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Lagging Behind

December 10th, 2014 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Long Beach, Travel

We have stipulated jet lag just kicks my butt. At least, it does going west to east and crossing 10 or more time zones. I have remarked upon this several times, since we have been based in Abu Dhabi.

Going from here to SoCal? Not a huge problem.

But going from California to the eastern end of the Arabian Peninsula?

A big problem, and this is the all-timer because it was my first 12-time-zone west-to-east flight. (The others were a measly 11.)

And it owns me.

I will burden the reader with only one crazy day of circadian dysrythmia. This one, five days after leaving LAX.

Wide awake at 4 a.m. Two hours reading and surfing the web. Not at all tired. Enforced return to bed. Sleep at maybe 6:15, woken (as per my request) at 8:45. Groggy.

In the office at 11, and by 5 p.m. I am nearly asleep in my desk. My head is about to hit the keyboard.

Home at 7:30, a small dinner, out like a light on the couch at 8:30. Wide awake at 12:30 a.m. Up for five hours, back to bed, dead asleep from 5:30 a.m. till 12:30 p.m.

That is nuts. Luckily, it was an offday.

I can attest that going east is far more difficult. That compressed night in the middle of the journey. You land, and your body doesn’t know when it wants to eat, when to drink, when to fight to stay up, when to give in, when to drug yourself.

And a 12-hour time change … that’s the worst possible, right? You are upside down. What was noon last week is midnight this week. Dinner time (6 p.m.) becomes breakfast time (6 a.m.).

The theory is that a human needs one day to adjust for each hour of time difference. Which means I will need 12 days to be OK — suggesting I have another 6-7 days of this weirdness to look forward to. Good thing I’m not working or driving.

Oh, yeah. I am.

I believe we at The National should do a story on people who deal with this kind of mega-lag routinely — in particular, the flight crews on Etihad Airways who work the AUH-LAX/LAX-AUH routes we just took.

How do they handle it? They’re doing it a lot more often than my “once a year on average”.

Do they try to remain on one time or the other, despite the lack of sun at “body noon” in the time zone they are trying to ignore? Ordering breakfast from hotel room service at 6 p.m.?

Is it easier to work the route as often as possible, rather than try to deal with what is probably insufficient time (maybe 3-4 days?) to adjust?

Does the airline give them examinations every few weeks, see how they are doing? Do they pre-screen them? Do some crash out of the program because of jet lag?

And have they instituted some sort of deadline for making this flight? “You can do it two months, but then you’re done. Like, you can have a nervous breakdown if you do it too long.”

I do know that it was announced on the plane, when bound for Los Angeles, that we had four guys on the flight deck, instead of the usual two (or three). So they could trade off during the 16.5-hour flight.

And business people who make that trip. How do they deal?

Oddly enough, my mother’s neighbor has business dealings in Abu Dhabi, and he apparently goes from Long Beach to AUH quite often. I would have gone over and knocked on his door and asked to chat about it … but he was in Abu Dhabi. Or perhaps dead asleep.

They must have tricks. Or their lives are arranged in such a way that they give themselves recovery time.

I am more curious than ever. I believe I will look into this more the next time I wake up at 1 a.m.

Which probably will be tonight.



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