How I Fixed My Jet-lag Problem
I am the worst when it comes to dealing with jet-lag while traveling abroad. It takes me a long time to adjust to the time difference and I usually feel awful for my first few days in the new location. After trying everything to help me overcome my problems with jet-lag, I finally found something that worked for me and I would like to share it with you.
I have been traveling to the United States for almost 10 years now and I love traveling there, but the jet-lag had really become a problem for me during previous trips to the states. The East Coast is a six-hour time difference from Amsterdam and the West Coast is nine hours behind. It is just impossible for me to adjust to that kind of time difference in one or two days.
I usually go to bed around 10:00PM and wake up around 7:00AM, so typically nine hours of sleep. If I do not get my full amount of sleep, I start to feel worse and worse.
For example, say I arrive to the East Coast at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, which is 8:00PM Holland time. Because of the time difference, when I am on the East Coast I feel ready to go to sleep by 4:00PM. If I am traveling to the West Coast, it is even worse and can take me up to two weeks to get into a normal rhythm.
I have had lots of people tell me that when I arrive and I get to the point that I am really tired and sleepy, I should just try and push through by either taking a power nap or just not going to bed. Taking a short nap is not an option for me because if I wake up one hour later, I am already in my night sleeping mode and it makes me feel awful to wake up after a short sleep. Staying up really does not work for me either because I start to feel tired and irritated. At that point, I am not having fun and it is a battle just to get through the evening.
Therefore, the first day of the trip is always hard. I just want to go to sleep, but it is still light out and just does not work well. When I’m in Holland, if I go to bed really late one night, like 4:00 in the morning, I still wake up around 7:00 or 8:00. I have been this way my whole life, even dating back to my time working as a taxi driver. I cannot just extend my biological clock because in Holland, it would be time for me to get up.
The worst part is, if you are awake at 2:00 the morning, what do you do? You are wide-awake because your internal clock thinks it is time to get up, but you are still tired because you did not get enough sleep. People will tell you to just keep sleeping at that point, to stay in bed and try to relax. That has worked for me on occasion, but it takes a couple of hours for me to actually get back to sleep. When you are wide-awake in the middle of the night by yourself, it can be lonely and depressing.
Two years ago, I went to Texas with a friend of mine who has his own trick for jet-lag. When he boards the plane, he sets his watch to the time zone of his destination. So, when we left Amsterdam for Texas, he set the time on his watch forward seven hours. He was sitting right next to me and was able to go to sleep for four hours during the flight. I was amazed because I could never just sleep for four hours in the middle of the day.
A couple of months ago, I decided I would try a new solution and thankfully, it worked. I was in California by myself, without my family, and decided I would not adjust to local time all at, but would instead go by Holland time and then slowly adjust. Instead of taking a power nap or trying to power through until 10:00 p.m. local time, I went to bed at 6:00 p.m. local time, which would have been 3:00 a.m. Holland Time.
I woke up at 2:00 in the morning California time, which gave me 7.5 hours of sleep and was plenty. The only thing that was weird was the fact that I was up at 2:00 in the morning, wide-awake. Fortunately, the Hotel Del Mar, where I was staying, has a 24-hour fitness gym. I made a commitment that I would just drink some water and go workout for a while. After the gym, I came back to my room, showered, read a little bit, and ate breakfast at 6:00 a.m. local time.
Because I had over seven hours of sleep the night before, I did not experience the jet-lag feeling and I was able to have a great day. That night, I again went to bed around 6:00 p.m. and woke up around 2:30 local time. It is easy to incrementally increase the time you go to sleep or wake up, as long as you do not try to adjust by several hours all at once.
Now, I do the same thing when I arrive back in Holland at the end up my trip as well. During my last trip back from the states, I stayed up until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m., which is around three hours later than I would usually go to bed when I am in Holland, and slept until around 11:00 a.m. I felt horrible sleeping so late, but I did not experience jet-lag and I was able to slowly wake up earlier by moving the time I went to sleep incrementally.
For me, this new jet-lag cure has been a lifesaver. I have to make certain adjustments to my work schedule, I try not to plan any evening activities when I first arrive in the states or morning activities when I return home to Holland, but luckily, my lifestyle allows me to make those adjustments.
The lack of sleep is no longer a problem when I travel abroad, the lying awake in the middle of the night is over, and I do not have to experience the feeling of fatigue that comes along with jet-lag anymore. This is a problem I have been trying to fix for the last 10 years, and I am amazed that I have finally found something that works for me.
Now, I have the ability to travel to the United States more often, which is extremely beneficial and opens up new opportunities. I’ve never heard anyone else suggest not to adjust to local time and just slowly adjust your own time, but it has worked for me and may work for you as well if you’ve been struggling with jet-lag.
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