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Jet Lag Is The Devil, Or, Saturday Morning at 6:27am

It’s Saturday. I returned from Europe Tuesday night. I’m still jet-lagged. Jet lag is the devil, whispering dark thoughts in one’s ear and blowing smoke into one’s heart. It’s almost like losing a self, what with inexplicable surges of appetite, energy, despair, irritability. What with not knowing what you can begin or finish. What with the compelling pull of naps at odd hours and consciousness at 1:30am.

You might think I’m exaggerating. I grant you that. But the way I felt this week took me back to when my kids were babies waking me up in the night to nurse, or just to see me and hear my voice. My daughter didn’t sleep through the night until she was 2 1/2. I had gotten happily pregnant with my son just as my daughter turned 2. Then my son decided not to sleep through the night until he was 2. So in all, I had 30 consecutive months of sleep deprivation, 3 months of late pregnancy sleep, followed by another 24 months of sleep deprivation.

6 weeks after my son started sleeping through the night I woke up one morning and realized I’d been suffering from mild psychosis. If there is such a thing. That I was, in fact, a different person than the sleep-deprived self I’d inhabited for 57 months. An infinitely more cheerful person. One who could jump out of bed with enthusiasm, make a plan, carry said plan to completion, and enjoy feeling tired at the end of the day. Completely different, due only to sleeping an entire night without waking up.

Which leads me to wonder whether our selves are both more fragile and more rooted in the basic systems of being than we might suspect. What with electric lights, and airplanes, and thoughts that can be typed out and sent to everyone in the world who cares and even some who don’t, the modern sense of self is probably both more expansive and less durable than it used to be. It’s possible that happiness is in fact 80% enough sleep, enough to eat, enough exercise, and only 20% all the other stuff we chase.

Of course, this could be jet lag talking. It’s a tricky devil, with a real gift of gab. Have a wonderful weekend. I will probably be napping and trying to eat a lot of dark green vegetables.

29 Responses

  1. I absolutely agree about sleep, diet and happiness. I've noticed that I am much more negative when I need a good night's sleep. Enjoy the napping and greens!

  2. Having once eached near-hallucinatory hysteria in a Paris hotel room one jet-lagged afternoon, I know the bio-chemistry of the self is very fragile.
    But one of my most potent associations with jetlag is the image of my then seven-year old daughter doing jumping jacks in — yet another — Paris hotel room many years ago at 1 or 2 in the morning, her system having realized it had no business sleeping right then, although all the rest of us might have been able to do so without her intervention. . .
    Hope a few more hours of sleep and lashings of the right nutrients get you mended soon. . .

  3. I suffered sleep deprivation when my children were small also and very nearly went off the bend…they were 21 months apart and I was young and energetic then…I could not imagine that feeling now at my age.

    If jet lag is like that I think I'd try that Melatonin that my friends use for time zone changes!

    Nap well, LPC!

  4. I've heard the best way to avoid jet lag is to eat NOTHING on a flight. (I bring a fruit salad and a bar) Drink lots of water -no alcohol- and try to sleep. (tylenol pm anyone?) This works for me.
    The best way to avoid sleep deprivation is to not have children. Luckily it's too late for that.

  5. You are right, jet lag is a major bummer. I've had moderate success with valerian or melatonin to help me get to sleep when I need to. I dread long haul flights in either direction, but always find travelling east to be the worst.

  6. I have never had jet lag, because I have never experienced a long flight. I have had disturbed night sleeps, when my girls were babies. A hospital is a place, where I stay awake most of the night. The private hospitals do serve sleeping pills, which I think is only fair. I hope that you will be able to turn in your normal sleeping rhythm over the weekend : )

  7. I feel your jet-lagged pain, and having experienced extended sleep deprivation due to a child who didn't sleep through the night until age 2.5, I find it an apt analogy. Said child is now nearly 17, with no trouble sleeping through the night or most of the next day when possible. For me, it takes longer and longer to get back on track after long-distance travel. I was recently in the States for a week, and I didn't sleep through the night for 2 weeks upon my return to Paris. My daughter slept through the night from the day we got back. Unfair!

    Bon courage,

    Karen in Paris

  8. Julia – Thank you. I had dandelion greens. Today, romaine.

    Mater – Ha! I can well imagine a 7-year old doing that in the face of jet leg and sleepy parents.

    Hostess – Those were some close together kids:). Glad you survived.

    Jools – I have heard the same thing, but the thought of traveling for 18 hours in total with no food nor alcohol is probably outside of my capabilities at this point.

    Shelley – Have you ever heard of anything that helps the dizziness in the middle of the day? That's probably my biggest issue.

  9. Metscan – So far my only hospital stays as an adult were for the birth of children. I feel hugely fortunate.

    Karen – That's OK. Now you just wait for the 17-year old to have children:).

