Jet lag recovery time

Much like hangovers, I find that jet lag recovery gets worse with age.

As I write this, it is 4am.  I have been awake since 2am.  This is improvement, as the night before I woke up at midnight.  And couldn’t get back to sleep.  Today (a Monday), I have work in several hours, and even if I could sleep more, there wouldn’t be much point, so in bed with my laptop I lay, writing this for you.  In fact, this is the second post I’m working on, having just finished a draft post on my epic journey home that should be forthcoming soon.

It occurs to me that I may have some word of wisdom to share when it comes to getting over jet-lag.  I offer it to you here, with the disclaimer that 1) I obviously don’t take my own advice, or I’d be asleep right now; and 2) everyone needs to find their own system, so this is just a starting point meant to help you find your own system.  Here are Travelling Chitalian’s words of wisdom:

  1. Naps are crucial.  You don’t want to straight up go to bed whenever you’re tired because if you do that, you’ll never adjust.  But if you simply can’t make it to an appropriate bedtime, take a little nap.  Under an hour, or, trust me, you’ll never get up.  Follow the nap with a shower if you can to get yourself sufficiently awake to make it to that reasonable bedtime goal.  The sooner you get to a normal bedtime, the sooner you’ll sleep all the way through the night.
  2. Make the most of your weird awake time.  For example, it might be a good time to start getting up at 5:30am to work out before work, because, heck, your body wants to get up even earlier than that anyway.  I know that I would love to get back into my morning workout routine, so getting over this 8 hours ahead jet-lag from my most recent Africa trip has me waking up early anyway – why not use that to my advantage and get back onto that workout schedule I’ve aspired to get back to for so long?
  3. It gets better every day.  Yesterday I woke up at midnight.  Today 2am.  Tomorrow I project 3-4am.  Soon, my desired 5:30am wake-up time will become natural, and hopefully I can make it my norm.
  4. To drug or not to drug: THAT is the question!
    And this is not one I can answer for you.  I actually prefer to limit the amount of medication I take generally, being a bit of hippie/organic-food-loving/natural-is-best person, so I really leave these as a last resort, but many really like them, so here’s a summary of some things I’ve tried, and if I thought they helped.
    1. Melatonin
      Pro: it is what I would call natural-ish….. well, you can get it in the vitamin section of your local pharmacy, so it seems somewhat less bad for you anyway.  This stuff worked great for me.  It’s supposed to help you get back to your natural rhythms when you’re traveling.  I loved it for a while, and found that it really helped me get over an 18 hour jet lag when I went to Australia a few years back.  I just popped the recommended dosage for my first 3 nights in Canberra, and in no time I felt like a native Aussie!  Unfortunately for me, at some point it stopped working for me, and now when I take it, I feel like it almost gives me the caffeine jitters – opposite from its intended effect.
    2. Nausea medication
      Whether you call it Dramamine or Gravol (a Canadian brand name version), nausea medication can work wonders for you.  I use it for a hangover or for jet lag.  Whenever I feel like more sleep might make my problem go away!  It helps me fall asleep on airplanes (as do eye-shades and ear plugs)
      [Important disclaimer: I am not a doctor.  I am not a nurse.  I don’t have any medical background whatsoever.  I just have some experience with using these drugs myself completely off-label, so if you choose to take my advice, do so at your own risk. Like I said before, everyone needs to figure out what works for them.  This happens to work for me.]
    3. Now some people like prescription sleeping pills like Ambien or Anti-Anxiety medication like Valium.  I have never tried these for this purpose, though Valium did help me sleep quite soundly after a car accident.  I was prescribed it as a muscle relaxant though, not a sleep aid or anxiety-reducer.  I can’t recommend them or give warnings about them.  I have concerns about the addictive quality of drugs like these, as well as some of the side-effects (sleep-eating, -walking, even sleep-driving are all reported side-effects of Ambien).  For those reasons, I choose to stay away from them unless strictly necessary and only use them with a doctor’s advice, myself.  But make up your own mind!
    4. Get onto the right sleep schedule as soon as possible.  I try to match my sleeping habits in transit to what they should be once I reach my destination.  If I’m flying out when it’s evening where I’m leaving but still daytime where I’m going, I try my best to fight sleep off until a reasonable bedtime at my destination, which will make it that much easier to adjust when I arrive.  I use every tool in my arsenal to either stay awake or fall asleep when I should.  For staying awake?  Coffee.  Movies.  Books.  If you’re really desperate, work!  For falling asleep?  The above listed sleep aides.  Earplugs, or at least sound isolating headphones with soothing music (my go-to artist of choice for long flights?  Irish artist Enya.  Very relaxing.  Nothing too up-tempo), eye shades.  Anything to shut out light, flight attendants trying to bring you things, or distractions such as airplane noises.  If I forgot my eye shades, a pair of dark sunglasses make an acceptable (albeit less comfortable and effective) substitute.

Well, OK, now you know my tricks for travel.  Now, my intrepid travellers: go forth, out into the world and find your own methods!  And please, if you have any other suggestions, please add them as comments here!

Yours hoping to be time-adjusted soon enough,

One response to “Jet lag recovery time

  1. Pingback: Malawi – so much more than I had expected! | Chitalian Travels·

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