I’ve been wanting to write something about our experience with jet lag, but my head has been so muddled that I haven’t been able to put my thoughts together.
Our two weeks of self-quarantine after our flight home from China was over yesterday. We’re hoping that the effects of jet lag are gone as well. For some reason after traveling west to Beijing we experienced very little jet lag. We seemed to adjust quickly to our new time zone and had little problem sleeping through the night right from the beginning.
That has not been our experience in coming home. The first week we were home the best sleep we got was in the middle of the afternoon. Midnight in California is 3 PM in Beijing. Darkness doesn’t seem to convince the body that it is in California and not in Beijing. It doesn’t help that even during the California day our minds were operating as if we were sleep walking even though we were technically awake. It is a very frustrating feeling.
The longer travel day may have contributed to our struggles and last night was the first night since we got home that we both slept past 2 AM. It is as if our bodies traveled east and the part of us that controls sleep traveled west. The two have not quite found each other yet. Our bodies are in California, but it is as if our sleep center is still in Colorado. We can get 8 hours of sleep, but only if we go to bed at 7:30 PM and accept that we will be getting up at 3:30 AM.
I had to deal with this when I traveled on business and the experience was similar, but not as severe. It seemed easier to adjust on arrival at the destination. I expect that this was partly due to the activities scheduled at the destination. Meetings and meals were going to occur according to the clock at the destination and not according to my body clock. Coming home was always harder, regardless of whether I was coming from east or west. The flexibility of the home schedule made it more difficult for the body to adjust, but there were enough scheduled activities to accelerate the adjustment. Often I would come down sick and somehow spending all day in bed for several days helped my body adjust.
We are getting older and now that our schedules are not tied to the activities of others the trip home has been much more challenging. Shelter in place due to COVID-19 has not helped. Binge watching television does not seem to help the physical body and the body’s clock get in sync. The sun is supposed to come out this week and I’m hoping that more outdoor time will help to reset our body clocks. We’ll try to stay up until 7:45 PM tonight and see if we can sleep until 3:45 AM.