I have traveled abroad several times in the last year. It is during these trips that I have experienced the daunting foe every traveler hopes to avoid: Jet Lag. Jet Lag came to visit me after 19 hours of travel to Rome, Italy. Because I had an evening flight, I thought it would be rather easy to get acclimated to the time change. I intentionally stayed up on my first flight to NYC to make sure I was good and ready for "bed" on the Red Eye to London. The beauty about international flights is that they feed you well and they offer you complimentary drinks such as wine and beer. After boarding my 9:45pm flight to London, a good meal, complemented with glass of wine, made it easy for me to settle in for the night. When we arrived in London, it was 10:30 am, and thus 5:30 am eastern standard time. I am the farthest thing from an early bird, so I expected to be exhausted. But I was not! I was pretty alert and felt well-rested, considering I'd gotten about 5 hours of rest. Even though I could have slept for more, I stayed up on the my final flight to Rome, engaged with the in-flight entertainment provided.
After getting settled in at the Air Bnb, my friends and I decided to grab dinner and do a bit of sight-seeing at the Colosseum. This was the perfect end to a long day of travel, because it set me up to go to bed at a decent hour. However, this did not happen! Between chatting with my friends and just not being tired, I was up until 4:00am (10pm Eastern time). Thursday morning, I peeled myself from the bed at 7:30am, ready to explore the city of Rome. Not only did I want to see everything I could possibly in my first full day, I was hoping that my early rising would mean I would pass out later that evening.
Contrary to my wishes, I was up again until 3 in the morning. Nonetheless, Friday was another full day, this time venturing out of the heart of Rome and into Vatican City. We caught a flight to Athens later that evening. It was not until day 2 of my time in Greece did I find myself finally acclimated to Euro-time.
After my time in Greece, I traveled to Cairo, Egypt. By now I was completely operating on Eastern European time. My friends and I enjoyed three days in Cairo. On the night of our last day, we packed up and left for the airport for a 3am departure back to Athens (found it to be cheaper to get back to the States via Athens than Cairo). As you can guess, we were completely fatigued and I was out like a light after take off. The flight was less than 3 hours, so I did not get much rest. To my dismay, my flight back to the states was not until 11 am! I tried sleeping in the airport for the first time, resulting in a solid hour of sleep and a bit of a crook in my neck.
I was so excited to board the plane taking me back to the States. "Now I can finally get some rest!", I thought. I had even considered the hours I should sleep versus stay awake so that I would easily transition back to eastern time. However, two little girls made sure that no one on that plane could get any rest >.< They literally yelled with joy or cried in frustration for 7 of the 9 hours we were in flight. I recall watching at least 2 movies... so I might have gotten about 4 hours of sleep. Eventually I made it home from this trip at about 9pm. I played with my poor dog, who had not seen me in weeks, and I went to bed. I had the most lovely slumber, and did not emerge until 8am the next morning. Like clockwork, every day afterwards, I went to bed around 10pm and woke up around 7:30am. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to adjust back to eastern time in such a smooth way. After a bit of research, I learned that it is easier to delay your body clock (traveling east to west) than it is to advance your body clock (traveling west to east). Thus, my body was able to reacclimate back to eastern time much easier than I was able to transition during my first days in Europe.
Has Jet Lag ever come to visit you? Here are some suggested tips in avoiding this unwelcome foe :
1) Adjust Your Schedule Before You Leave
2) Take Melatonin
3) Control Your Light Exposure
[Bearing the flexibility of my schedule] I will likely try out the first tip when I take my next trip into another timezone, as it seems to be the most tangible option. Would you try any of these suggestions? Do you have any of your own strategies that are effective in helping you adjust quickly? Let me know in the comments!