|Sleep & Travel
Temporary sleeplessness can have a significant
impact on our health and general wellbeing.
Sleep has a 'restorative' effect on the human
body and mind. It is not just a matter of
duration, the quality of sleep is also important.
Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep - this is
the time we dream - is essential and must
be balanced. Lack of it produces an unsatisfying
sleep which leaves you feeling tired. Excess
alcohol can reduce the amount of REM sleep
and so should be avoided.
Sleeplessness can be caused by stress, problems
or jet lag. A number or bodily functions
including body temperature regulation, hormone
secretion and sleep operate rhythmically
following an individual's 'body clock'. The
hormone, melatonin, secreted during the hours
of darkness, serves as the body's night-time
indicator, helping to regulate these rhythmic
functions. The body-clock rhythm, melatonin
secretion, body temperature and sleep are
all interdependent. Any change in one factor
will upset the overall balance.; thus shift
work and travel across time zones de-synchronize
the body clock, so disrupting normal sleep.
in falling asleep; frequent awakenings;
Sedatives e.g. antihistamines such as
diphenhydramine and promethazine
NB: Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine
should be avoided by people with conditions
such as asthma, narrow angle glaucoma,
prostatic hypertrophy (enlarged prostate),
bladder obstruction, pyloroduodenal
obstruction (blockage of the gut) or
stenosing peptic ulcer (stomach or duodenal
For OTC products, read Sleeping
A number of simple self-help measures
can help you to manage your insomnia:
- Give yourself a relaxing bedtime routine (bath, milky drink)
- Stop smoking – or at least cut down
- Find a way to reduce your stress levels e.g. take a yoga class
- Avoiding daytime sleeping
- Avoiding exercise just before bedtime (but do some regular exercise)
- Avoiding drinking tea, coffee and fizzy drinks from early evening
- Not working or watching television in bed
- Making sure your bed and bedroom is comfortable
- Not going to bed unless you feel tired.
Some herbal remedies are also regarded
as useful for insomnia due to their
calming sedative effects (see www.hsis.org).
causes of temporary insomnia are:
- Illness e.g. depression, thyroid problems, menopausal symptoms,
night-time cough, pain
- Lifestyle e.g. shift work; jet-lag; over-tiredness; in-take of
stimulants, including caffeine, alcohol and nicotine; exercising
close to bedtime; daytime sleeping; an uncomfortable, noisy or unfamiliar
environment. After travel across time zones, or changes in working
hours, it can take the body clock a few days to two weeks to become
resynchronised. A number of OTC sleep-aid products i.e. those with
promethazine hydrochloride or diphenhydramine as their active ingredient,
are sedative antihistamines. These OTC drugs are also:
- Available as tablets or liquid- Intended for short-term use in
the relief of temporary sleeplessness
- For adult use only (not for use in children under 16 years)
- Generally well tolerated
- Not to be taken with other sedatives, alcohol or certain prescription
drugs for depression
- Non-habit forming
Travel sickness affects many people of all
ages, but younger people seem to be more
prone to its effects. It affects many people
of varying degrees when they are subject
to swaying or pitching movements. Sufferers
can experience motion sickness in cars, on
planes and on ships - especially when conditions
are undulating or rough!
The main organs of balance or equilibrium
are located in the inner ear. Each consists
of three fluid-filled canals, which contain
tiny hairs. These respond to the changes
in the position of the head and transmit
this information to the brain where it is
processed. Motion sickness occurs when there
is excessive stimulation of the semi-circular
canals; as a result the brain detects major
changes in the position of the head, yet
sensory input from the eyes seems out of
step. This confusion in sensations is thought
to cause motion sickness.
The eyes and certain sensory cells in the
skin and internal tissues also help to maintain
normal balance by transmitting information
to the brain on the body's position relative
to its external environment. Together, sensory
input from the semi-circular canals, eyes
and other sites control the body's balance.
- Can be slight nausea
- Unsteady gait
- Loss of balance
- Loss of co-ordination
Two main groups of OTC drugs can
be used to treat motion sickness:
Anticholinergics: These are
thought to prevent motion sickness
by controlling vomiting. These drugs
can cause dry mouth, blurred vision,
dizziness, constipation and urinary
retention. They are unsuitable for
use in people who have glaucoma, urinary
problems, high blood pressure or heart
Antihistamines: Many antihistamines
have anti-nausea properties and proven
effectiveness in the treatment of
motion sickness and the dizziness/nausea
associated with disorders of equilibrium.
