You’re tired when everyone else is wide awake. You’re bouncing with energy while everyone else is winding down. Traveling more than 5 timezones away can cause you to experience jet lag – a conflict between your body’s internal clock and the new time zone.
Known as circadian rhythms, your body is used to going to bed when it’s dark and waking up when it’s light outside.
I’ve just returned from a three week trip to London and Berlin (with an overnight to Scotland) and now back in San Francisco, 8 hours behind London. It’s just a bit after 6pm on Wednesday and I’m starting to feel the effects of jet lag – drowsy, disorientated, slow thinking/talking/moving, headache.
According to wikipedia, it takes a few days for it to hit you. Flying West to East is like staying up all night and then going to bed at 2pm while East to West is like staying up all night but then going to bed at 6pm, according the the article. This means that I’ll have to adjust even more now that I’m back in San Francisco. Once I got to London, I found myself staying up late until 3am without feeling tired and then dozing off in the afternoons between 2pm and 6pm (which was 6am – 10am Pacific time). The first week I stayed up using sheer adrenaline and coffee to avoid the drowsy feeling but the second week it hit me hard and I was napping like an 80 year old grandma in a rocking chair except I had my laptop in my lap as if I was working. Thankfully I didn’t fall asleep on public transportation.
My coworker Brandon (@Brandonmwest) at SendGrid is an advocate of controlling your jet lag with sleep patterns and food. I followed his advice to adapt my sleep schedule based on where I landed (staying up if it was daytime and going to sleep if it was the evening) but I ate whenever, sometimes had late night cravings for protein and fat laden foods (which I readily gave into!).
For each timezone you pass through around the globe, be prepared to take time out of your schedule to rest.
Have you tried sitting in the sun, fasting or exercise to reset your internal clock?
It may take me a few days to recover but I’m glad I made the trip and have arrived in one piece after my first trip overseas – a bit of jet lag isn’t so bad overall for the experience in Europe!