I spent last week in the US, visiting the great purple mothership, hanging out with Flickr and MyBlogLog and the Bookmarks teams, watching Schulze and Webb do their talks in Sunnyvale and Adaptive Path and catching up with enormous tracts of wonderful people including Chad Dickerson, Cal Henderson, Simon Batistoni, Rebecca Blood, George Oates, Aaron Straup Cope and Heather Champ. And many others who also rocked. It was a good week that calmed many of my gut-wrenching horror nerves about the practicalities of moving to the US, which is now very much on the table and which I’m trying to work through my final neurotic issues about. More about that another time.
But now I’m back in the UK and I’ve been hit by the jet lag monster and I’m reminded again just how unpleasant an experience it is travelling this direction. When I get to the US everything is always shiny. I collapse in the middle of the evening and wake up stupidly early, but there’s something about being awake at three or four am that makes you feel super productive and creative. The work day is normally fine. I don’t flag too heavily until late afternoon, and then the day’s basically over. Being on that timescale makes me feel like those people you read about in magazines who are insanely productive and who you really hate because you know that you too could accomplish way way more if you could just get up a couple of hours earlier and spend that time profitably rather than foraging for day-old pizza and watching South Park.
In contrast, coming back from the US transitions you from feeling super early-riser productive into a situation where it’s three am and you can’t sleep and you lie there looking at the ceiling. And then your alarm rings and screams at you to get up but you hurl it across the room in rage and sob to yourself that you can’t possibly be expected to get out of bed and do something useful. And then you wander around the office feeling like you’re moving through a forest of duvets, always a little too warm – like your body has just decided that it’s asleep in defiance of all the evidence. And everything is woolly and your brain doesn’t work properly and nothing flows and it’s all completely infuriating. Travelling to the US makes me feel like a productive superhero. Travelling back makes me feel like a time-wasting slugabed. Astonishing how much impact your sleep state can have on your self-image.
11 replies on “On jet-lag and my self-image…”
I recently spent three weeks working in Mexico, where I enjoyed the same phenomenon. Before that I was in Cambodia, with only a 5-6 day buffer in between, so the extent of the time difference was monstrous. As a result I never had any trouble getting to the desk for 8:00 (I’m normally a 10:30 kinda guy). I even spent weekend mornings in conversation with fellow travelers. Weekend mornings! It was sublime.
I also think that not having your usual home stuff to fall back on makes you more productive. Your hotel room isn’t home, so you go out instead. You don’t have the favourite TV slots, so you work or read. There’s limited time to visit the cool stuff, so you seize the day.
I don’t tend to get that, but then I usually arrive back on Friday or Saturday and don’t even think about being a useful person until Monday.
There is one thing to be said for it: deep in the throes of jet lag is the only time I sleep really, really well. Soundly. Blissfully. Nothing can wake me. If I do wake up, it’s with the comfort of knowing that I can roll over and go right back to sleep (instead of my all-too-common start having an anxiety fit over something and no more sleep for at least an hour, possibly all night…).
So I don’t try to fight jet lag anymore. I lie back and enjoy it.
“And then you wander around the office feeling like you’re moving through a forest of duvets, always a little too warm – like your body has just decided that it’s asleep in defiance of all the evidence. And everything is woolly and your brain doesn’t work properly and nothing flows and it’s all completely infuriating.”
Brilliant ‘word-picture’. I can relate exactly.
Ha! The cure is to move to San Francisco!
I regularly do the same distance in the opposite direction going to Korea (assuming you go to the SF area) and, like you, find that travelling east is an awful lot harder than going west. I wonder why? I think I read a BBC article about it last year but can’t find it now.
Yeah, the eastbound trip hits you, especially if you’re flying from the west coast. I’ve always had evening flights, because that’s pretty much what’s available, but I wonder if flying at a different time would make a difference, or whether it’s down to having non-steerage-class pampering.
At some point, my dream of ‘sedation class’ will be a reality. Or I’ll be able to take the steamer eastwards, and be incredibly productive in those days spent on a ship (nausea permitting).
In contrast, arriving in New York as the evening begins? King of the MFing world.
It’s similar to flying back and forth to Australia (something I’ve done too much of, but look forward to doing again). Going TO Australia is fine, but it’s the trip back here that’s the kicker.
A ‘sedation class’ sounds great – knock you on your butt for the duration, and you wake up in the sunshine 🙂 Nice.
Yeah, I used to live in Australia and know the feeling only too well – 10-12 hour timeshift is not to be sneezed at.
It made no difference whether you travelled East or West, only which place was having summer when you got there. The sunny place produces less jetlag (it’s all about that Melanopsin). It’s grim flying to winter Europe from summer Australia. I feel like someone has injected me with lead usually. And I’m also a bar heater in the night.
The cure is to make sure you go outside and get some real light on you during the day. Yoga helps too.
I’ve been back and forwards to Boston, MA 6 times in the last 10 months or so. 2 or 3 weeks there, 4 or 5 weeks in London. Repeat. My body has no freakin’ idea where it is any more… 🙁
And mere moments before reading this, I was doing some packing for my move there in… (*looks at calendar*) …lesss than 3 weeks. Holy crap! I really need to get more packing/throwing stuff away done.
Here’s a hint: Citibank US will open an account for you without a social security number – just make sure you have a UK bank statement with your current address on it. Citibank UK will then transfer funds to Citibank US at your request instantly and without a fee, despite Citibank US insisting that it is impossible and even showing you internal memos to that effect.
Bingo bango – you got yourself a way to make a deposit on an appartment.
…Work shift work – then you get that feling once a week.
Like now as I write this I’ve been awake 38 hours with 1 hours sleep.
No wonder it kills you early.