3:30 am, I hate jet lag

3:30 am, I hate jet lag

This is precisely what I thought a few hours ago. And the night before at 4:43…

Every seasoned traveller, every travelling and health website will agree with this short statement: traveling east is the worst when it comes to jet lag. Last week end my husband and I flew for the 6th time from Germany to China, a 7 to 8 hours leap forward in time. Our plane landed mid afternoon, but with a long wait at passport control and a subsequent wait to pick up our luggage, we exited the airport as the day was downing. When you have not slept during the long flight, a shorter day seems ideal to head to bed sooner. However, this seems to make everything worse.

Not all travel routes look this pretty

Not all travel routes look this pretty

So what happens? Somewhere in your body, day and night have got confused. You are not just very tired, your brain has not seen much of the day. If you are a holiday traveller heading to party in Thailand, your agenda can be kept clear of obligations, and you can just follow what your body wishes: Naps, meals off the classic hours, walk along the beach in the middle of the night. But the business travellers and other expats will have very limited time to adjust and be as efficient on their point of destination as they would have been at their point of origin. My two most difficult recoveries from traveling eastward have been in January as a matter of fact, when the days are the shortest. With so many intercontinental flights leaving at night and arriving mid day the following day, last week’s journey was probably my best recipe for failure. But my husband or his colleagues who travel several times a year for work cannot just go to their hierarchy and proclaim to be flying only in spring and summer. Wait… no, no really they can’t.

A message from my sister yesterday ironically reminded me it is wiser to sleep on a plane than enjoy the extensive film selection. The reality is that our bodies being so different, we are also unequal regarding sleep. I must admit I envy the Chinese travellers who manage to sleep so easily on a plane ( or anywhere else for that matter). I have travelled both economy and business class. The day I boarded in business, I was delighted at the thought of a proper night sleep… At least I enjoyed the food, and the service…

Last night at 3:30 in the morning , a flush of anger and frustration got me out of bed, and as sleep seemed determined to avoid me, I started my next list, the result of yet another cruel lesson in traveling:

– I will pack my essentials TOGETHER in a little pouch, but be sure I have them all (not scattered at the bottom of my handbag): the sleep mask, the headset to go on the iPhone (on airplane mode) and play soft music to reduce the airplane or neighbour’s noise, the pack of tissues, and the pair of flight socks.

– I WILL talk to my doctor about those melatonin tablets recommended by most medical websites. Apparently athletes traveling around the world fight jet lag by starting melatonin tablets 3 days before flying. If it works for athletes, it should also help a middle aged woman who counts new white hair with every new time zone. Just saying.

– seatguru.com is my best friend. I check my plane type and select my seat accordingly. Ok, usually the husband does this. But last time, we got so busy between work, family, friends, we left the seat selection till fairly late, too late for the better seats. A clever seat selection can allow a difference of about 2 or 3 hours extra sleep. The maths is easy. Last week end, I slept 10 minutes on an 11 hour journey to Asia…

– I’m a woman, I don’t sleep with a bra at night. My next journey will include a large hoody, warm and cosy, and also much more discrete if/when i decide to remove my seduction equipment. And if the plane has a problem and we have to evacuate in emergency… well, I bet my bra will be the least of my concerns!

– Pillows on planes are free. Personally, I don’t really like neck pillows, I usually ask for a second pillow; one goes behind my neck, the other i hold on to, getting a very slight cosy blanket/bed feeling.

I am the person to blame for my jet lag. Rushed packing at the hotel and here I was boarding the plane with tight shoes, late seat selection, eye mask somewhere in the suitcase. I got on the plane to nNorthern China like some jump in a cab, I threw my bag in the locker and sat… for 11 miserable hours.

As they say, “you live and learn”…

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