Posted by: drrozkaplan | March 29, 2010

Jet Lag

While it seems I may have fallen off the face of the earth, I was just on the other side of it for the last 2 weeks.  I didn’t post anything during that time for the simple reason that I couldn’t.  I’m not sure whether it was because I was in China, or because of the University network I was on, but I was unable to connect to this site.  I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Facebook is unavailable in China, as is U-Tube, along with many other sites where information and opinion are shared. As we all know, Google is pulling out of China because of censorship. Before I left to go to China, the emails I received from my friend there were censored.  It happened that the censoring was unnecessary and made no sense (It’s cold  here now- I suggest you bring a null. I have a null in my apartment but no dryer.- Clearly the rule is ‘if in doubt, take it out’ – and the people reading the emails have a lot of doubts.  Or could her email originally have read ‘It’s cold here now-I suggest you bring a machine gun.  I have a bomb in my apartment but no dryer???)  Anyway, suffice it to say, I couldn’t post anything.

I did have an amazing two weeks, though.  Not everything about China is censorship or anything to be negative about at all-  but I will leave that for another day.  Today, I am dealing with jet lag.  Serious jet lag, and I’d like to share a little of that with you.  I wish I could quite literally share it with you.  Then I wouldn’t have to suffer it alone.  But as it is, I can’t do that… I arrived home at about 7 pm last night, and one day into being home, I am really feeling jet lag’s effects.

China’s time zone is exactly 12 hours difference from Philadelphia’s.  8 pm here= 8 am there.  So my body thinks it’s day when it’s night.  In addition to that, I traveled for over 24 hours.  I left for the airport in Chonqing at 6 am for an 8 am flight to Beijing on Saturday morning (Friday night in Philadelphia).  I arrived in Beijing at 11 am., changed terminals, waited around, and then boarded a flight for Newark, NJ at 4 pm (4am in Philadelphia).  We flew for 14 hours, arriving in Newark at 6 pm (6 am Beijing time).  By the time I got through immigration and customs, it was 7 pm.  My husband and daughter picked me up and we drove home to Philadelphia, a two-hour trip, arriving home at 9 pm.  Overall travel time 27 hours.

I slept off and on, one or two hours at a time during the flight from Beijing.  And somehow, probably out of sheer exhaustion, I slept all night last night, even though my body believed it was daytime.  But I’ve been dragging all day today, and at 5 pm I couldn’t help lying down for a nap for 90 minutes.  Now I’m trying to stay up until 11.

No matter what I do, though, my body is going to feel mixed up, probably for at least a week.  I might be able to get myself to sleep at night and function during the day right away- in fact I’m going to have to, since I’m going back to work tomorrow- but my biorhythm will not be back on track that quickly.  That means I will feel sleepy at odd times, my sleep may be disturbed, my appetite may be off, and my mental acuity may not be at its best for the next few days.  Common wisdom tells us it takes a day to readjust for every hour of time difference.  If that’ true, then it will take 12 days for everything to be completely normal.

People ask me why I don’t just use medication to fix this.  What medication?  Well, sleeping pills, like Ambien or Lunesta, to ensure sleep at the correct time, would be one thing to do.  And I suppose if I were having a lot of trouble with insomnia this would be an option.  Another drug being touted for the purpose of overcoming sleep-wake cycle problems is Provigil, a medication that improves wakefulness and mental acuity.  It has been shown effective for people with sleep disorders that cause undue sleepiness during the day, and for occupational issues, such as shift workers, who must suddenly shift from day to night work.  Some people are suggesting that it can be used short-term, perhaps in combination with a sleeping pill, to correct jet lag.

Personally, I think the whole idea of using such medication for jet lag is rather extreme.  Jet lag is a normal phenomenon.  It’s a set of symptoms that tell your body that you’ve done something unnatural, i.e. fly from one side of the world to the other.  We weren’t meant to do this.  So of course, we’re going to suffer the consequences.  Trying to ‘fix’ this normal phenomenon with a bunch of chemicals smacks of Saturday Night Live’s ‘Puppy Uppers and Doggie Downers.’

It’s just another example of people having no patience with the body’s own power to heal and adjust, and instead demanding a ‘quick fix’ to every discomfort.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, there is no such thing as a quick fix, and there is no drug without a side effect.  Maybe the jet lag won’t be as bad, but the medications cause risks, and there may be rebound sleepiness or insomnia getting off the medications.

So what am I going to do?  I’m going to try to get as much sleep as possible, eat properly, drink a lot of water, get some gentle exercise, and ease back into my world.  No Puppy Uppers or Doggie Downers for me.  I’m going to try to be patient.  And I’m going to enjoy the pictures from my trip.

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