Saturday, December 01, 2007

Flying & jetlag bleg

I flew back to Australia from Italy in a one hop, skip and jump. I am fairly knocked out after 31 hours from source to destination. The travel time was stretched by two 4 hour stopovers and delays.

I have never been particularly good at sleeping on planes but, in recent years I have greatly improved. One or two gin and tonics (more is fairly disasterous) on the longer legs gets me into a fairly disturbed sleep for say 6 or 7 hours out of 12. That still isn’t great - I have friends who easily sleep almost the whole flight – but an improvement over my insomnia of earlier years.

However even with the improved inflight sleep I still suffer from severe jetlag for a week upon arrival in a distant location. It prevents me both from working efficiently and from enjoying myself. I have tried a number of remedies from the hormone melatonin (the only effect it has is to give me a slight headache), to just wandering around in sunshine at the destination, trying to adjust to the new time zone from the time I depart and so on. Nothing works well.

Perhaps I just have unusually stable circadian rhythms. Others do much better than I do. A group of (female) Italian economists I met at a workshop held in Melbourne this year flew in on Thursday, attended the workshop on Friday and Saturday, then flew home Sunday. They attended the workshop dinner on the Friday night and raged away in Melbourne’s clubs afterwards. Yes, compared to me they had at least 20 years of extra youth on their side.

You can take several days break before trying to do much at a destination or stage stopovers en route but this is often impractical and greatly increases the cost of long-distance travel. Do readers have good strategies for dealing with jetlag?


conrad said...

I travel all the time too. Europe to Oz is always bad.

I have a few non-drug strategies:
1) Don't drink the coffee on the plane, and you'll sleep better (the caffeine keeps you awake). But they constantly offer it.
2) Buy a pair of noise-reducing headphones. You'll sleep better. Get the over-the-ear not the in-the-ear type.
3) Try and get to your destination early in the morning if you possibly ca. (say, 10am).
4) Don't sleep until you absolutely must (say, 9pm) once there.
5) Try and eat at the normal times, even if you are not hungry.
6) I go for a job or something if I can when I feel like sleeping. It stops me sleeping for a few more hours.
7) If you can't get to sleep, I could point out the obvious guy solution :)

conrad said...

sorry that should be "jog" not "job"