jet lag or jet-lag
I’ve been to Europe. A lot. Thirteen times, to be exact. So I know jet lag.
Or at least I thought I did.
I’d been warned by savvier travelers than I, but like most wisdom, it takes the fully lived experience to truly grasp and appreciate it. Recovering from a 13-hour time difference is not the same as recovering from a 6-8-hour time difference. By way of illustration, I give you my riveting sleep journal:
Friday: Arrive home from SE Asia 2:00 pm. Can barely keep eyes open starting around 5:00 pm. Sleep 6:30 pm to 3:30 am. Nine hours! Not bad. Just need to shift the “to bed and to rise” hours later and I’ll be golden!
Saturday: No naps during the day. Proclaim victory, but then struggle with intense fatigue from about 5:30 pm on. Manage to stay awake until 8:00 pm. Yay! I like where this is going. Then: crap. Awake at 2:00 Sunday morning. Wide awake. Head downstairs and the husband follows shortly after. By 2:30 am we are drinking our new Lao coffee and reading through the Christmas cards we got while we were away. Having fun, but deep down know this is bad news. The husband returns to bed at 4:00 am but just tosses and turns. I know better and just stay awake doing crosswords.
Sunday: Take 2-hour nap during the day. That evening, knowing I’d have to be back at work the next day, take a prescription sleeping aid that I often get for long plane flights. Sleep well – something like 8:00 pm to 4:00 am, but know I can’t take credit because I cheated.
Monday: Go to work. Start bout of frequent yawning mid-morning that doesn’t stop all day. Have colleagues tell me I look like death warmed over, but in a nicer way. Eyeballs sting with fatigue. Stumble home and crave a nap, but manage to stay awake until 7:00 pm. Wake up at 11:00 pm. Lay there, wide awake, staring at the ceiling, for three hours. At 2:00 am get out of bed and head downstairs to watch a movie (First They Killed My Father, which is good but not as good as the book. Determine Angelina Jolie needs to work on her directing skills. The movie is too slow – full of long, drawn-out shots that should have put me to sleep but didn’t.) Turn off movie and try to sleep on the couch. Doesn’t work.
Tuesday: The husband comes down at 4:00 am to find me in tears. Feel sick to my stomach. Feel dizzy and light-headed. (Are those the same thing? I don’t know, but I mention both.) Hands are shaking. Don’t feel well. I know it’s “just” jet lag, but can’t imagine operating a motor vehicle, much less being compos mentis enough to teach all day. Call in sick. Enervated, I putter around the house all morning completely exhausted but, maddeningly, not sleepy. Finally go to bed at 11:00 am but it feels like it takes me ages to fall asleep. Get up at 1:00 pm feeling a little better. Procrastinate making a baked oatmeal dish (that the husband refuses to eat but that I like well enough and which keeps me in breakfasts for a week and a half with just one 8 x 8 pan). Finally make it after dinner in an effort to stay awake and have a flash of inspiration: doing something active helps keep me from nodding off at 6:00 pm in a way that reading or watching TV cannot. Start making a list of active-ish things I can do the next few nights. Go to bed at 8:00 and sleep until 3:00 am.
Wednesday: At work, commiserate with colleagues who have had similar Asia to America jet lag struggles. Feel much better than day before. Am told I look less tired. Less yawning today, but develop headache in the afternoon. Come home from work not wanting to go straight to bed. Hurrah! After dinner, fulfill my “stay active” promise by making pâte brisée (fancy French word for pie crust) as my “active” activity and in preparation for apple pie I promised to make the husband last summer but never got around to. After that, hear the siren’s song of the couch and lay down against my better judgement. Fight nodding off for an hour and a half while watching Seinfeld and Friends. (Have seen all Seinfeld episodes dozens of times, but the two episodes of Friends are new to me… it’s the two-parter in Barbados where Joey and Rachel get together.) Headache worsens. Go to bed at 8:00 pm but cheat again, this time taking two Tylenol PMs. Get eight solid hours, so I don’t regret it, especially because it’s an OTC and not a prescription like the pill on Sunday night.
Thursday: Unexpected fatigue takes hold mid-morning and doesn’t let go all day. Arrive home, eat an early dinner, then spend time working on this post. Glance at clock at 5:30 pm, sigh, and will the hands to move faster so I can go to bed. Although there’s a cake recipe I can make and freeze in preparation for some dinner guests we’re having in a week, just can’t be bothered. Go to basement to fold laundry. Come back upstairs and work on household finances. Wonder if readers will find my life unspeakably boring. Give in to another Seinfeld/Friends marathon, but doze off in the middle of the last episode, jerking awake at 8:00 pm. Go to bed and sleep until 2:00 am. Toss and turn for another hour until I’m certain somnolence is out of reach.
Friday: So here I am at 3:45 am on Friday morning, typing away. This afternoon will mark one full week since we’ve been back home, and based on what I’ve heard, I’m only halfway through this hell. My most profound wish at the moment – other than world peace and a gargantuan financial windfall – is that week two of jet lag recovery is much less intense and that next week I can post about something more interesting than my erratic sleep patterns. Until then, I’m wishing you all restful, restorative slumber.
Read more about our Dust-Farm-Pail List SE Asia adventures:
- Things We Learned from the Travel Medicine Doctor: Laos/Cambodia Edition
- And We’re Off…
- Southeast Asia to Midwest America Jet Lag: What Fresh Hell is This?
- Blog Buddy Meet-up #1: Luang Prabang, Laos
- Laos, Days 1-2: Cycling & Sightseeing
- Laos, Day 3: The Journey to Nong Khiaw
- Laos, Day 4+: Hiking, Remote Villages, and One Really Bad Indian Meal