Jet Lag: A Study in Sleep, Patterns, and Resets

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Before I completely leave England (or make my own personal Brexit … cause everyone is making that joke … even Iceland), I thought I would throw one last part of it with you.  Many of you faithful Bear Feeders aren’t the world travelers – either by choice, by lack of opportunity, or by happenstance – the one thing you definitely aren’t missing out on is the Jet Lag.  Regardless of the distance you travel, it is the beast of annoyance that makes such trips shorter on the good parts and longer on the bad parts.

Jet lag is quite simply your body adjusting to new time zones & sleeping patterns.  We as humans, for whatever reason we need to sleep, want to sleep at night time & assumes that night time is exactly at the same time it was yesterday.  So when you get off of a plane and the sun is blazing, but your body thinks it’s 2AM – it gets a little wonky.  Jet lag affects everyone on a trip to different degrees and in different ways, but regardless it is something that has to be addressed.

I write about it now, because five days after returning home from England, I am still gripping the jet lag bug.

I should state that there are two sides of jet lag when it comes to “short” trips like the one I was just on.  Going over – regardless of whatever distance I went over to get there – is always easier to me.  I thought it was just a European thing (I’ll get into that in a bit) but I seemed to have the same reaction when I went to Asia back in my old Cessna days.  The Coming Back was always the problem, and still remains so.

For going over, I follow certain rules that always seem to work for me.  Whenever you do travel overseas, most flights regardless of the destination are overnight.  That means, I try to sleep on the plane.  Now, I hear a lot of people say “I can’t sleep on planes” … and I am going to call BS on that one.  People said I sleep planes easy because I slept in buses in my band and drum corps days.  To me, if you can fall asleep on a couch, a chair, a movie theater, anywhere where you are sitting up … then you can sleep on a plane; you just don’t think you can sleep on a plane so you fulfill your own thoughts.  Regardless, sleeping on the plane isn’t manditory, it just makes it easier.  The real trick when going over is much harder:  Don’t Fall Asleep when you get there.  As long as the sun is up, stay awake.  No Naps.  No resting your eyes.  In fact, avoid sitting around for long periods of time.  I am not saying go be super active, I am saying act as though you are making a good day of it as long as the sun is up.  Then when you hit a reasonable (if not a little early) time to go to sleep, then settle in for a good night sleep with an alarm ready to get you up bright and early.

The point of all this is using your sleep deprived confused body to make the time zone switch it needs.  Yes you feel tired, but it’s not a tired that says “this is bedtime”.  Your body wants to be awake when the sun is up, so let it – and when the sun goes down and it’s time to sleep let it.

This all works if your travel plans match this schedule.  That’s why Europe is easier to do than Asia.  When your overnight flight arrives in Europe, it’s usually morning – and you can treat that day as your ‘jet lag’ day.  Going to Asia is tough because you usually arrive late afternoon or early evening (or when I went to Singapore, Midnight).  The flights are way longer to Asia, so that alone will make you more tired, but it’s easier for your body to say “stay awake at nigh time” than it is to “go to bed when it is dark”.

Coming back is a pain because all of this only seems to work in one direction.  I don’t get why really.  I usually joke that my body is saying: “Wait … I just made this big shift and now you want me to make another the following week?  Are you some sort of jerk?”

I had every reason to meet the same process.  Last week (in Boston time), I was up at 11PM Wednesday, dragged my bags across half of London, ran the gauntlet of security, found my plane seat at 6AM, successfully stayed awake until I arrived in NYC at 3PM, ran the customs gauntlet, was delayed, touched down at BOS & in my car by 7PM, ordered pizza, sipped a glass of wine, and finally found sleep at around 10PM.  In theory, I should be tired enough to sleep until 7 or 8.

I was up at 3am.

Saturday became a day of trying to stay awake and failing.  I hung with the pup and watched soccer, but seemed to only see about an hour of it between naps.  So come bedtime, I was not all that tired … but tired enough to fall asleep.  Until 4AM again.

Sunday I made myself be very active, and come 9PM I was worn out and asleep.  By 11PM I Was up.  It was 2:30PM when I fell back to sleep.  It was 5AM when I got up,

There is no pattern.  It is a frickin mess.

Except for one thing.  I’ve done one of those things that seems impossible sometimes, I shifted my waking hours.  In the last few months of working at home, I would get up around 6:30 and with only time for a cup of coffee dive into work for the next 10 hours.  Arising at 5AM yesterday meant I rolled out of bed, made it to the gym, stopped off for two hours of work at a Starbucks, and made it home dodging the rush hour traffic.  Today, same schedule but shifted to a second Starbucks to not look weird sitting in one place for 4 hours while stinking of post-gym sweat.  Jet lag may suck, but it means I can reset my internal clock to a new set-up.  It puts me a bit more head of the game, and gets me out of the house in the morning.

Of course, I know the schedule ahead of me the next two months … so I can only hope this will last.

One thought on “Jet Lag: A Study in Sleep, Patterns, and Resets

  1. Bruce Baugh

    Mitch, have you ever tried a product called “No Jet Lag” it is sold over the counter at travel stores and drug stores and is a an all-natural product.

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