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Jet lag - how does it affect you?

I am constantly reading here how difficult some things are when you have jet lag. So driving I get - your reaction times are slower when you are tired and the chance of falling asleep behind the wheel is greater when you are tired. But some things folks say here that are difficult when jet lagged I can't even comprehend being an issue.

I realize I am probably the exception but when we arrive after a long overnight flight we are pretty well ready to go. We drop our bags at our hotel and head out. We will return in the afternoon and check-in, DH will generally have a nap before dinner (he has 26 years on me) and I will get us settled and figure out our evening plans. I go to bed at the normal time and awake the next day well rested. Never have I felt like I was unable to complete the tasks required to get where I am going and get the things I need.

How does it affect you?

Posted by
102 posts

I tend to be tired and slow on the uptake. So I wouldn't want to drive. But I might also have a hard time doing things that take more concentration--like say securing lodging in a foreign language in a place I have never been. But I also usually do not sleep much on airplanes. All the way to China and back with only a couple hours of sleep total on a plane, for example. So I'm combating sleeplessness as well as jet lag itself. The good thing for me is that except for planes, I generally find it easy to sleep and so once we are on the ground I tend to adjust to the new sleep time easily. My husband who has insomnia finds that piece much more difficult.

Posted by
1424 posts

Adrenaline fuels me most of the time. The dumbest travel mistake I ever made was driving about 4 hours from Dublin to where ever immediately after landing. Strange car, unfamiliar roads, driving on the left - it could have ended badly but I got lucky. I do a caffeine fast for a few days before I leave home, so the first coffees I have in Europe seem to have extra kick. Coffee, exercise, and adrenaline keep me awake my first day until a regular local bed time. I won't allow myself a nap, no matter how much I want it. The payoff is that the next day the jet lag is entirely gone. When I have allowed myself a nap on the first day, the jet lag has dragged on for a few days so for me that may be the key.

Also, the Grammar Jerk says it's affect not effect.

Posted by
2723 posts

Hi,

Our usual is an overnight flight to Munich. We arrive around 8am., get the car and drive anywhere from 2 to 3 hours to our first destination. Once we walk out of the airport, it's like "wow, let's get going!", and we're getting close to 60 years young. We stop and sightsee along the way. We arrive at our first "hotel" somewhere between noon and 2pm. Relax, take a walk around, go have dinner around 6pm., come back, hang out for a while and usually fall asleep around 9pm. Next day, all is normal.

Posted by
1068 posts

Regarding the original question.... it has been different for me almost every time I travel. Jet Lag has had virtually no effect at times, to a nagging feeling of tiredness/slowness for 5-6 days, to feeling dead 1 day with no noticeable effects after a night's sleep. Always different. As one poster already noted about themselves, I also do not sleep well on planes so often arrive sleep deprived.

Posted by
2353 posts

Thank you grammer police - I did not change the spelling when I changed my syntax from "What are the effects for you? Strunk & White are rolling over!

Posted by
2049 posts

Christi, for me, the effects are much the same as yours and my plan also nearly the same. I get to where I'll be staying. If it's a hotel and the room isn't ready yet, I'll just store the bag there and head out. I'll explore my neighborhood or do something I have previously planned, return to check into my accommodations and head out again. I relax over drinks and dinner relatively early, take an evening stroll (usually looking for gelato) and then head to bed at my usual time. I always sleep well. Next morning, I am rested and on the local time. Coming home is a different story as we follow the sun home to Denver and that really throws me! I try to get acclimated as quickly as possible but I do have minor sleeping issues for a couple of nights. Maybe because I don't really want to come home?

Posted by
1581 posts

I live on the west coast of the US. I am miserable for days if I arrive in Europe early in the morning! If I arrive in Europe mid to late afternoon, I find I don't have as much difficulty with jetlag and I acclimate much faster.

Posted by
2723 posts

I agree that the trip home is worse. We always come home on a Friday evening so we can re adjust for Monday morning work.

