Some Thoughts On Jet Lag

I have been traveling a great deal for the past couple of years with most of my flights being long hauls. In 2010 alone I made five trips to the US and one each to Germany, Belgium, Russia and China. It’s only February and I am already on my second trip to the US. At this rate I think I am going to be more time out of India than in the country.

I love traveling to places and meeting people. I just hate the act of traveling itself. I mean the long queues at airports, long flights and most of all, the jet lag. Some wise guy defined jet lag on Wikipedia as follows:

Jet lag, medically referred to as desynchronosis, is a physiological condition which results from alterations to the body’s circadian rhythms; it is classified as one of the circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Jet lag results from rapid long-distance transmeridian (east–west or west–east) travel, as on a jet plane. The condition of jet lag may last several days, and a recovery rate of one day per time zone crossed is a fair guideline.

Recovery rate of one day per time zone? Bullshit!! One of my trips last year was Hawaii -> Los Angeles -> New York -> Mumbai -> Goa. That’s more than 12 time zones. I didn’t have two weeks to recover from that trip. I had to do it in two days.

I have tried many things to minimize the effect of jet lag. One of them is to set my watch to the destination time zone and act like I am already there. For example, if I board a flight from India to the US at midnight, I act as if it is noon and watch two or three movies at a stretch to keep me awake. Then out of sheer exhaustion I crash out for the rest of the flight. Theoretically that should work, but it doesn’t. At least not for me. And I have no idea why. When I land in the US I look and feel like a zombie which is not a desirable appearance when facing the immigration officer.

I have even tried sleeping it out completely. I don’t take sleeping pills. Instead I do the trick with alcohol which has a double benefit of getting a high. I have tried different liquids and my favorite poison at 30,000 feet is red wine. I have as much as the airline will allow me and pay a long visit to to la-la land. This technique is proving to be much better than my first one and is currently the one that I employ. Of course, I am continuing my research in this field.

There is something else worth mentioning here. When I fly westwards from India to the US I usually recover from jet lag in a day. However, when I fly eastwards from the US to India I need two days. I am not sure why. And here is the fun part. Instead of flying eastwards from the US to India, if I return back to India by flying westwards across the Pacific, I hardly feel any jet lag. I simply lose an entire day in my life. As it turns out both the 12 hour time differences stack up and a day disappears from my calendar. Last year I did two round the world trips like that and the effects of jet lag were minimum.

So you may wonder why don’t I always do that. Here is the problem. Airlines do not consider a round the world trip as a round trip. For them a round trip means coming back the same way you went. So a round the world trip is one big one way trip which turns out to be way more expensive than a round trip.

Anyways, here is what prompted me to write this blog post. For the past month I have been traveling in the US. I needed to go back to India for personal reasons for a couple of days. Like I said before, I need two days to recover from jet lag. So it seemed to fit in. But there were so many loose ends to tie at home and office due to my month long absence, that I didn’t get the time to rest it out. So I figured that if I continued to stay somewhere close to the US time zone, I would have lesser jet lag to recover from. That, ladies and gentlemen, turned out to be a disaster. As I have learned the hard way, jet lags can be stacked up to remove a day in a calendar. But they cannot be used to cancel each other out.

There is only one word in the English dictionary that can be used to describe the state of my mind right now – raped.