Antihistamines available OTC for travel
sickness include promethazine, dimenhydrinate,
meclozine and cinnarizine.
These antihistamines can make you
drowsy. Children can take these drugs
at half the adult dose or less.
For OTC products, read Travel
The following measures can help reduce
Road travel: ride in the centre
of a moving vehicle; look out of
a window (especially children); avoid
reading and open the window for fresh
Air travel: sit over the
wings of an aeroplane. Avoid alcohol.
Sea travel: ride in the
centre of the vessel, fixing the
eyes on the horizon.
‘Travel bands’ are a non-drug option that can be worn around the wrist and relieve
pressure by use of acupressure.
NB: Anyone prone to motion sickness should try to take a remedy
before leaving home as some are ineffective once an attack has
lack of feeling hungry. NOTE - If a person
is losing weight for no apparent reason
then they should seek medical advice.
Vitamin and mineral supplements sold
individually or as tonics.
OTC tonics contain various combinations
of the following ingredients:
Caffeine: included to promote
well-being; it increases cardiovascular
function, stimulates the central nervous
system, stimulates the action of the
heart and lungs, promotes urine formation
and can aid digestion.
Alcohol: Useful in small amounts
to stimulate gastric juices and stimulate
Vitamins: A, B1
(thiamine), B3 (niacin),
Minerals: including calcium/manganese/potassium/sodium
glycerophosphate, copper sulphate,
ferric ammonium citrate, manganese
sulphate monohydrate, iron.
Some OTC tonics are not suitable for
use in children, while others can
be recommended for children. Tonics
containing alcohol should not be used
in combination with other central
nervous system depressants. Caffeine-containing
products should not be used where
caffeine-sensitivity is suspected.
Side effects of caffeine include nausea,
headache and insomnia.
For OTC products, read Calming/Tension/Stress
Illness or surgical operations can
often leave you feeling in need of
a boost to help you recover and gain
It can be difficult to eat healthy, nutritious food when you have
little appetite. And even if you do feel like eating, the recovery
process can be helped by supplementing the diet with additional
vitamins and minerals.
Vitamins and minerals are included in tonics because:
- Vitamins enhance the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates
and fats; without these vitamins the breakdown and assimilation
of foods couldn’t occur. Certain vitamins participate in the formation
of blood cells, hormones and nervous system chemicals.
- Minerals help the structural
composition of hard and soft body
tissues; they also participate
in the action of enzyme systems,
the contraction of muscles, nerve
reactions and blood clotting.
Most people will get enough vitamins if they eat a health diet.
See www.hsis.org for
more information on supplements and who can benefit from taking
| These are used as pick-me-ups or appetite
promoters in those who are ill or convalescing.
They can help rebuild strength and aid a speedy
recovery. Stimulants contain some similar ingredients
to tonics but are more specifically aimed at
relieving fatigue and improving alertness.
more tired than usual; lacking energy
Stimulants contain the following
ingredients in various combinations:
Caffeine: promotes well being;
increases cardiovascular function,
stimulates the central nervous system,
stimulates the action of the heart
and lungs, promotes urine formation
and can aid digestion. This should
not be used long term not least because
you can build up a dependence and
tolerance to caffeine.
Vitamins: B1 (thiamine),
B2, and B3 (niacin)
enhance the metabolism of proteins,
carbohydrates and fats. Most people
will get enough vitamins if they eat
a healthy diet.
Glucose monohydrate: Boosts
NB: Stimulants are not to be used
For OTC products, read Tonics
Any stimulant drug acts to excite
the central nervous system, increase
alertness and lower fatigue. Stimulants
can be recommended to help overcome
feelings of tiredness resulting from
illness, overwork, stress or where
you simply feel the need for a boost
Caffeine, the most commonly used stimulant, is present naturally
in coffee, tea and some fizzy drinks. Anyone taking an OTC stimulant
shouldn’t drink excess amounts of these as high doses of caffeine
can induce tremors and severe agitation.
a directory of medicines and food supplements
that are available 'over the counter'
(OTC) from your pharmacist. The links
below will take you to pages detailing
products which may help treat or relieve
the following symptoms:
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