travel section November 2003
- Regulators reject Cephalon's bid

AirPlus International Traveller Productivity White Paper

Worldwide ERC - The Workforce Mobility Association
- The Revival of Value - A Closer Look at Trends in Business Travel

(c) Christopher Babayode 2012