On Jetlag and Insomnia

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Anybody who has traveled to another time-zone knows that the time difference and jetlag can hit you kind of hard. This is especially true when traveling to another continent! For example, there is a nine hour time difference between my home in California and my apartment in Heidelberg, Germany. Those nine hours in conjunction with the almost 24 hours of traveling can be murder. When I got to Germany for the first time, I would wake up  at around 4am everyday, because my body was confused about when it should be asleep. This doesn’t seem too bad at first. You’d think you could really get a lot done waking up so early, but that is where you would be wrong. In fact, because your sleep cycle is so out of whack, your body insists that you should go to sleep at around two in the afternoon. It makes it very hard to be productive.

This brings me to my point, which is how do you fix it? Well, I have tried a few different methods. The first one is simple; just set an alarm and wake up regardless of how tired you are. That didn’t work for me, because I have a really hard time waking up if I need to sleep. The second method is to just stay up and fight the urge to sleep until a reasonable hour. This method is problematic, because while you technically reset your sleep cycle, it leaves you with what I like to call “sleep debt”. You’ve missed a full eight hours of sleep, and one way or another you will have to make it up. While you make up this sleep debt, you are also not very productive.

The third and most effective method, in my opinion, is to go to sleep when you get the urge (like 2pm or so usually), and when you wake up in the middle of the night, take a sleep aid. It will be a struggle but you should be able to sleep till like 6am. Just try to keep that trend going and soon you will have a regular human being sleep schedule!

These methods can help with insomnia as well, to a point. However, I think that the best way to adjust a sleep cycle that has been messed up by insomnia is to exercise. Physical activity will help re-calibrate your circadian rhythm!

Well that’s all I have to say about that! Stay tuned for more study abroad based advice! Until then, goodbye.