Charity Jetsetter Tests Jetlag Extremes

When Sydney dad Matthias Fuchs boards a plane bound for six continents over 12 days he’ll test the limits of human ability to cope with jet lag and fatigue. The opportunity has not been lost on the country’s top sleep researchers who will hook Matthias up to the latest in technology to find out just how well his body and brain bare up after constant time zone and sleep disruption. 

The team from the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research will monitor his progress as he takes to the skies on November 2 on a mission to raise funds for research into cystic fibrosis, the most common life threatening genetic disorder affecting Australian children. It’s a cause very close to his heart as his own daughter Kristen, 13, lives with the disease. The flight marathon is the fourth for Matt, who has already raised $390,000 from similar flight journeys in 2009, 2011 and 2013. This time he’ll spend almost 200 hours in the air on Qantas aircraft, travelling 167,000 km to every continent except Antarctica without leaving a plane or airport. Woolcock sleep specialist Professor Ron Grunstein says the journey offers a unique opportunity to find out how humans cope with extreme jetlag.

“It’s not very often we get a chance like this to find out how the body reacts to such rapid time zone shifts,” Professor Grunstein says. “We imagine that Matthias will experience some extreme sleep deprivation and fatigue and we’ll track it to see how it affects his mood, his body clock and see how quickly he can recover once he’s done.”

Researchers will fit Matthias with a watch-like actigraph to track his sleep and take cheek swabs to measure his body clock by tracking genetic changes.

“We’re very excited to get the unusual opportunity to measure sleep-wake cycles in near continuous international flights and see just how his body clock handles it,” the specialist says. “We expect some eye-opening revelations about the capabilities of the human body.”

Matthias’s marathon is in support of children with CF but is happy to support research that could promote health and wellbeing, and he’s already predicting the outcomes. “I warn you now I’ll be failing those alertness tests, especially in the second week!” he says.

“With stopover after stopover after stopover, it all becomes a bit of a blur after a while,” explains Matthias, whose gruelling schedule keeps him in the economy class cabin of planes throughout the marathon.

This trip he’s on a mission to raise up to $200,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Unit at The Children’s Hospital, Westmead to enable critical research into treatment efficiency.

The hospital’s CF Unit led by Dr Peter Cooper will investigate the most effective way to deliver available treatments, with some of the work to be carried out in partnership with the Woolcock. The institute carries out research into innovative therapies for cystic fibrosis, testing and improvement of current therapies and work looking at disturbed sleep in children with the disease. Matthias will be blogging throughout his journey to update donors of the trials of non-stop international jet-setting.

To donate to Matthias’s cause visit his webpage at:  https://give.everydayhero.com/au/flying-for-kids-with-cystic-fibrosis

As seen on Seven News. Watch the link here. 

Jetlagged Journey: Matthias’ Trip for Cystic Fibrosis

  • Matthias jets out of Sydney on November 2 bound for every continent except Antarctica ( some continents twice)
  • He’ll take the 12-day trip without leaving a plane or airport
  • This involves almost 200 hours in the air covering 167,000 km
  • He’ll do six Pacific ocean and four Indian ocean crossings in that time