I got into Berlin a couple hours ago. I transferred at Frankfort, which has a HUGE and very modern airport (tons of walking to make the transfer, fortunately I intentionally left two hours for it) and then arriving in Berlin at Tegel Airport, which is pretty much the opposite. Sort of aviation's equivalent of an international bus terminal.
Anyway, I've checked with the elves back at the homestead, and all seems to be well there. And I seem to be doing okay even after all that journey.
There’s always a challenge when you’re flying a long distance, and traveling to Berlin for IFA tech trade show is about 15 hours, with nine time zones for jet lag to kick in. I’ve read a lot of articles about how best to deal with this, but ultimately there are limits. Drinking lots of fluid and exercising on the flight, without drinking alcohol tends to be common advice. But still, nine time zones is a big hurdle to get past.
There’s one other trick that I read about. It has its flaws, but I have tried it, and it sort of works to a degree. But it’s pretty odd, and not for everyone. But even people who are skeptical of “fixes” realize it’s an idea that makes sense…if you can pull it off.
And that’s – adjusting your sleep schedule the week or so before traveling. Go to bed an hour earlier than usual and get up an hour earlier the next morning. And repeat this each day, as you let your body slowly adjust to what in essence is different time zones.
I actually tried this last year, and…well, it sort of worked. Even though you feel a bit idiotic doing it. I didn’t move things back far enough – ultimately, I had no interest in going to bed at three in the afternoon – but did get it back about five hours, and on my last night went to bed at 8 in the evening, getting up at 2:15 AM the day of my flight.
Silly as you feel going to bed so early (though it’s not as terrible as you imagine, since you’ve been ratcheting it down and went to bed at 8 PM the night before, so you’re actually sort of getting tired. You don’t particularly feeling like wanting to go to be that early. But oddly, getting up that early was sort of nice. It’s not hellish in the slightest – after all, you’ve been sleeping for seven hours. And boy, is there a sense of freedom being up that early, and you can get a huge amount done. I did that whole week, since I was getting up much earlier than usual each day.
(And besides, on that day of the flight – trust me, there is not even a hint of rushing around at the last minute trying to get things done. You have tons and tons of time…!)
Mind you, depending on who you’re sharing your home with, they might not take it as well. But hopefully you’re surrounded by deeply-understanding people who don’t ridicule or whine much.
Ultimately, though, I discovered that that part of the plan isn’t the issue. It’s once you get on the plane itself.
By all rights, if you’re going to make this work, you should go to sleep even an hour earlier, in this case that would be 6:15. But –
Ah, that “but.”
First of all, when you’re at home, rolling back your hours, you can control the sensory conditions around you. It’s all reasonably quiet and dark. But on the airplane – well, no one else is getting ready for bed at 6’oclock. Or 7 PM. Or even up to 10 PM, really. There are still lights on, people are talking, the dinner service comes around, the beverage service, people are watching movies, and others in your row are still getting up and asking to, “Excuse me,” get around you to the aisle. (I suppose you could get the window seat, to ease that last condition. Me, I was an aisle-guy…) So, it’s really tough to get past all those external influences.
There’s also one other reality.
Going on a trip to Europe is still sort of an exciting thing. You’re keyed up. In my case, the flight left at 3 PM. You just don’t want to go to sleep four hours later. You want to enjoy the excitement of starting your adventure. Lao Tse didn’t say, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single snore.” You want to take that first step, and a lot of the others that follow. Even though whenever you sleep, the waking hours works out the same, you just want to stay awake and enjoy it for a while.
Last year I did try to go to sleep before I usually would, and was able to nod off about 10 o’clock-ish or so. But with all those other conditions, it was still tough. And I don’t sleep great on a plane anyone. So, it did sort of through my Great Plan out of whack.
But – since I was therefore more tired when I did finally go to sleep, and got less sleep than normal, I was more tired once I arrived in Berlin, and it sort of worked out okay. Rather than being unable to sleep at, say, midnight in Berlin when it was only 3 PM in Los Angeles, I did get to sleep maybe around 2 in the morning, which wasn’t too bad.
This year, I decided to finetune my plan.
Part of that was because I felt too silly going to bed each night, not to mention having to say to others that you were going to sleep so early. “Sorry, can’t talk now. Really. No, really…” But also there was the realization that I simply wouldn’t be nodding off on the plane until 10 PM at the earliest. So, what I did was mix-and-match.
I did start to go to bed early during the first part of the week. But I only took it down to 10 PM, and left it there, adjusting my body to a slightly earlier time. Then, two nights before leaving, I moved it down to 9 PM, and on the last night I jumped another two hours and went to bed at an outlandish hour for that one evening only, getting up at 2:15.
None of this is ideal. But then, putting your body through a change of nine time zones isn’t ideal to begin with. But it actually worked okay. As long as you don’t mind feeling a bit silly and putting up with a touch of ridicule. But at least these year, I kept that to a minimum.
And limiting my ridicule is always a good thing.
To my surprise, I actually did start to tune things down around 7 PM (which is 4 AM in Berlin), but got up at 11:45 AM, which means I got up at 4:45 Berlin time, so I'm actually sort of on schedule. Five-ish hours of sleep/rest isn't ideal, but not bad. So...I think I'll be okay.
Well...the concept of "being okay" when you do something this loopy is relative...