Jet Lag

Usually, jet lag is not this big of an issue for me. I’m not sure why I’m so disoriented this time. It could be due to the amount of chocolate and french fries I’ve eaten in the last two and a half weeks.

–April Winchell

I’m not sure who April Winchell is. Some kind of actress. But she’s right on the money here. Sugar and starch will get you every time.

For any readers who have not traveled, or who haven’t traveled by plane to far away places, allow me to explain the phenomenon that is jet lag.

You get on a plane in, say, Asia. You’re bound for America. You fly for 12-14 hours and basically it’s the same time when you arrive as it was when you left. So your body has experienced 12 hours of travel, usually through a whole day, and has arrived in America ready to go to sleep. “It is bedtime,” your body says to you.

“Oh no!” you tell your body. For it is 9:00am local time, and you have friends and family and business contacts to meet. Things are going on in the world, and you cannot go to sleep.

So you force yourself to stay awake. You drink gallons of sugary coffee drinks. You wander about in a daze. You take No Doze and 5 Hour Energy. Pretty soon, adrenaline kicks in. This is a deeply sickening experience. You’ve no doubt experienced it even if you haven’t traveled. It’s what happens when it’s about 3am, you still haven’t had a chance to get to bed, and you’ve forced yourself to power through the tired feeling–usually with caffeine. Adrenaline starts pumping to keep you awake and functional, since you won’t obey the body’s command to sleep.

Adrenaline works very well at keeping you awake, but at the expense of little things like sanity. You start to stagger a bit like a drunk. You feel awake, but not exactly alert. Your heart is racing wildly, making you vaguely sick to your stomach. If you do have the chance to lay down after adrenaline kicks in, you can’t sleep even though you are terribly tired. You may be unable to remember your own name.

Another feature of jet lag is the inability to stay awake at the right times, or go back to sleep in the middle of the night. If you’re coming from a place a good 10-12 hours away, you normally find that sometime in mid afternoon or early evening you begin to be overwhelmingly tired. You simply can’t resist it, and you feel lucky if you can make it to 6pm before you have to go to bed. Of course you then wake up at 3am, ready and raring to go. Sadly no one else in the house–or on that side of the world–has any interest in getting up with you. This can go on for days.

There are various reports, depending on whom you talk with, but most people seem to agree that it takes one day to recover for every one hour difference between the place you’ve landed and the place you’ve come from. Hence if you fly to a place with a 12-hour time difference, you can expect to take 12 days to fully get over jet lag. If you just cross the United States, you can expect more like a four-day recovery.

Everyone and their mother has a gimmick to help you get over jet lag. Drink carrot juice. Walk barefoot in the grass for twenty minutes. Take melatonin. Do twenty jumping jacks while looking at the ceiling. Stare at the sun till you sear your eyeballs. Drink lots and lots of water on the plane, and hope the bathrooms work. Take drugs. Wear magnets. Get yourself some anti-insomnia glasses.

Really. Here they are:


The fact that there is so much advice about it tells you something, doesn’t it? Most of the advice doesn’t work. It’s like the advice you get for getting over hiccups or hangovers. Everyone has their secret method, but it never seems to work for anyone else. It’s like what we Westerns like to say about traditional Chinese herbal cures: “If you take Chinese medicine, you will recover from the flu in 14 days. If you don’t take it, it will take two weeks.”

So you can call me Miss Voodoo, because I took four international flights in three months this year, and I never had to deal with jet lag once. I also crossed America from the far west coast to the far east coast twice, again with no jet lag.


In the past, I’ve always had issues with jet lag. My family can attest to the joy of seeing me for the first time in a year or two, only to have me fall asleep while talking to them.But this year was totally different, and the only thing I did differently was to eat differently. If you’ve kept up with the blog, you know that on the way to America from Asia I ate a big, protein and fat rich breakfast before I left. I then ate nothing for 16 hours. I did the same thing when I went from Atlanta to Frankfurt, and then from Munich to Chicago. The worst my “jet lag” got was feeling a bit sleepy the first night. But every night I was able to stay up till at least 9pm, and I never woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. I slept till normal times–7am–without difficulty.

I just finished my last flight. If you read a couple posts back, you know it was the Nightmare Brought To You By Delta. It involved flying five hours into our flight, then turning around and coming five hours all the way back to Seattle rather than fly one extra hour on to our destination. After a two hour stand-in-line turnaround, we flew the eleven and a half hours to our destination. Since the first flight was an evening one, and since I arrived at my destination in the late morning,  it meant that when I finally went to bed at my destination I’d been awake for almost 48 hours.

I did not feel good.

That is an understatement, actually. I felt like warmed over death. You know it’s bad when the plane has a bumpy landing and you think:

We could die here…Meh. Who cares? At least this would be over. I wouldn’t even have to go through customs and immigration.

That’s how bad it was. I got home and couldn’t remember my name at times, or where anything was in the house. I was thinking that finally jet lag had really caught up with me. Eating just fat and protein had been good, but finally it had met its match. It was 8pm, and I couldn’t stay awake another second. I collapsed into bed by 9pm and slept till the alarm went off the next morning at 7am. I felt almost exactly the same when I got up as I did when I went to bed: exhausted and sick. Dizzy. Unable to concentrate or think.

But as that day went on, I began to feel better. I just rested, but I did not nap. I expected to be sleepy too early–after all, that’s the hallmark of jetlag–but I was doing great by evening. I stayed up till 10, and I got up at 6:00 this morning without any problems. It’s now 5pm and I’m not sleepy at all.

Know why not? It’s not jet lag. I was exhausted from lack of sleep. But once I got a good 10 hours of sleep that first night and spent most of Sunday resting quietly, I recovered from the exhaustion.

But actual jet lag? Still none. It’s like there was no time difference between here and Seattle. I’m awake at the right times, asleep at the right times, and don’t feel like a zombie. And I haven’t tried any gimmicks: there is no grass to walk in barefoot. There’s not been any sun visible since I arrived. I haven’t worn magnets, or exercised (yet) or worn magic glasses.

All I’ve done is eat good, clean meat and fat, while not eating any kind of grain or sugar or starch.


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