Thursday, February 10, 2011

Jet lag grief

OK, either I’m aging too fast or there’s something wrong with me. I’ve been jet lagged for one week. One week! That’s pretty full on. And not healthy.

I’ve been living abroad for almost 10 years (ironically, my “10 year anniversary” is on September 11. Yes, I landed in London around the same time as a plane crashed into the World Trade Centre. Heard about it on the radio news in the taxi on my way from the airport). Out of those 10 years, 3,5 have been spent in Australia and 4,5 have been spent in China. In other words: I’ve been going back and forth between different time zones for 8 years! I SHOULD be used to this! And it should NOT take 1 week for the body to adapt.

Going back to Sweden (when you “gain” extra hours) is never a problem: it’s going back (and “losing” 7 hours) that messes things up for me. For the last week or so I believe I’ve slept a total of 10 hours (and I look the part) and my whole body is just not functioning: I’m not hungry when I’m supposed to be, my stomach is giving me grief and I get headaches when I’m supposed to be asleep. The other day I got so desperate I ended up getting sleeping pills from the pharmacy. But in the end I didn't dare to use them. I’ve been scared of medicine bought in China since a friend of mine went to a Chinese pharmacy ended up with sleeping pills that are banned in Europe because of dingy side effects. Also, I don’t want to start the whole sleeping pill carousel. It feels like a nasty one and I think it’s easy to get addicted. So, those pills I got are going to the bin!

Last night I managed to fall asleep (yay) and stay asleep (yay yay!) until 5am! Big improvement from the other nights where I have been awake until 4am and then fallen asleep for 2 hours before I’m awake again. I finally feel that things are going the right way.

But seriously –is it supposed to be like this for now?! That it takes a whole week to get back to normal? I’ve never had big issues with jet lag before. A day or two of being tired and then fine. Not a week of minimal sleep and desperate trips to the Chinese pharmacy. What do you guys do in order to beat the jet lag and get your body back into your old habits? I might be fine for now but I'm obviously going to be travelling again later this year.


Anonymous said...

Here are my tricks. Though they may not work all the time, they reduce the pain of jetlag.
-When leaving your home country and en route for China, adjust your daily sleeping routine for Chinese time. For example, if I should be sleeping in China (10:00pm) but it is 10:00am in Toronto, I try to sleep. Force yourself to stay awake until you are in the right sleeping routine. I bring an eye shade and ear plugs on the plane.
-Drink no alcohol during the flight to China
-When back in China, get as much sunlight outside as possible. This will trigger a reset of your circadian rhythm in your brain. This reset will eventually happen no matter what you do, but the more your brain sees the rising and setting of the sun this quickens the process.
-When back in China do not sleep during the day, no matter how tired you feel. Sleeping only prolongs the pain.
-Exercise and drink lots of water. This promotes increases blood flow and rehydrates you.
-It is common to take up to 2 weeks to recover and has little to do with age.

Anonymous said...

They say jetlag is 1 day per hour of difference. So 7 hours means a week of feeling crappy.

Anonymous said...

it means your body is not producing melatonin. You 'd need to do some exercises early in the morning or get at least 20 mins of sun light...

you've probably been stuck in the office without seeing day light... too...

m--e said...

Get some safe, OTC sleeping pills from home or the US. (Unisom is even safe for pregnant women.) Take them about 9-10 PM the first three nights you are back, and you should be sleeping through the night on the 4th!

There really isn't any risk of addiction if you take the proper dose for such a short time. Taking medicine for three days is much healthier than suffering through it for weeks, in my humble opinion!

Erin Helgerson said...

I've been going back and forth between Shanghai and L.A. for a year, and my jet-lag is always horrible. I'm always jet-lagged for a good solid week. It's horrid!
If you learn any tricks, you'll have to share!