Friday, August 17, 2007

The 'man immune to jet lag' get his comeuppance

I am not usually much bothered by 'jet lag'. I like to contain the word in single inverted commas to demonstrate my disdain for the concept, and to assert my mastery over it - if not to disparage others who are more susceptible than me. Although I confess I am sometimes inclined to be uncharitably sceptical of those who complain most bitterly of suffering it, suspecting that the phenomenon generally owes more to self-dramatisation and self-pity than to actual physiological processes.

But.... here I go with the self-dramatisation and self-pity: this time, I have to admit, I am WRECKED.

Taking a flight via Dubai (the only affordable option this month!) was a bit of a nightmare: nearly double the flying the time, and a three- or four-hour layover in the middle of the night.

The timing of that layover didn't help matters: it's really not good to be having to force yourself to stay awake after a long day of travelling, waiting for your second flight which doesn't board until midnight UK time, 3am local time. Usually I like to try to start thinking in 'destination time' as soon as I get on a plane: I like that old trick of changing your watch immediately, so that you are constantly being reminded of what time of day it is in the place you're headed to. But that just doesn't work when you're waiting for a connection, and it's pitch black outside. However much you try to convince yourself it's nearly breakfast time in Beijing, your body just isn't having it.

And a further problem with that wee small hours departure is that everyone wanted to sleep (and keep the blinds closed) throughout the entire Dubai-Beijing flight..... so I didn't see any sunshine until shortly before we touched down in mid-afternoon. And by the time I got back to my apartment, there were barely three hours of daylight left. Soaking up as much sunlight as possible is the key thing in avoiding the dreaded jet lag, I'm sure. I much prefer to arrive early in the morning, and put in a full and active day, no cat-napping, stay up quite late; if I do that, when I finally go to bed I sleep the long, deep sleep of the utterly exhausted, and then wake up at a sensible time the next day with my 'body clock' pretty well adjusted to the new time zone. Late afternoon or evening landings are a bummer.

And it's not just the timezone, but the difference in the hours of daylight that befuddles one's internal sense of timing, I think. 5 days earlier I'd been in Edinburgh, where it stays quite light at this time of year until nearly 10 o'clock at night; here in the much more southerly Beijing it gets dark shortly after 7.

And on top of all that, I was returning immediately to work - putting in a full day at the office on Thursday and Friday (not hugely productive - dull-brained and irritable).

And, as I just mentioned, I left the UK on a day of no daylight; and my first full day back in The Jing was likewise a day of no daylight. That doesn't help.

The first night back, I went to bed late and drunk, and fell almost immediately into a deep, deep sleep. But I woke up only 3 hours later, and just couldn't nod off again. By early evening I was dead on my feet, but I forced myself to stay up - unpacking, tidying up, watching a DVD - until around midnight. I could have had a lie-in until 7, or 8, or perhaps even a bit later this morning.... but instead woke up at 5.30am! Well, that's about normal for me. Maybe I'm back on the right track. Still feeling pretty bloody rundown, though. I feel as though I could sleep all weekend.

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