I have no cure for jet lag. Does anyone really? The upside of jet lag (to me at least) is that a sound sleep usually follows.
Besides the time change, jet lag looms because few of us can sleep on a plane. It’s possible, but difficult. Especially in the middle seat in crowded coach. Tiny bathrooms, narrow aisles, noisy neighbors, inedible meals, abysmal in-flight movies – international travel has its frustrations. So we counter all this annoyance with candy and salty chips. We stay awake on a red eye flight playing video games or watching whatever has the best chance of distracting us from our surroundings. We accept the complimentary wine or beer even though we are well aware it may contribute to dehydration and enhance jet lag – what else are we supposed to do? Who sleeps sitting up in a tiny seat?
Jet lag tries to defeat world travelers. Don’t let it.
Next time you encounter jet lag, make an effort to notice and bask in that moment when you can finally crawl into bed and stretch out your limbs and rest on a cool clean pillow and sheets. That moment is so incredibly comfortable that it almost makes a coach airplane seat worthwhile – because perhaps you have to feel the stark contrast to truly appreciate it.
It’s rare for me to have insomnia on an international trip. A little jet lag helps me sleep. Maybe I have a couple days of feeling tired and disoriented but the payoff is that solid sleep at the end of a day. Sometimes I think wistfully of jet lagged sleep when I wake up in the middle of the night at home and can’t stop my mind skipping from topic to topic. Worrying about a doctor’s appointment. Reviewing my schedule for the next workday. Thinking up funny names for cats. Trying to stop the theme song from the latest show I’ve binge watched from playing on repeat in my head.
I haven’t figured out how to avoid jet lag, but like other uncomfortable situations, I can accept it and look for a benefit. I try to remember that restless nights pass and sound sleeps will follow. A middle seat on a bumpy flight makes me grateful for easier trips ahead. A stressful medical test reminds me not to take healthy days for granted. Pushing through a difficult task makes me feel better for getting it over with. The routine of work makes vacations more valuable. The contrast in experiences can help me adapt, stay aware, appreciate.