I can say this now because I think I am finally over the hurdle...jetlag sucks. And I'm not talking about the little speed bump we East Coasters get when we go to London and suffer the minor inconvenience of not being able to fall asleep there until midnight or wanting to sleep in that first day on the ground. I'm talking "12 hours difference, my body thinks it's daylight when it's dark, I'm ravenously hungry at 2 a.m. and how many bad American informercials must I suffer through before I fall asleep" jetlag.
Before China (my version of "B.C."), jetlag was a speed bump for me, that is the best way to put it. I'd force myself through that first day on the ground in Europe, get up at 8 a.m. the second day and be fine. No harm, no foul, no medication required. But going to China was not a speed bump, it was a shift in the tectonic plates in my brain. I climbed into bed on the first night in Beijing, exhausted from 24+ hours of travel and our first group meal which was so blurred I can barely remember it now. And there I was, staring at the ceiling for 8 hours. I may have gotten snatches of sleep, but nothing that would allow me to feel either refreshed or that I had made any gains on the time difference. That continued for 2 nights until I found drugs, thanks to a friendly pharmacist and physician in our group. Once I started to catch up, the momentum built by a few nights of decent slumber got me over the hurdle, until I felt almost normal again on Saturday, when I was just 48 hours from going home and having to do it all over again.
My first night back in my own bed, I heard the town's church bells chime 1:00, 2:00, 3:00 and 4:00. I decided to just lay in bed until daylight, and was astonished to wake again at 11:56 a.m. I guess that makes sense as my body thought it had gone to sleep close to sundown in Beijing. The next night it was more listening to the church bells, so I watched bad reality tv and informercials until sometime before 5:00 when I finally drifted off to sleep, only for the alarm to go off at 5:50 a.m. for work
Getting through work that day....argh. Imagine, if you will, being unable to focus your eyes, let alone your mind. Imagine that your head is being pulled by some magnetic force to the center of the earth and you can barely resist the pull. Imagine that your cognitive skills are so muddied that you e-pay all your bills twice. Yes, that was me.
I stopped at CVS and begged the pharmacist for help. He pointed me to melatonin and sent me on my way. As darkness approached though, I felt better the later it got. That makes sense, because my body was coming out of the sleep cycle I had been forcing it to resist all day. I was tempted not to take the melatonin, because I felt so good compared to the daylight hours, but took it precisely for that reason; I was too keyed up to sleep. Last thing I remembered, it was 9:37. Next thing I knew it was 6:10 a.m.
Two more nights of melatonin, I think and I should be right as rain. It'll be going with me on my next trip too, no sense in needless suffering. Today I celebrate being over the hump.