I have just returned from two weeks in Australia. There is a ten hour time difference between Melbourne and Munich and basically I am jetlagged like a bitch. I mean, worse than I ever have been before.
More on that later, but given that I am feeling like a ghost or a zombie, I thought it apt to share with you some photos from my visit to Munich’s oldest graveyard (do you see what I did there? ;)).
I have always been obsessed with cemeteries. Along with my fondness for spiders, it is one of the most surprising and repulsive things about me. I could spend hours walking through them, reading the headstones, trying to find the oldest date, pondering the lives of these real people that history has left behind. Sometimes you stumble upon really sad stories: children who died young; mothers who died of grief shortly afterwards; the elaborate and immaculately tended tombstones of someone who died 20 years ago; or the tombstone now completely overrun with weeds. A cemetery is filled with many conflicting energies: love, sadness, the old, the new, those who have left this world, those who still walk it. The older the graveyard, the more palpable the energy.
It’s not everyday you meet someone who shares your morbid fascinations, so when I learned that my friend Sabine also loves graveyards I was more convinced than ever that she really is a good sort (I don’t think she likes spiders, but you can't have everything in life...) This weekend this lovely lady helped me walk off my jet lag through Munich's oldest graveyard: the Alter Südfriedhof.
So, back to my jetlag. Ever since I got back to Munich, I have been getting sleepy really early and waking up at ridiculous times in the morning. 2.00am, 3.00am, 4.00am. RIDICULOUS.
I might not be selling my credentials right now, but after nearly 20 years of trans-continental travel, I do actually know a thing or two about jet lag. here are some tips on minimizing its impact.
1. Be strategic about sleeping on the plane
Use your flight as a chance to start adjusting to the new timezone. I know that I find it easier to stay awake late rather than going to sleep early, so I always try to arrive at the my destination in the morning local time. That way I just need to stay awake for as long as possible (usually not too difficult when I am travelling to a new and exciting country) and often once you conk out it’s enough to restart you body clock.
Sometimes it makes more sense to sleep on the plane. I always adjust my watch to the new timezone as soon as I get on the flight, and try to use that as my basis for when to (or not to) sleep. But that’s easier said than done – unless you’re lucky enough to be flying Business or First Class, the seats in steerage are not so comfortable. I always bring my neck pillow with me, and some warm socks (I always freeze on planes). I also find that the lights often go on and off at strange times during the flight, so I always pack an eye-mask and earplugs so I can decide for myself when to go to sleep.
And if you don't get to sleep on the plane, don't worry. Use it to your advantage and just make sure you stay awake for the rest of the day. Just try to avoid naps during the day as this will only prolong the jetlag.
2. Get some sunshine
I always find that the best thing to get into the swing of a new timezone is to go for a morning run. Not only is the exercise naturally energizing, if you’re lucky you will also get some exposure to sunlight. This is a really important signal for your body clock to adjust to the new timezone.
3. Going home is always worse
I’ve been told it’s supposed to be easier to go from East to West than the other way round. Firstly, I think that depends on whether you find it easier to go to sleep early or stay awake later. Aside from that, I now have my own theory on the topic: it’s just harder to go home! I think the excitement and expedience of an oversees trip just forces your body to adjust quicker, and without those same incentives once you get home, your body is just a little lazier.
I have also read that the longer you stay in the new timezone, the easier it will be for you to adjust back. It sounds counter-intuitive, but I think that’s the reason why I have struggled so much this time around. I forced my body to adjust to a totally new time zone, and then I tried to force it to go straight back – all within two weeks! No wonder it’s so confused. D'oh!
4. It takes time
They say that your body takes a day to adjust for every hour of time difference. So, given that I am battling a ten hour time difference, I should be back to normal by Monday (Grrr…). But the point is, try not to be frustrated. It’s only in the last century or so that humans have been able to travel between timezones so rapidly, so we’re not really built for it. It takes a while for our bodies to adjust, so be patient!
Do you suffer jetlag? What do you do to adjust to different timezones?