Paul

Posted by
6774 posts

The arrival day is fine, but the problem for first few nights is waking up about 1 - 2 AM local time, and not being able to get back to sleep, resulting in a constant feeling of tiredness.

Posted by
1878 posts

I would say that jet lag affects us moderately, and the first day is mostly a throwaway to get adjusted. I completely cannot understand how some people can get off the plane and go directly to the Uffizi or the Tower of London and expect to enjoy it. No way would I plan to see a sight I cared about seeing upon the day of arrival (we leave from California). We usually take a two hour nap upon arriving at our hotel, then a walk around town and have dinner, then to bed around 10 p.m. I know the conventional wisdom says stay awake until a normal bed time, but that has never worked for us. I am usually sleep deprived to begin with and my wife likes her sleep (who doesn't?), so out method works great for us. On some trips we wake up in the middle of the night the first couple of nights of our trip, but on our last trip (to Ireland) when our plane landed around noon, we did not have this problem. One time I did drive after landing, but I was ten years younger and would not attempt this now. Adjusting after returning home is a lot harder. Partly because I can't sleep in a little when my body needs it, and partly because what I am doing during the day is not as stimulating as travel. I have also decided that going forward, I am always going to build in a buffer day before going back to work. I used to work for a company where I was routinely asked to work the same day after landing on an overnight trip, and I used to figure if I have to do that for work then why not add a day to my vacation. Now the cost/benefit analysis says no, take a day to recover. It still takes three days or so back to not have moments of extreme sleepiness though. That said, I'm not immune to those moments on a normal day either. I think the fact that I have often been sleep challenged in my life helps me to power through jet lag. Exercise always helps, and it's probably easier to adjust in the spring when days are longer than in the fall. In Ireland the sunset was not until after 9 p.m. in early may, that seemed to help.

Posted by
3696 posts

Just like everyone has a different body clock and time schedule at home (I am a morning person) so is the same for jet lag... I sometimes sleep a little on the plane, but when I land it is like I have a ton of energy and start right into my trip. Usually that involves driving a few hours, then checking into hotel and seeing the first city... go to bed early and I am right on track.
Maybe some people can't drive after flying, and if I ever felt too tired I would not. Everyone is different, so as a responsible adult you have to do what is right for you.

Going home is definitely worse for me... takes me a bit to get back on our time.... but I do have to drive home from the airport.

Posted by
339 posts

I don't sleep well on the plane so am usually sleep deprived and jet lagged. Have been known to just fall asleep on a park bench on arrival while trying to stay awake until evening.

The worse part is coming home. Both of us are like zombies for about a week, waking up and napping at all hours. Being hungry at all hours. But it's all worth it.

One thing that works for us is stopping on the East coast for a few days visiting family on the way to Europe and coming home. May not work for some people but good for us.

Posted by
279 posts

It definitely hits me, and while it is getting better with age (when I was a teenager, I would feel for days like I had been run over by a truck. Oddly, this was when I was drinking neither caffeine or alcohol, the jet lag no-nos), it is still hard. Taking a long nap absolutely drags it out, and my sightseeing time is precious anyway, so I do my best to power through. I trick/reward myself by pre-booking/pre-paying an evening activity that I REALLY want to do, and allow myself, if necessary, to have a short power nap in the very early evening. That way, I'll be sure to overcome the temptation to stay in bed. Obviously, the more sleep I can get on the plane, the better I feel. I've also noticed that I do better if I'm in a cooler climate and avoid any heavy, rich foods for a day or two.

Caroline

Posted by
1976 posts

If I can sleep on the plane, I'm usually good to go until about 1:00 in the afternoon. I sleep for an hour, wake up groggy, but then feel so much better and like I'm finally on local time. I fall asleep around ten, then wake up at 2am or 3am and am wide awake for a couple hours. Then I fall asleep and wake up at a decent hour, anywhere between 8:00 and 9:30. On the second day, I'm fully on local time.

