This is an Advanced English Reading Comprehension Practice on travelling and jet lag. You can do the reading and the quiz online or download the files and work on the computer.The answers are available for download below.
How to make air travel less stressful and painful
Modern aircraft, contrary to popular belief, don’t offer the kind of air pressure that we would experience at sea level – instead, “cabin altitude” is usually between 1,828 metres and 2,438 metres. This means less oxygen and expansion of gases in our body cavities. There are other stresses too: flight delays, going through airport security, noise and vibration on board, tasteless food, sharp ups and downs in temperature, low humidity, cramped seating and jet lag – to name but a few.
But there are ways to make your journey much more bearable. Here are some of them:
Manage pre-flight stress
One thing is to get ready for travel in advance, to keep stress levels down. Apart from checking in early, it is important to start your trip to the airport early enough to avoid potential delays such as transport strikes, traffic jams, and weather conditions.
Choose your seat wisely
Choose your seat wisely. Experts say that sitting near the plane’s wing means less turbulence, as wings are located close to the plane’s centre of gravity.
Struggling with more luggage than you can handle adds to the pressure and overall discomfort of travel. Dragging heavy hand luggage around also raises the risk of muscle strains and musculoskeletal problems.
Starve the jet lag
Another tip is to fast before a long-haul flight, because it eases your jet lag. Harvard researchers say that starving for about 16 hours before boarding a plane can help travellers engage a special clock in the brain that will make adjusting to a new time zone easier.
Before boarding, don’t indulge in greasy, fried or similar fast food; also steer clear of vegetables that are likely to give you gas, such as onions, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and beans.
Also avoid alcohol and fizzy drinks. In 2006, an American Airlines flight was forced to make an emergency landing because a flatulent passenger started burning matches to conceal the unpleasant smell. She admitted to it after bomb-sniffing dogs found the extinguished matches.
Watch what you eat and drink in the air
Eat healthy and light, food that’s easy to digest – such as some fruit or a salad. The timing of meals is also an important factor in adaptation to a new time zone. Airlines often try to stuff you with a breakfast just before landing, while your body clock thinks it is the middle of the night. It would be wise to leave the beans and sausages, and stick with water and a cracker. Carb-rich foods such as pasta, whole grain bread, and oatmeal are all good too, because they induce the secretion of insulin, which makes it easier for our bodies to avoid jet lag.
When it comes to liquids, don’t restrict your fluid intake, even if you’re stuck in the middle seat and don’t want to disturb other passengers to go to the toilet. This is a really bad approach, and is one reason why bladder infections and cystitis are common in women following long haul flights. Instead, drink plenty – at least half-a-litre of liquid for every three hours in the air.
Drinking alcohol, however, increases dehydration. Not only will alcohol make you want to drink more, but humidity being very low on board, also means that one glass of alcohol is equivalent to having two on the ground.
About neck pillows
Don’t forget a neck pillow. If your neck is leaning to the side, the oxygen flow gets interrupted, and if you are sleeping, it’ll wake you up, leading to an uncomfortable journey. Since most airplane seats are C-shaped, many passengers end up with aching necks and backs. Put a pillow, sweater or a blanket behind your lower back, to support your spine and keep it in its natural shape.
Block the noise
Noise-cancelling headphones are an immensely pleasant, albeit expensive way of blocking the noise from the engines and other distractions around you. In-flight cabin noise is more intense than what we are normally exposed to. Cabin noise has been found to affect memory and induce fatigue: 80 dBA of noise for two hours reduces recognition memory performance by approximately 20%.
Another problem for air travellers – especially on longer flights – is the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the formation of blood clots in deep veins. They are caused by being seated for too long, leading to swollen feet and ankles, and leg pain. Clots in the legs are not serious, but at times they may travel to the lungs and cause chest pain and shortness of breath – or worse.
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