JET LAG STRATEGIES

As I alluded to in a previous post I am going to London, England near the end of this month. I have two friends who live in the London area and I’ve always wanted to return to Europe. I have not set foot on that continent since I was three years old when my parents decided to bring me on their European vacation. I have lots to write about my upcoming trip but today’s post deals with time zones and traveling through them.

Since I became an adult, my travels haven’t brought me any further than three hours ahead or three hours behind my local time zone. As such, the effects of jet lag haven’t really factored into my adult travels. Traveling east is always much more difficult in that respect than going west but every single time I go to the east coast, you get used to the time changes within hours. When I went to Hawaii last month, it was even easier given it was going west and because of my tendency to go to bed really late.

The last time I had to deal with actual jet lag was when I was about twelve years old. That was the last time I went to Hong Kong where their time zone is fifteen hours ahead of Vancouver’s. As a kid, my parents took the whole family to Hong Kong several times but I don’t remember having to deal with the jet lag. It must have been a factor though, as it’s quite difficult for the body to instantly sync with the new time zone.

London is eight hours ahead of Vancouver which presents a big problem for me personally. Since the end of February, I’ve been going to sleep around 4am and waking up around noon. In terms of London time, that means I’ve been going to bed at noon and waking up around 8pm. If I don’t change my sleeping habits, then that’s exactly what I would face once I got off the plane. That’s probably the worst case scenario where my body wants to sleep during the middle of the day and I’d miss everything in the daytime.

I’ve read various ways to combat jet lag. One strategy is to just slowly and naturally adjust your body clock to the new time zone. I’ve read that it takes about one day to adjust your body clock one hour. Now given that I’m only in London eight days, if I went with this strategy, I’d be all good on the last day of my trip, right before I was about go home. Obviously, that would suck and I’m certainly not going to spend the first few days of my trip sleeping during the daytime in my hotel room. I’ve also discovered some strategies where you accelerate the adjustment using melatonin and not giving into the desire to sleep until it’s actually night-time at your new destination. This seems more reasonable but I bet it totally sucks the first few days when you really want to sleep during the afternoon.

Another strategy involves adjusting your sleep schedule before you arrive at your destination. For some people, this is impractical. If you’ve got a job or other time sensitive responsibilities, you can’t be training your body to start sleeping in the afternoon for example. Fortunately, I have neither a job nor anything like that. Now if I were going to Australia, I wouldn’t have to do any adjustment of sleep schedule. I mentioned in a previous post that my 4am to 12pm sleep schedule lines up pretty well with most of Australia. If I went there, I’d get off the plane and my body would automatically be set for a 11pm to 7am sleep period (or thereabouts).

I’m going to London though, so I’m going to have to make some major adjustments. My target would be to go to sleep around 4pm and wake up around midnight. Now keep in mind I go to bed at 4am right now so I’m in the worst case scenario. In a 24 hour clock, the 12 hour adjustment is the most difficult. Any other time zone on this planet would have been easier to adjust to. Now how am I gonna get this done? I suppose I could go to bed an hour earlier each day. I’d walk my bedtime back so that I’d eventually go to sleep at 4pm. In practice, I think that’s going to be tough. I hate going to bed early. I have a hard time going to sleep at 11pm. I can’t imagine trying to sleep at 6pm.

The more likely scenario is that I’m going to push my bedtime forward an hour or so each day. My body seems to have an easier time with this. I can probably make it to a 7am or 8am bedtime easily in a day or two. I guess I’m going to have to adjust my meal schedule was well. Lunch time here will be my London dinner. London breakfast will be some weird midnight snack here. London lunch will a very early breakfast here.

It should be an interesting week before I go to London.

4 thoughts on “JET LAG STRATEGIES”

  1. I typically don’t do too much other than power through. I find going to Europe much harder than going to North America. Having just arrived back in Geneva yesterday at noon, I took about a 30 min nap in the afternoon (slept about 2 hours on the plane ride over) forced my self up after that and then made it to 10 pm, and slept mostly through to 6 am, waking briefly at midnight and 4:30 am.

    I tend to drink too much coffee, and got hooked on it badly after a trip to Korea that was similar to that 12 hour time difference you talk about it. I’ve switched mostly to tea on recent trips, although I am having a coffee while I type this.

    I also find the best thing to do is just stay active on your first day. Go out and see some sights, do the Parliament tour (lots of walking) or check out something outside like Hyde park with lots of fresh air. As long as I stay active I don’t get sleepy. I also try to take echinacea and vitamin C when I am travelling as I think jet lag has an effect on the immune system.

    Or you could try what one of my Korea trip colleagues did, drink a 26 oz bottle of vodka the first night…that put him to sleep!

  2. Thank you for your strategies Phil! It probably won’t be realistic for me to be completely in tune with London time before I leave so there will be probably some adjustment after I arrive.

    I’ll try my best to stay active on my first day but it will probably be difficult. I arrive around 7am local time, so there’s a lot of hours between that and night time.

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