Being miserable with jet lag
It's been a week since my return from the India trip. I landed here last Sunday night. I went through a terrible jet lag the whole of last week. It's only now, I'm slowing limping back to normalcy. I never felt this big a jet lag in any of my previous trips; the last one being in May 2004.
I woke up at sharp 5:30 AM and just couldn't go back to sleep. I really didn't know what to do since I am not usually out of the bed anytime before 9 AM. This year the winter in bay area is breaking some 50 year old records in lowest temperatures. That didn't help a bit for my miserable times in bed from 5:30 AM to 9 AM. I realized there are some interesting programs in KTEH channel 17 at such early hours in the morning. But after a day or two, I didn't like watching TV that early in the morning. I have read how some old people suffer from insomnia; well I did experience that. And it is terrible.
By 3 or 4 PM in the afternoon I felt so sleepy at work. I was lucky that work wasn't that demanding and I could take off early. Around 7 PM or so, I felt such an irresistible urge to sleep. I just can't stop it. I had to sleep for 3 to 4 hours. I know this won't help my body to adjust to the new routine. But I was helpless.
On Thursday, after 4 days of misery, enlightenment struck me. I went to the oracle (read google) and asked "How to reduce jet lag". That turned up a few interesting articles; mostly for sportsmen and athletes to cope up with jet-lag. One of the suggestions really helped me. That is don't sleep too long when you get the sleeping urge; use an alarm or a friend to wake you up. I did that Thursday night; and slept for just about an hour around 7 PM. That did help.
Some points that can help to minimize jet lag.
- Jet lag is more pronounced on west to east travel than vice versa. So for most of my India trip, the return trip (always across pacific) is going to be problematic. So this is something to remember on any future onward trip to East coast, Europe or a return from Hawaii (which are probably the only remaining items on the "to-travel" list)
- The more routine your life style is, the more pronounced the lag is. I think this is one of the main reasons for my jet-lag this time compared to my previous trips. There is nothing here that can be changed.
- Take plenty of rest the day before the journey. I made the common mistake of trying to be awake, so that I can get easy sleep on the plane. This was a big mistake. You need plenty of sleep, the day before you travel. I traveled on a Saturday morning train from Trichy to Madras, reaching Madras in the afternoon. I went to the IIT campus on Saturday afternoon and then to a wedding reception on Saturday evening with my flight being on the Sunday morning. I think this lack of rest prior to the journey contributed significantly.
- Drink lots of water inside the plane. The body gets very dehydrated in an air plane environment (6000 ft pressure and very low humidity).
- No alcohol immediately before/during/ after the flight. There was some suggestion about food intake; I didn't pay much attention because I don't eat a lot in flight anyway.