Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Jet Lag Ninja

First off, let me start by wishing a happy birthday to the absolute best Dad on earth (seriously, ask anyone). He is so sweet that he actually reads my blog, so I know he will see this shout outJI love you, Dad and hope you enjoy your new pool table!

Now anyway, back to me…

There are some people who can function perfectly well with less than 5 hours of sleep. Bill Clinton, Winston Churchill, and every mother with a child under the age of 6. I, on the other hand, am groggy, cranky, and slow-witted if I don’t have at least 8. Really, 9 is optimal. This is why, in my opinion, Jet Lag is one of the most dreadful things about international travel.

I am super strict about my eating, drinking, and exercise habits any time I travel because it is my goal in life to become a jet lag ninja. I restrict my alcohol and caffeine intake, never take naps, sleep with an eye mask, and drink plenty of water. With each voyage, I get a bit better at mastering the pesky inconvenience of restructuring my circadian rhythms.  

People usually get jet lag worse going one way over another. Traditionally, my worst jet lag has occurred coming from Europe to the US, but for most people that is switched around. I usually don’t have an issue initially falling asleep, it’s the staying asleep through the night that trips me up.

I have this crazy internal clock that will wake me up at 6:20 on the dot Aberdeen time, despite the fact that it’s 12:20 AM on the dot in Louisiana. And then I just lay awake, tossing and turning, and am miserable throughout the next day due to my lack of sleep.

When I mentioned this issue to my Dad, he loaned me some melatonin, which is a natural sleep aid that helps you to reset your circadian rhythms. I tried it the first night, and lo and behold, I slept until 6:20 on the dot- Covington time! And I didn't have any trace of that sleep hangover that normal sleeping pills usually give me. It was incredible. I took the supplement for the first 4 days until my body naturally got back on Central Time. Easy Peasy. Jet Lag Ninja status achieved.

Since jet lag isn’t usually so bad for me coming from the US to Europe, I decided to just wing it when I got home. I got cocky. Jet lag, smet lag; I now knew the secret to beating it. The first night back, I easily fell asleep at a decent bedtime and slept through the night.

I felt great and jumped right back into life in Scotland. We caught the new Bond film with friends and made some soup for dinner. We watched 8 episodes of Top Gear on the DVR. Everything was back to normal and the thought of jet lag was far from my mind. Until we laid down at 10 PM and it hit me: I am wide awake.

I tried reading, which is notorious for putting me to sleep. I finished the last 30 pages of my dreadfully boring novel and I was still wide awake. I tried watching Felicity reruns, which usually lulls me to sleep like warm glass of milk. Three episodes in, I was still wide awake. And well, you know what happens next: “If I fall asleep now, I’ll be able to get 5 hours of sleep”, “If I fall asleep now, I’ll be able to get 4 ½ hours of sleep”, “If I fall asleep now…”.
Eventually I nodded off at about 1:30 AM, only to be woken up by Samson’s dragon-imitation snoring at 4:30. And well, that was all for my shut eye that night. I hopelessly started reading Game of Thrones in hopes of falling asleep, but was still at it when Jonathan’s alarm went off at 6. Jet Lag 1; Laine: 0.

I dressed for my morning run and walked Jon to work, panicking about how I was going to get through the day. I knew napping was out of the question, so I made a to-do list of the most productive day in housewife history, starting with a trip to the pharmacy for some melatonin (Take that Jet Lag!).

When I got there, I searched the vitamin aisle without any luck, before scanning the sleep aids. Nada. No worries, I’ll just ask the pharmacist where they keep it stocked. Only when I asked her where I could find the melatonin supplements, she looked at me as if I were a hooligan and sassily informed me that in the United Kingdom, melatonin is a prescription drug.

Uh, I wouldn’t get all judgy Ms. Pharmacist, since I just passed the over-the-counter Codeine on my way to your desk. Yep, codeine. In the United States, we fire people for using that stuff. But sorry, I didn't know that natural sleep aids are apparently restricted in the United Kingdom. Had I been well rested and thinking clearly, I might have just bought some of the *highly addictive* codeine instead to help me sleep, but alas, I left panicked and empty handed.

I headed to Walmart ASDA to see if I could find any sort of gentle sleep remedy and this was all I saw.
Sorry, Scotland, but I don’t think Chamomile tea is going to cut it. I could almost hear Jet Lag laughing at me as I walked up to the counter with my wimpy Sleepy Time Tea blend. I decided that without melatonin, I had no choice but to go old school on jet lag’s butt. I stopped any and all caffeine intake after noon, resisted having a glass of wine with dinner, and brewed my new tea an hour before bedtime.

And look, I want to give Chamomile tea it’s due. When I was a therapist, I whole heartedly recommended the stuff for insomnia. For me personally, the problem with drinking 2-3 cups of hot tea before bedtime is that, well, I have a bladder the size of a peanut. Suddenly, falling asleep isn’t as big of an issue as getting up every 20 minutes to use the bathroom.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. I drank the tea and...I got 8 hours of sleep last night! Whatcha got to say now, Jet Lag? Oh snap!

Now it could just be that I was so tired from my lack of sleep the night before, that I simply needed recovery sleep, and my circadian rhythms are still messed up. We will see tonight, but for now, I think Jet Lag is taking my Sleepy Time Tea a little bit more seriously.

But just in case it doesn’t work so well tonight, what are your personal remedies for Jet Lag? Please, I’m desperate. So desperate that I am washing all of the sheets in the house just to prevent myself from taking a nap in the bed. 
Help me!!


  1. Oh man, I hope that washing the sheets helps prevent you from taking a nap, because I know that it would not if that were me! Unfortunately I have no tips other than what you're doing, those things usually work for me. I hope you get back in your rhythm again soon!

  2. Oh man. I hate jet lag. No napping is best. Cut the caffeine and do some exercise.

    I'm an insomniac but I'm very adamant about not taking anything for it. When I first moved here I went looking for something--anything--to help me sleep. Went to Boots and couldn't find anything natural, so I asked and she looked at me like I was crazy. Then she started asking me a million questions. She wouldn't sell it to me in the end. She actually refused me the sale of an over the counter drug. I was shocked. *shakes head*

  3. Your 'back to me' comment put the biggest smile on my face! My natural remedy for jet lag... Watching golf. That puts me to sleep anytime anyday! Love you my jet setting international friend!

  4. tracy, i caught the same thing!! Back to me! I would have suggested melatonin but i also have a few patients that find success with L-theanine (200mg before bed) unless, of course, that too is rx

  5. I am with your other friends. The "back to me!!!" comment was priceless. Hang in there. It doesn't last that long and I am not sure if washing the sheets would stop me or you as we both love to sleep on the sofas. Oh yeah! you don't have one that you can sleep on. Ooops!! Love you much.

  6. I always have the worst jet lag on long flights(a.k.a. it takes me at least 4+ days to settle back in to a routine), mostly because I can't fall asleep in planes for some reason. That's ridiculous that they don't sell melatonin in Aberden without a prescription, although it makes sense because I never saw it over-the-counter at Boot's. I found a few things that helped me: cutting out the caffeine (which is hard for an architecture student), eating small but filling meals periodically throughout the day (which not only helps you to feel full but minimizes the amount of trips to the restroom during the night), drinking plenty of water, drinking cafe mia/meow (without the espresso or using decaf espressos) as warm milk and honey is relaxing, and there are several apps for the iphone with binaural music that you can listen to when you get back on land that can help aid sleep. Burning lavender incense of sprinkling lavender essential oil supposedly is a folk remedy for insomnia, as with lavender tea. Hope some of those help!