Saturday, July 21, 2012

Jet lag

Venice from the air
The first time I ever made a trans-Atlantic flight I was in my mid-thirties. We flew from Seattle to Oslo, in business class on SAS. A pretty comfy flight, actually. But after changing planes in Copenhagen, and finally arriving in Oslo, I was a total mess. When it turned out our accommodations weren't as we expected, I burst into tears.

The next time I flew across the Atlantic, we flew from Seattle to London, direct. We landed at Heathrow and took a cab to a friend's home near Wimbledon. I remember I gamely tried to stay awake and converse, but within the first hour, our friends and [The Man I Love] sent me off to bed. After a four hour nap I was almost coherent.

DeGaulle Airport
Our recent trips, in 2009, 2011 and this summer, I seem to have managed the trip overseas without trouble. Perhaps the routes were shorter; perhaps I managed to sleep on board. Also, we've learned how to use supplements like Melatonin to dial in our Circadian clocks. This trip, we arrived in Venice tired but not exhausted, and managed to adjust so that we could enjoy the next day.

On our 2009 return from Paris, we changed planes in Atlanta, and chose to spend a night at the Atlanta airport hotel, which helped us adjust. For our 2011 return from London, we had upgraded to First Class and slept in Pods during the flight - that helped a lot.  For both those trips, the return to Los Angeles wasn't difficult.

At Heathrow -  more relaxed after going thru security
This time returning to Los Angeles, I feel like it's taken me at least a couple of days to recover from jet lag. It could be the circumstances of our flight. We flew from Heathrow to Paris, changed planes and then endured a 12 hour flight to LA. I didn't sleep on the flight, instead I watched four movies - would you like my review of "The Hunger Games"?

Our arrival in LA was a little stressful - our luggage didn't make it, so we had to arrange for it to be delivered, which took two days. Unfortunately, our stash of Melatonin was in our checked bags.

Then, when we got to our house, we discovered the mess that I described below.  That added a lot to the stress level. Though we've had three nights of sleep, we just feel a little out of it still. This kind of surprised us, given our previous experience. Finally now, we're starting to feel normal again.

Those of you who travel overseas - how do you cope with jet lag? Is it worse going one direction versus the other? What tips do you have for other travelers?


Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

The only times I have flown overseas have been with young children, so my experience is colored by the kid factor. We moved to Germany with a 2yo and a 3yo; we moved stateside with a 2yo, a 5yo and a 6yo.
When we flew to Germany, it was the exciting start of a 3-year adventure but the plane landed early in the morning and I was expected to be up all day long. I was a zombie buying diapers at the store, I cried when asked what I'd like to drink with my lunch, and my kids didn't let me sleep for the first 4 nights. Eventually I drugged us all with Benedryl.

Personally, I found it easier to fly west (although I curled up on the floor of the Detroit airport because I couldn't be upright any longer) because our flight got into Seattle at 10pm. My in-laws picked us up and took us to the hotel rooms they had already checked into, so we could just tumble into a clean bed. No jet-lag at all!

Deborah said...

I flew to London from Denver in 1992, my only trip overseas. I can't sleep on a plane, although the overnight portion (lights out, blankets and pillows all 'round) was at least relaxing. Not sure when my plane arrived but I stayed awake that next day and fell into their schedule fairly easily.

I'm the exact opposite from Karen in that I think flying west is more difficult, because you're chasing the sun and it makes for the longest day, ever. I do think that in both directions, it took about 2-3 days to feel really normal again.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

The worst jet lag I've had was after the two trips to Hawaii I've made in my life (both returns were to Manhattan).

I know people who've gone to Japan or Australia for business, those are even worse.

materfamilias said...

The day of arrival is always tough for me in Paris, getting in about 10 in the morning and trying to get through the first day (barely sleep on planes). We let ourselves have a short nap once we check in, but then get out for a long walk and try to put bedtime off 'til at least 9 p.m. After one good sleep, I'm not bod, especially distracted by all there is to see and do.
Back home, we also make sure to get a long walk in, and a short nap. I find it takes me close to a full week to adjust on this end, and I've heard a formula that suggests it's close to a day for every hour of time zone difference. Back from Paris, here on the Pacific West Coast, I wake by 4 that first week back, but then have a nap later in the day. I'm lucky that I'm not having to get right back to being somewhere every day for work -- I'd have a tough time with that!

Jen on the Edge said...

When we travel, I always have the worst time with east-to-west travel, so if we're going to Europe, the return trip kicks my butt.

Still, the trip over is always difficult and the most important thing we've learned is to try to get morning flights and not evening ones. That way, we land late at night and not first thing in the morning, which means we have to stumble around dumbly until we can check into our hotel at 2 p.m.

M. Bouffant said...

Do what I did in 1970: Take a boat back. Only adds a wk. to your travel time, & the food on the S.S. France was excellent.

Ah, nostalgie!

smalltownme said...

I've flown to Ireland, Sweden and Germany -- the excitement of arriving overcame the 24 hours without sleep because I just can't sleep on planes. On the returns, I have felt crappy for a few days but managed to keep a normal schedule. My husband has traveled the other direction, to Asia, several times and highly recommends a melatonin/Xanax mixer. My kids...they don't seem too bothered but I'll let you know how Ernest feels when he gets back from India on Tuesday.