Sleep and Jet Lag

Photo: Lirum Larum Café, Berne, Switzerland


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Woke up around 4 in the morning with my mind on over drive. Had to jot down a few ideas, clear a few buffers and now I am considering going for a run because that is what recharges my batteries, clears the buffers, and resets my system best. Sometimes Aikdio is just not enough. I trained three times this week, and my silly body is still begging for more movement although I – that is my mind – would rather go back to sleep, shut my eyes, bury my head in the sand. It is however not part of my plan, I am rather egoistical about this, and there is some work ahead. I think that it is in realizing how very full my diary is that I am waking up at four in the morning ready to tackle the noise.

I twittered this just a while ago, and immediatly found a jet lagged Steph ready to offer some empathy. I on my side was not quite ready to offer much consolation to a jet lagged person.

To begin with I researched my master’s thesis during the night because that is when I could get the mainframe all for myself. I was doing the kind of number crunching that just required that much CPU then, seems rather boring now, it was not then. This had me in an asynchronous schedule to all others at the University, so I had to learn to deal with it. I did, and I also learned that the morning hours are my favourite ones. Sleep is sleep. What works for me may not work for you.

While preparing for my doctoral exam, I went on for weeks of cycling between 4 hours of sleep and 8 hours awake. I learn best with this rhythm, and again, it is a different place from normal 8 hours sleep and 16 awake. This was however a period of time when I may have been impossible to live with, certainly my marriage did not survive the ordeal.

As part of my exploration and experimentation with personal development while I was living in the Darmstadt/Frankfurt area I got to try a few new things that involved sleep, namely staying awake and active for three days in a row. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but if you never tried it, you have no idea. It is not the sort of thing that I recommend doing without guidance, it does require some knowledge to manage one’s energy through such a process in a group. Do not try this alone. This is perhaps as close as I have gotten to doing drugs, or so I imagine, because one does reach other states of conscientiousness that were otherwise not accessible.

Then I have worked as a consultant jetting between the continents and accumulating more bonus miles than I could ever spend. Here is what I have learned:

– Sleep hygiene and sleeping on a schedule are not the same thing. I need a certain sleep hygiene that is very much according to my body’s rhythms. I do need a minimum sleeping cycle of four hours but I have to be keenly aware of what my body and mind are telling me.
– When dealing with jet travel across time zones what works best for me is to start managing my sleep before I even get on the airplane. I do this also but taking into account the demands on my schedule at the destination, and then for long flights, I do take a day to reset my internal clocks to be manageable. I just make sure that I show up for a long flight ready to go to sleep. I have trained myself to fall asleep the minute I buckle down in my seat. I sleep on short hauls too and that reduces Geneva to Lisbon to a nice nap. Really, sleeping in an airplane in coach sitting down is a matter of training. Sleep is sleep. Just learn to relax and get a head support if you need it.
– When jet lagged it is important to tune in to the sunshine, exercise, eat lightly and drink lots of water without carbon dioxide.
-Because of dietary restriction I can not eat airplane food anyhow, so that solves two problems for me. I do not get disturbed by being served food, and I am traveling on a light stomach. If you are not used to regular fasting this may be difficult for you. I do fast regularly, usually during Ramadan, but also within Buddhist practices. I eat meat, this is not a religious thing. These are things that I have discovered that work for me, your mileage may differ.

By the way, I do sleep like a rock anyhow, but I can also lay down and take a cat nap for 15 minutes and be refreshed. Cat naps do not involve deep sleep. If I have a flu coming I can also sleep for twelve hours straight and then skip the bloody flu altogether. If I do not catch it early enough, I suffer like the rest of the folks.

Now, running I go!

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