One of the funny side effects of travel is developing a distorted sense of time. The world is so large, with so many time zones and even the international date line. When you think about other far away places, it is always the middle of the night, somewhere. This is along the same line as the old saying which justifies having an alcoholic drink early in the day, “it is 5 o’clock somewhere”. Along with that line of thinking, if you find yourself laying awake fretting about not sleeping, just get up. It does not matter if it is pitch black outside. At least you can do something, anything, rather than experience the dreaded tossing and turning. You will be awake along with other people, in another place.
I have a good reason for being up at the crack of stupid. JET LAG. Oh the dreaded condition. The recovery from this is assured. The time frame depends on the level of exposure and how many zones were travelled. The process is different for everyone. The common ground is the middle of the night. The dark, quiet, lonely hours when it feels like everyone in the world is peacefully dozing.
Of course that is not true. Otherwise your body would not be telling your mind to wake up! Funny how that works. There seems to be some kind of programming glitch in the brain. Intellectually we are walking around, talking and otherwise going through the motions when our mind is wading through a fog. And then, a few hours later, the brain is ready to start the day and sends all kinds of strange signals to the body. Like let’s get up, we are hungry!
Experts suggest it can take one day per hour of time zone travelled in order for the body to recover. Then there are all kinds of theories regarding the direction you travel in, having some kind of effect on the body’s ability to adjust to the disturbance. I also think stress and other mitigating factors can play a role. Some people do not sleep well normally, so jet lag compounds their problems.
I am pretty healthy and I normally sleep well. But jet lag gives me an opportunity to become acquainted with the night. This will pass, which is my mantra. But, when my body is speaking to me, I listen. For the time to be alone and do whatever I want, is precious. In those hours is a sense of freedom which is hard to come by in life. Sure, I’ll be tired later in the day, but I would be tired anyway. There are no shortcuts. Time heals all. So why not enjoy it?
I’ve not always had such a good attitude. In fact, if I let my fear take over the conversation at 3am, I am likely to become resentful. I want to cast blame at a guilty party. I feel like there needs to be a reason for my life being less than perfect. As if any of those thoughts could make me sleep better!
It has taken me a long time to make peace with all the delights along the road. Jet lag is part of the journey, if travelling to far away places. Why not be prepared for that, just like being ready to sit on a plane for 10 hours? My journal and pencil stands ready, if I am able to turn on the light. If I am sharing a bedroom, my headphones let me listen to podcasts. Or, I just get up and get going with the day.
In every situation we have a choice to enjoy life, no matter what the circumstances are. By going down a positive path we can protect our minds from a variety of negative thoughts and experiences. There are always two sides on every coin. I prefer to focus on the good side, even if the toss appears to land on the other.
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Latest posts by Christine Westermark (see all)
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