When I come home, usually I fall asleep early (around 10pm) and wake up early (between 5am and 6am). That lasts for a week or 10 days.

When I came home from Paris a few weeks ago, our plane arrived 2 hours late to St. Louis from Newark. I was expecting to get in at 9pm and fall asleep at 10pm so I didn't sleep at all on the transatlantic flight. By the time I got to my house at midnight, I had been awake for 24 hours. Then I had to get up and go to work the next day. I functioned, but not well. That night I slept for about 10 hours and was fully on local time after that. This was the first time since high school that I didn't have any jet lag after I got home.

Posted by
4585 posts

I plan the details ahead of time for the first day, so I don't need to make as many decisions, i.e. I'll look at the airport layout ahead of time, figure out the local transportation or purchase train tickets ahead of time, etc.

I immediately go outside after checking into the hotel and walk as much as possible in the sunshine - no museums or churches the first day. On the other hand, my hubby takes a nap when we check into the hotel (we're from Seattle & he doesn't sleep on the plane), so it affects us differently. What bothers me more than jet lag is the feeling that I'm still flying ~a bit dizzy, so the walking helps.

When we fly back to Seattle, I usually have a harder time adjusting back to our time zone.

Posted by
524 posts

I was so worried about this. I think I got 3 hours sleep on the plane, but we did great that arrival day. It was actually a normal day, then did go back to our hotel and wentbto bed at 9. Slept great, and no jet lag. Coming home is when I had problems and it took almost 2 weeks to finally get back to normal.

Posted by
127 posts

Generally, I'm good for a few hours of sightseeing after dropping off the bags at the hotel early am. When (and it happens) the hotel actually has a room available upon arrival, it is a bonus since I can get cleaned up properly and orient myself before heading out. I generally do better on the longer flights to Europe because I tend to get some sleep on the way over. My flight to Dublin (a relatively short hop) was miserable for any number of reasons the fault of Aer Lingus and I also got no sleep. I was completely brain-dead and spent by the time I actually was able to get to my room.

Posted by
127 posts

Also, the Grammar Jerk says it's affect not effect.

I hate that guy.

Posted by
9363 posts

How does it affect me? It doesn't. I get maybe 3-4 hours of "sleep" on the plane going over, arrive in the early morning, and just keep moving until bedtime. The next day, I am fine. On my most recent trip, three weeks ago, I arrived in Madrid at 8:30, checked into my hotel, showered, made a couple of shopping stops, then met people for lunch. After that, we walked and did some sightseeing, finally returning to the hotel around 8:00 pm. I was never groggy or disoriented, or anything else.

Posted by
31510 posts

Dealing with jet lag seems to get fined-tuned a bit on each trip, but for the last few years it's been following a somewhat similar pattern.

I try to get some sleep on the flight going over, but have never been too successful with that. I can generally mange a couple of short naps (maybe half an hour each), and that's all. After check-in at the hotel, I've found that I often need a power nap to keep going until bed time in the new time zone, but I'm careful to limit that to no more than two hours. I've tried the "fresh air & sunshine" approach that's recommended in the guidebooks, but it only seems to be minimally effective for me.

On the trip to Europe, I seem to adjust within a day or two. The trip home always seems to be worse and it sometimes takes a week to get back to normal. I suspect jet lag is more of a problem for those of us travelling from the west coast.

I worked shift work for over 40 years and I thought that might have helped to deal with jet lag, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

Posted by
12964 posts

Hi,

What effect does jet lag have on me? In my 20s I would have answered what jet lag? Going over the first two times in 1971 and 1973, I didn't know what it was, even though I didn't make it point to try to sleep on the 11 hr direct flight. Since I turned 50 or so, I don't have jet lag effects since I try to sleep on the plane, sometimes more, other times less, regardless of the tempting movies. . There have been flights from SFO during which I sleep over six hours. No pills, sleep aids of any type. In that lucky case, I'm good to go once clearing Border Control, picking up the luggage after landing before noon. Landing at 0900 local time or earlier is fine. Once I landed at CDG at 1400, it threw me a bit in terms of time getting adjusted.