  10. hi lpc,

    this post reminds me of a day a long time ago. at the time i had 3 small boys and i was severely sleep deprived. standing in line at the market there was a headline on a national enquirer type magazine that read "woman found alive after being locked in closet for 30 days" and i was so jealous of her.


  11. Do what I do, spend the weekend lying on the couch with a good book, some herbal tea and feel free to nap. By Monday you will be back to your normal self….hopefully.

  12. I find jet lag get worse as I get older. I don't have children, but remember one day having what bordered on paranoid delusions when I was doing my medical training. Fortunately, a kind faculty member sent me home to sleep.

  13. This is making perfect sense to all of us I think… nary a one of us disagrees with the basic notion of proper sleep & diet making us happier campers. It's just that you put it so eloquently!

    Bigs smiles at you,

  14. Paris..! We went there for our honeymoon, 10 years ago this December… Siiigh. And as far as lack of sleep – Noah didn't sleep through the night until he was 3. I think I almost lost my mind. Perhaps I did. It's nice to have my mind back – or what's left of it, at any rate.


  15. gardener – I know exactly how you felt. I had a fantasy that I would run away to Portland and hide in a motel for a week. I don't know why Portland.

    Belle – I like your idea very much. Am on sofa right now.

    DocP – Agree. It's getting worse.

    TPP – Thank you. You are sweet as always.

    Maria – Now that Noah sleeps maybe you will get back to Paris:). These things could be related.

  16. I feel your pain. Am feeling, rather. 4 years and two well-spaced children has kept me from a full night of undisturbed sleep. I'm still waiting.

    As for jet lag, the soul clearly travels at slower speeds than planes. You'll just have to wait for it to catch up. Feel well soon.

  17. Hi LPC
    I feel your pain. I never believed that jet lag existed until I flew from Australia to the US. The time difference was what did me in.

    Rest up and look after yourself. Hope you feel better soon.

    SSG xxx

  18. Sorry, no, I don't know what to do about dizziness during the day – a side effect I believe of having interrupted or insufficient sleep. The only thing I know to do is to get the sleep schedule turned back around as quickly as possible. Sort of puts you off travel, doesn't it? Hope you're feeling better soon.

  19. Hi LPC – I read this with dread in my heart – about to embark upon the Sydney/London nightmare trip on Tuesday. When the JL kicks in I shall think of you and this post and know that it's OK to feel as if you're having an out of body experience and it shall (eventually) pass! Best wishes x

  20. I call those feelings the "Twilight Zone" and they are so real. Terrifying what sleep deprivation does to us. :-) Glad you are back safe and sound anyway! xoxo

  21. Amen. We have a 21 and 18 year old that come and go all day and night long. And a 6-year-old son who doesn't get this and wakes cheerfully and with great enthusiasm every morning at 6am. Throw in a couple of robberies over the last couple of weeks and you got yourself a crazy woman. I, too, am reminded when I was a breastfeeding mom and my baby was waking me three or four times a night. So here's to a full night sleep, deep hued veggies and deep breaths. Now go get some sleep.

  22. jasi – that's the most lovely explanation I've ever heard. I think I hear my soul unpacking as we speak.

    SSG – Thank you. I'm doing better. I can only imagine the lag from Australia is as bad as China.

    Shelley – Just like the lack of sleep was the only thing that could put me off another kid:).

    Susie – Good luck. Best wishes right back.

    Preppy 101 – Exactly. The Twilight Zone, and no Edward Cullen to save me.

    Michelle – That sounds truly hair-raising. Not to joke about it, but you'd think with everyone awake at all hours robbers would stay far away.

  23. I, luckily, never suffered jet-lag too terribly. However, I did suffer terribly from no sleep when all my children were babies. I've been sleeping like a mother of a newborn lately as well and it is terrible. I need my sleep. It saves my sanity and gives me energy. When I get run down I get sick. In times of no sleep Caffeine is indeed my best friend. But Sugar is not.

  24. Oh oh oh, Antwerp and Paris, I have missed so much – will catch up tomorrow – isn't Antwerp station a wonder?

  25. Jet lag IS the devil and I so suck at dealing with it! Welcome home!

  26. How I sympathise with you LPC… know exactly what it feels like as one that travels back and forth on a (fairly) regular basis. Drink lots of water, rest as near as you can to normal times (i.e. if you feel tired at 8pm go to bed then for your night's sleep but try not to go earlier than that). Know that it WILL pass and don't wonder if you are coming down with 'flu or something which is what I often think is about to happen and then, hey presto! – I am ok. You will be soon! x

  27. I didn't have children and don't understand how mothers of babies with full-time jobs survive. I don't think I could have handled it. At least if you're home, you could take a nap when they do to compensate for the sleepless nights.

  28. By now, Monday, hoping you are renewed. I take Imovane to sleep when I am tired but wired (for only a few days). Feel no compunction about using modern chemistry to get over this nasty hump. Sleep deprivation is torture.

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