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Monday, March 15, 2010

Avoiding Jet Lag

Are you tired of hearing about my trip yet? We don't even leave for another two weeks but I bet some of you are growing weary already. Sorry about that.

Speaking of being tired and weary, today's topic is jet lag. Did you know it even has a medical name? Desynchronosis. Yep, now when you win on Jeopardy, you can thank me for helping you win by splitting your day's total.

Anyways, in my limited amount of travels, I've flown east twice to Europe, and west twice to Las Vegas and San Francisco. Yes, my undisclosed location is on the east coast of the US but I think that's already been somewhat established. What I've found is that heading west is fantastic. Up early, fresh for the day, I take time for breakfast, I'm good through business hours and then I maybe start to fizzle around late evening. Not bad at all.

But flying east is a special kind of hell for me. My anxiety usually means I don't sleep the week night before the trip. By the time we're strapped in for the flight, I'm so keyed up I can barely sleep even if the woman with the herd of rugrats behind us isn't allowing them to run amok. Once we land first thing in the morning, I'm completely out of my mind with exhaustion and now it's time to giddy up and go enjoy our fabulous destination city!

Ugh. Last time, the jet lag plus the exhaustion managed to really feed off each other. By the time we arrived in London, we went straight to the hotel (I had a near-miss with oncoming traffic along the way), checked in early, and I crashed. It was 5pm before we were able to leave the room for some dinner and I was disgusted with myself for wasting an entire day and also for being forced to behave in a way that wasn't going to help at all adjust for the rest of the trip.

I've done some research and nothing I've tried seems to really help much. I try to adjust my schedule a bit but I'm already suffering from an hour's adjustment due to daylight savings that doesn't do me any good because everyone else made the same adjustment. At most, I may be able to adjust my sleep schedule by another hour or so before the trip.

In order to increase our chances of sleeping on the plane, Joe used a bunch of points to upgrade to first class. I also have my headphones, ear plugs, and sleep mask. I'm hoping some combination of these might help.

I've read about melatonin but when I've tried that before when I couldn't sleep, I found it didn't help at all. Ambien also seems to be of little use (plus I'm out). Joe took those No Jet Lag pills on his last big flight but that was heading 12 hours the other direction to China. Plus, he's Super-Joe so of course he had no problems.

Also during my research, I ended up doing a lot of reading about hamsters.
The presence of low-level light at night also accelerates recovery rate in both east- and west-travelling hamsters of all ages by 50%; this is thought to be related to simulation of moonlight.
The problem is, I am neither an east- nor west-travelling hamster. And no, Mo, I am also not a north- or south-travelling hamster. Because I knew someone would ask and it would probably be him.

What helps you with jet lag? Any tips or tricks for before, during, and after travel that might help me hit the ground running? Heck, I don't even care about running. I'll be happy to not cry going through customs, not wander into traffic, and stay awake until about 8pm or so that first night. So bring it on - what have you got for me?


silver star said...

As someone that normally goes to bed around 8am-noon, my boss sometimes goes nuts and insist on me showing up for a full 12 day of work at 6am (and to be friendly with the gun nuts), I can offer you some pointers that have helped me. About a week before, I start going to bed either a few hours earlier or a few hours later, I usually schedule it out so I'm gradually fixing my hours. Taking baths relax me and make me sleepy, so I would try that. Yogi tea has a bedtime tea that I've drank before going to bed at odd times, it has helped me. The main thing thats been my problem is when I wake up at an odd time, I try to go back to sleep, so force yourself in some way or another to stay awake, go walk around the mall or Wal-Mart (even if you don't buy anything), go to a place you may not normally go to that's open, visit a park, do something! I wish you lots of luck with sleeping, I'm jealous your going to Europe, and I hope you will share some pictures!

Princess Andy said...

i am definitely suffering with this whole time change jet lag...ick.

i would only suggest trying to force yourself to stay awake as long as possible that first day...even getting to 6 or 7 pm. that way you'll wake up the next morning with A LOT of sleep under your belt.

i can't WAIT to hear all about your travels!!!

<3 andrea

A. said...

I hate that eastbound jet lag as well, it is such a killer!

I usually stay up for a day or two straight before the trip, in order to ensure that I sleep on the flight. But since you already do that as well, and it doesn't help, I would take the pill route. The husband always takes Ativan when we fly, and while he still can't sleep, it does allow some rest. Maybe with that & your 1st class seats, you'll get enough rest? Or perhaps get a different sleeping aid from your Dr.?

Then again, maybe get the sleeping aid the week before the trip, sleep a lot at home, so if you can't sleep on the flight, you won't be so exhausted the next day?

Regardless, when you arrive, I agree with Andy; force yourself to be awake as long as absolutely possible that first day, it really helps. And, I can't wait to hear all about your adventures!

TMC said...

well, i don't have too much international flying experience but my general tips would be:

DON'T anxiously watch National Treasure (or other crappy movie equivalent) 18 times.

DO stay hydrated and DO have a schedule for your time on the plane. Make sure you get up and stretch.

DO go through the motions of sleep. Put on your mask, ear plugs, handful of melatonin, lay down and relax. (you know the start-at-your- toes relaxation exercise?)

C. Beth said...

I've never traveled more than three time zones away, so I have no advice.

But, uh, good luck??