The flights I pick going over be it London, FRA, or Paris are based on over night flights, departing from 1400 to 1530, direct, take ca 11 hrs, land there from 0930 to noon. By two or three pm I've checked in, if not earlier. or on the ICE train. The first night I turn in at normal time if I can resist watching TV. Then I'm at breakfast by 0800.

I only drive on the return flight to SFO, which usually early evening. That's different, it's my own car, in SF or the free ways here where I know the roads, back in the home turf, as it were.

Posted by
8168 posts

I never sleep on flights so am always quite tired when I arrive, no matter which direction it is. Going to the US, it is the day that never seems to end, but am usually up and ready to go the next morning. May want to go to bed a bit earlier for a few days, but that's about it. Coming back to Germany, taking a short nap is helpful to me. There have been a couple of times where I actually had to go to work on arrival day. Not fun! Going out and walking around will keep me perky though.
So, jet lag doesn't seem that bad, more simple tiredness that is easily taken care of. Would never dream of driving a car though after a long flight.

Posted by
123 posts

I get terrible jet lag, partly because I can't sleep much in the plane. On our last trip we arrived in Rome at 7 am. Got to hotel by 10. I snuck a nap for 1-2 hours, and then I was fine. The jet lag was much better than previous trips. So a short nap works for me!

Posted by
2353 posts

While we have never had a real problem with jet lag we have discovered the cure for it!

One of the perks of being retired is time. We have discovered the joy of the Trans-Atlantic cruise. Our last trip we cruised eastbound and flew home. Our next trip we will fly over and cruise home. The other cure is frequent flyer miles. We were able to get first class saver tickets for the trip home - I am now ruined! This trip we will do the same for the flight over.

Posted by
15035 posts

Maybe it doesn't happen to everyone, yet for a lot of people it impairs thinking - you can be much more forgetful, make poor decisions, have difficulty absorbing information, whether you've slept or not. If you're not driving a car or buying an antique, you are fine and don't realize the effect - or write it off as lack of sleep.

Posted by
925 posts

I also cannot sleep on the flight, so I am really tired when I arrive. The excitement of starting a new trip and being in a new place keeps me going for the arrival day. I tend to have spells of extreme sleepiness and bursts of energy throughout that day. I stay awake all day and usually just try to walk around and explore the area I'm staying in, get dinner, and go to bed around 9. I usually sleep through the first night and I am fine the next day. Coming home is much worse. For the first week or so I get really tired by late afternoon.

Posted by
11613 posts

I don't get jet lag, but I am cranky after the transatlantic flight, and I try to have some euro with me since I am mathematically challenged regardless of where I am, or what time it is.

On the return trip, I am disoriented and can't adjust for a week, but I think that is Returner's Remorse, not jet lag.

Posted by
2353 posts

Zoe - me too! I think I have Acute Chronic Returners Remorse! Horrible affliction!

Posted by
11613 posts

I think we need an ACRR support group, Christi - or is the Travel Forum that?

Posted by
2353 posts

While not a cure it certainly does help!😀

Posted by
12964 posts

Totally understand the remorse syndrome and all that it might entail. On the flight back even it's longer, maybe more than 11 hrs. than going over since you don't have the wind at your back going to SFO, I don't care if I sleep or not or be jet lagged. Usually it does not happen, still there were a few times.. All I know is I'll at least doze or sleep a couple of hours but no where as longer going over. Mainly, it doesn't matter unlike landing in Paris or FRA. I drink a bit more coffee at dinner or red wine, watch the movie, etc. You're flying into the light anyway during the whole 11 hours.

Maybe it doesn't happen to everyone, yet for a lot of people it impairs thinking - you can be much more forgetful, make poor decisions, have difficulty absorbing information, whether you've slept or not. If you're not driving a car or buying an antique, you are fine and don't realize the effect - or write it off as lack of sleep.

