Lying awake at 3am having got back from New York yesterday… my body clock is all messed up, and apparently it takes one day per hour of time difference, so that’s 5 days till I get over my trip. OK then.
I’m an owl not a lark, so I like staying up late, and getting up late. Does that make it better for me to travel West, from the UK to the USA or from India back home to the UK, or does it make it better for me to travel East, from here to India, or when coming home from the States?
5pm in New York is 10pm on my UK-based body clock, so at 5pm I’m feeling tired (especially if I’m a Lark!) but must stay up if I’m going to get onto New York time. Unless I give in and go to bed at 5pm (not very social for my NYC friends either!) but then I’ll wake up at 3am NY time because that’s 8am when I normally get up according to my still-UK body clock.
Maybe if I can stay up till 10pm New York time (3am body clock time!) I’ll manage to sleep through the 3am stupid wake-up. Maybe…. As an owl I’m good at staying up late and at sleeping late, so I think as an owl I can do this, and sleep till 8am NY time (1pm body clock time!).
So the result is usually feeling tired in the evenings and waking up in the night and getting up quite early, maybe 7 or 8 – your body clock won’t allow you to sleep any later. You just have to hope that you get so tired you manage to sleep until a reasonable time in the morning, rather than waking up and getting up at 4 or 5am each day.
…coming home from the states, or going out to India, is it any better?
I’m back home in the UK and it’s 10pm, but my USA-based body clock is saying it’s only 5pm, so I don’t feel tired there’s no way I can go to bed yet (unless I’ve been on the red-eye flying over night and had no sleep, which is a whole other story). So I stay up till 2am (still only 9pm according to my US body clock). And whenever I do go to bed I struggle to get to sleep – it’s just EARLY! I finally get to sleep at 4 or 5am UK time – 11 or midnight US time.
Then the 8am alarm clock goes off and its SAVAGE! “OMG why amI being woken up at 3am??” my body clock says. I get up but I’m tired all day. Or I go back to sleep until lunch time (8am US body time), but then the same problem happens in the evening – don’t want to go to bed and can’t get to sleep.
To break the circle I have to force myself to get up early and feel tired all day so I can at least go to bed and sleep at the right time.
And no naps during the day because then the next night of sleep won’t be any good.
I feel that this process of trying to go to bed earlier than I want, and then forcing myself to get up earlier than I want, is more something a lark would manage to do. As an owl, it kills me!
In the end both directions lead to tiredness, both are annoying, and there’s not much you can do about it – though some people rate serotonin pills, which I have never tried. I think you can buy them over the counter in the USA but not in the UK?
But certainly it’s worth leaving a few days to acclimatise before an important business meeting, or before something requiring skill and strength and mental alertness, e.g. climbing mount Everest.