The Mysteries of Jetlag

So we're back in Kyoto after two wonderful weeks visiting my folks in snowy Ohio. The return flight thankfully omitted the drama of my trip there and of my wife's. Airline-induced drama aside, both trips were more comfortable than the normal transpacific trip for me.

Owing to a lot of business trips in the 90s, I've made the transpacific crossing about 150 times (back then mostly in business class, but at the prices today there's no way I'd spend my own money on that for myself). This time two things helped to really make the trip better:

  1. I sprung the extra $130/seat for United's “Economy Plus” seating, which offers 3" (7.5cm) of extra leg room (seats at a 34" pitch instead of 31"), a huge extra margin for my 6'4" height.

  2. And for the first time, I took the sleep-aid Ambien in the middle of the 11-hour (going) and 13-hour (returning) flights, blessing myself with a rare five or six hours of sleep on each flight. (FWIW, I took the Japanese version, マイスリー, which more or less transliterates to something that brings the English words “my sleep” to mind.)

I combined this with my general practice to avoid all alcohol before, during, and after the flight (it might make the flight feel nicer, but I think it makes jetlag worse).

All-in-all everything seemed to conspire for greatness this time, as I arrived at home in Kyoto at about 9pm last night feeling so great that I got much of my unpacking done right away, and went to bed ready for sleep at 1am.

Unsurprising to someone used to jet lag, I awoke at 3am. I had a half pill of Ambien ready and took it, and soon drifted back to sleep expecting to get up wide eyed and ready to go by 8am or 9am.

A groggy me awoke at 2pm.

I was deeply groggy all day, and went to bed at midnight, taking a full Ambien just to be sure, but I was suddenly well awake. After an hour of lying in bed trying to still my mind and body, I took another half pill, and remained quite definitely awake. Eventually I thought to try one of those “relaxing ambient sounds” iPhone apps, which gave me something to listen to, but apparently didn't help me fall asleep because here I am now at 3am writing this post.

I have to be up at 6:30.

I usually have pretty bad trouble with jetlag, though less after the return trip to Japan, but I really thought I had it beat this time. I guess I'll be a zombie all day tomorrow (well, “today”, I guess) and try to get to sleep at an early but not-unreasonable time.

I was hoping to get cracking on one of the many potential blog posts I've been wanting to write, as well as on the hundreds of messages accumulated in my mailbox and blog comment queue, but all that will have to wait for a more lucid Jeffery, should one ever appear.

All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

I’ve often found that beng in a half-asleep state during the flight rather than fully asleep gives me the best post-flight experience. IOW, technically awake, but eyes closed, maybe listening to music, but avoiding anything that requires much thought.

— comment by Eric Scouten on January 8th, 2013 at 6:50am JST (11 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

In no way am I promoting narcotics… but having said that my friend usually gives me 2 xanax for my annual trip over there. And they always work like a charm. Next time, maybe try those. Wow, the alcohol thing… that is one to ponder.

Jetlag is as a fascinating as it is awful. I can’t help but wonder if the effects are more pronounced due to the noise, dry air, and uncomfortable seating of airplane travel and for you at least 13 hours right? Next trip to Japan I will do my best to try the alcohol thing. Supposedly not eating for 24 hours is suppose to work too. Researchers say that your hunger clock will trump your sleep clock and your body will quickly switch over to get in line with the local chow time… (The hell with that! Giving up the booze on the flight is hard enough.)

Glad your trip to USA was fun. The pics of your kid in the snow looked great.

— comment by Ron Evans on January 8th, 2013 at 1:34pm JST (11 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink
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