Monday, June 3, 2013

Avoiding Jet Lag....

One of the more annoying aspects of traveling is the dreaded "jet lag" experience

The change in 'clock time' versus your inner body time can leave the first few days of a trip fuzzy and seriously dull the excitement of all the new and wonderful things you may never be able to see again (and, of course, NEVER see again for the first time!). For short trips, jet lag can even mess up the entire trip. Our trip will be nearly a month, so I fully expect that all of us will.eventually manage to adjust our internal clock to UK time (which is 6 hours ahead of our time here in the midwest, meaning that our 6 am is their noon). I will note however, that 3 trips ago there was one student who never did manage to adjust and would fall asleep in class every day. We even asked him to stand during class at one point and he fell asleep on his feet! He would roam the castle until at least 4 am (which was 10 pm on his internal clock) before he could fall asleep, so that 9 am class felt to him like the middle of the night.  

Most 'experts' agree that moving from west to east (the direction we are going) is worse than going the reverse (when we return). I have not found that to be true, as when I travel I am usually so excited to arrive that I manage to have less jet lag than when I return home. Though, in students' favor, the age group between 15-30 are supposed to have the least trouble with jet lag of any age group. The young (before 6 or so) and the old (ahem, I will NOT define old, given my current age and the fact that I still like to think of myself as reasonably 'young' - at least young compared to what I plan on being) have worse trouble with this adjustment of internal clocks. 
So, what to do to avoid this experience? Well, thoughts on the subject differ and what works for some folks might not work for everyone... so, now that I have covered the disclaimer, here are a few ideas....

1. The biggest aid to moving your internal clock right away is to stay awake the entire first day we arrive - NO NAPS - then go to bed at a 'reasonable' hour (that you would normally retire, according to the clock, at home). This is usually easier if you get some sleep on the plane (earplugs and eyeshades and a neck pillow are very helpful for this, as well as for keeping annoying seat mates from talking to you incessantly). So, if you usually go to sleep at 10 pm, go to bed on the first night at 10 pm, even if you don't feel sleepy. Most folks will feel really draggy the first day and want to nap all day, but then get a burst of energy in the early evening and want to go out and celebrate the beginning of the trip. Both of those are a bad idea. If you are seriously not sleepy at 10 pm local time, take a light sleeping pill (if you know of one that works for you and you can tolerate -I'm just sayin' here - don't put any drugs into your body on just my say so - ask your doc - I will likely take a Benedryl which is enough to know me out). The next day, I will expect the group to meet for breakfast at 8, and we will be out and about by 9 and I will try to keep you walking and awake if I can that second day as well. If you don't nap the second day and go to bed at a reasonable hour the second night, you will be over jet lag by the third day, in all likelihood. 

2. If you don't want to miss even a day of the excitement in London (our first stop) you can always just move  the jet lag to before you leave. Move your getting up time by 1 hour each day (and your bed time up by one hour each day to match) for 6 days - or make it one hour every other day for 12 days. That way, you will already be adjusted by the time you arrive. I don't usually have the discipline to do this, as I am too busy with friends and family before I leave and going to bed by 4 pm in the afternoon can seriously cut into this!

3. Another thing to do that has been suggested by several scientific studies is to take low doses of melatonin (available without a prescription and I am NOT telling you to take drugs without advice of your personal physician, just reporting what some medical studies suggest). Anyway, what folks say is to take melatonin in the late afternoon on a staggered schedule starting about 4 days before you leave on the trip - this means around 6 pm 4 days before, then 5 pm  on the 3rd day before the trip, then 4 pm the 2nd day, then 3 pm the day before and 2 pm on the day of travel... and then at 'bedtime' for the first few days of the trip. It is supposed to act as a relaxant (not habit forming and not really a sleeping pill). I'm just sayin' here - again, don't put any drugs into your body on just my say so - ask your doc. 

4. There is also supposed to be something about exposing yourself to bright light - morning light for the direction we are going. I am actually sort of chuckling here as finding bright light in the morning in London is generally not possible! However, I have designed the trip so that we will be out walking in the morning each day we are there - so we will be exposed to light if there is any! Another reminder here - if you read my 'hints and tips' about the trip (posted elsewhere) - be prepared for rain. A rain jacket with a hood is usually the way to go - umbrellas will just poke other folks in the eye and get annoying while walking in a group. And, those pretend raincoats that are more like plastic bags (and some are even clear as well as being just incredibly light weight filmy plastic things that fit in a baggie) don't hold up. The UK is just too often rainy to get one of these to last the whole trip!

OK, so now you have the best tips I can offer to avoid jet lag. Be aware that I will be pounding on your door if you are not up when you are supposed to be, and missing events is not tolerated, so best to get that jet lag out of the way. Seeing me cross at you every morning is really not a fun way to start a day!

Good luck!

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