Posted by
3493 posts

When going to Europe, I am completely out of it on arrival after an all night flight and would not trust myself to try to drive or even buy a train ticket. I usually arrive a day before my tour officially starts and have decided after years of trying various options I will just find a hotel room near the airport and sleep the day away getting up to eat as I feel the urge. Next morning I am rested, clear headed, and ready to go.

It is difficult to describe the full impact on me of jet lag. I have worked various jobs my entire life where I either had to be up and working at off hours or in on-call positions where I never know when I might get called to do something requiring my full alertness and attention. I have never had problems with the jumbled sleep pattern that causes. You would think that I would be fine with the flight over and not sleeping. But something is different. My brain is foggy. Things that I normally would have no problem doing can take me multiple attempts. Remembering how to say "Thank You" in the local language, and sometimes even in English, can be near impossible. Nothing but sleep fixes that.

I found there are daytime flights from New York to London Heathrow on a couple airlines that departs at around 08:00 Eastern time and arrive in Heathrow around 20:00 London time. These flights work great for me because I wake up at a normal time in the US and then when I get to London it is time for a late dinner and then bed time. Absolutely no jet lag on that flight! Only problem is I have to get to New York a day earlier since no flights from where I currently live get to New York early enough for the 08:00.

Posted by
2326 posts

I like to arrive no earlier than noon-ish in Europe, then keep busy til bed at 8--the next day I'm perfectly acclimated and rarin' to go. Arriving home (west coast) I like to arrive in mid-afternoon, again to bed by 8-9--the next couple of days I'm up earlier than is normal for me on a day off, like 6 or 7 am, and I purposefully give myself a couple of days before returning to work.

I know my body and what suits me, so no matter how attractive an airfare is, if I can't choose an arrival as described above it's just not worth it to me to sacrifice being functional to save money.

Posted by
1848 posts

When I first started to travel to Europe, I felt extremely tired and had a really queasy tummy for a day. Now that I'm older I don't need as much sleep so I don't feel tired or queasy. However, now I do feel slightly disoriented on arrival as my internal compass is off and I would have difficulty handling anything too complicated (akin to having a couple of alcoholic drinks). I manage to walk around on arrival and feel fine the next day.

Posted by
12964 posts

After an eleven hour flight back to SFO, I have no problems driving home on the freeway or taking the longer, slower way. No way would I drive upon landing in Munich or FRA or London. I don't know the roads, the exits, etc, etc but not so on my hometurf when I get back. When I arrive in Paris and Frankfurt, I have gone right to the train station to buy a train ticket for a long distance ride the next day or the day after that.

Posted by
504 posts

After returning from Gatwick on Sunday night, and going to bed at the equivalent of 5 or 6 a.m. British time, I slept until 4 p.m. Eastern standard time on Monday. Got up and felt perfectly awful. Headache, nausea, clumsiness, weakness, tiredness. I called work and told them I needed another day off. Thank God, because the rest of Monday I felt like I had the flu. I do have a little bit of a sore throat and dry cough, and am still a bit muzzy in my thinking. Back to work today and at least I feel more like myself again.

Back in the '80s when I visited London, I never had jet lag coming home. Of course I wasn't even 25 years old and maybe it hits you worse when you're older?

Posted by
31510 posts

SandraL,

"and maybe it hits you worse when you're older?"

I worked shift work for over 40 years, and it definitely gets more difficult to deal with when you're older (and that includes jet lag).

Posted by
5147 posts

I'm with Lulu. We returned home from our last European trip two weeks ago tomorrow, and today was the first day I woke up totally refreshed, and felt good all day. From here to Europe isn't a problem. And I've had the Europe to US problem for years - even when I was in my 20s.

Posted by
95 posts

I have been a little tired on arrival day but stay up until around 8 pm and then am pretty much ok. I do sleep a few hours on the plane. And before this last trip I would have said I have no problems when coming home. But we arrived home (Midwest) from France last Friday and I'm STILL having trouble. Hopefully I'll be back on track after the weekend.