Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Synchronize Your Watches
Man or shall I says, Girlfriends, am I Jet Lagged. Less than one week ago I was half way across the world and well beyond the Greenwich Mean. Yes, cyber sisters, it was Africa and the time difference was a wonderful 11 hours.
Translation? Now that I am home 6 am is 6 pm. Suppertime is breakfast and I am now at the pool at 4 am. It’s really a motherfunhouse. Why just last there I eyes wide open, mind racing, stomach growling and ready to go. It was 2 o’clock in the morning. Recall dear girlfriends, I am a woman who LOVES going to sleep at 9pm. I am now in a time warp from hell.
Make no mistake, this allows for certain benefits. I do have a pretty good level of energy. I am a fan of multitasking and ever the one to love an extra hour or two in the day. A lot can be said for having some “free time” at two or three in the morning. I am fully up to date on my blogging and my laundry. My bathroom has never been cleaner and I have cleaned my closet out at least three times. Truly a productive week for me.
Problems do arise however at around 6pm when my internal clock thinks it’s 7 am that morning and all I want to do is lie down go to bed for the night. This can especially be of concern when lovely friends (shout out to them) take a certain jet-lagged woman out to dinner for a belated birthday celebration. There I am among fabulous company, fabulous Chinese fusion bistro cuisine at one of my favourite restaurants. I have one ginger margarita followed by a nap over appetizers at the table. Stunning conversation be gone. I was not witty. I was an asshole. Correction, I was an exhausted asshole who barely made it through dinner and had to excuse myself at 8:30pm on a Saturday in order to get home and go to bed. Yes, I had a little snooze in the cab.
So here is the new schedule for the next little while:
1. I’m up at 2 am, bright eyed, the world is my oyster.
2. I take a sleeping pill (prescription of course- what do you take me for?)
3. I watch an episode of Southland or Top Chef or Shameless while waiting for the drug to take effect (also trying to catch up on the episodes I have lost while away on the mountain)
4. I wake again at 7 am, take the dogs for a walk. By this point I am hungry beyond reproach. My stomach thinks I have missed all three meals while I slept and I am not one for fasting. Just ask my mother- I am a huge disappointment come the Day of Atonement.
5. I return home from the walk having some time off before I go back to the office and spend the rest of the day trying to stay awake. My body thinks it is the middle of the night. My coffee consumption is higher than normal. I have watched every episode of Grey’s Anatomy in an effort to convince my physiology that in fact I AM ON CALL not just jetlagged and therefore fully capable of staying awake.
6. I am hopeless by 7 pm. No coffee will save me. I crawl into bed and give up the ghost.
Africa was amazing. My trip was phenomenal, mountains climbed, animals seen…. All those great life-affirming moments. And now I am in body clock hell.
Jet lag is an ill-defined phenomenon resulting from rapid flight across several time zones. It is considered to be due to desynchronisation of circadian rhythms such as the sleep wake cycle and times of wakefulness and sleep. A means of rapidly resynchronising body rhythms to local time would benefit people who suffer badly from jet lag.
Various remedies for alleviating jet lag have been proposed including certain foods, exposure to light and even the use of melatonin. Melatonin is chemical known as methoxyindole secreted by the pineal gland in the brain. It has been shown in animals to play a role in resynchronizing animals to a day and night cycle. It is thought to play a role in an animals ability to distinguish between night and day.
A study published in 1986 in the British Medical journal recruited seventeen healthy volunteers. (10 women and seven men aged 29-68) from the University of London. The subjects flew from London to San Francisco (eight time zones west), where they remained for 14 days so that they had adapted to local time before their return home. Before their flight half the subjects were randomized to placebo and half to melatonin. Subjects were “blinded” to whether they were taking melatonin or placebo.
For three days before their return flight the subjects took a daily dose of melatonin (5 mg in gelatin lactose) or placebo at 1800 (local time). On their return to Britain they continued taking the same preparation at 2200-2400 (local time) for a further four days. On day 7 after arriving home the subjects were asked to rate their jet lag on a 10 cm visual analogue scale from 0 (insignificant) to 100 (very bad). Jet lag was deliberately not defined as its nature and severity vary from person to person but it was considered to be present at scores of 50 or above.
Six of the nine subjects who took placebo rated their jet lag greater than 50 on the visual analogue scale. None of the eight subjects who took melatonin rated their jet lag at more than 17. None of the subjects taking melatonin had appreciable jet lag, whereas six of the nine treated with placebo did.
The study has been criticized as being a small trial but still it is a place to start.
Lesson learned. I have been back from my time zone journeys for almost a week. It is too late to take melatonin given that this trial showed a benefit of melatonin only before return to one’s home time zone.
Who knew an herbal could be so significant?
So, the next time I fly across the globe in pursuit of a dream…. I’ll be sure to hit the local Health Foods store (what fresh hell) for my stock of melatonin. For now, until this wave passes, I have a dysfunctional schedule to keep. It’s 2 am and my closet could use another cleaning.