Undaunted, I stumbled forward with a mild case of sleep deprivation into my 3rd week of attempting to reset my circadian rhythm to accommodate the 7-hour time difference I will experience when the plane lands in Athens tomorrow.
I took a closer look at our flight itinerary and saw that the flight leaves at 5:50pm eastern on Friday and arrives at 10:10am Saturday morning (9 hours in flight plus 7 time zones). It occurred to me that it would be wonderful if I could fall asleep right after boarding and get a full 8 hours of sleep during the flight, but, as we all know, sleeping on an airplane is spotty at best. What to do?
It turns out that Sally has a prescription for medical marijuana to help her sleep at night and so I thought it might work for me, too. The idea was that I would take one of her gummies as the plane was taking off and, hopefully, it would knock me out for the next 7-8 hours.
But what if it didn’t work? I was terrified at the thought of being seat-bound at 39,000 feet for 9 hours while high! My god, it would feel like all eternity before we landed!
So I decided to give it a test run this past Saturday night. Since it takes about an hour to kick in, I took it at 6pm and got in bed at 7pm, hoping to sleep through to 3am.
Wow…was that ever a mistake! Oh, I fell asleep quickly enough, but it was a nightmare the rest of the way. Every time I started to dream I would be shocked into awareness by the intensity of the dream. Sometimes it was just the vibrancy of the colors; sometimes it was the emotional content. Once awake, I became hyper-aware of my body which seemed to be making a lot of noise. I have no idea what that was about, but the bottom line was that it was keeping me awake. To make matters worse, I would check the clock after I thought I had gotten some sleep only to discover that not even half an hour had passed.
It was a long night, indeed.
I got out of bed at 3:30am feeling exhausted and a little wobbly on my feet. I bailed out on exercising and then slogged my way through the day.
Remind me never to do pot before going to bed!
So although taking a little something to help me sleep on the plane was a good thought, it definitely wasn’t going to work for me. As miserable as I was, I was thankful that I had done the experiment now rather than trying it for the first time on the flight.
I googled ‘sleeping on a plane’ to see if there were any helpful hints and, indeed, I found several in a nicely researched article (https://casper.com/blog/how-to-sleep-on-a-plane/). I’m pretty sure I’ll go with its recommendations to wear socks, dress in light layers, eat a banana, keep my legs uncrossed and wear a dab of lavender oil. I’ll also forego my morning green tea that is caffeinated.
My experience on Sunday night could not have been more profoundly different…or more welcome! I got in bed at 7pm and slept straight through until half-past three. More than 8 hours of sleep…it was glorious! I woke up bright and alert and couldn’t wait to hit the hall for my half-hour walk and then go down to the fitness center for another half-hour on the resistance machines.
I was a little surprised to find another resident in the fitness center at 4:30am, but then again, people work all kinds of schedules. Another resident showed up at 5am and headed for the treadmill. He lives on the same floor as I do and I had passed him every day I walked the halls as he made his way down to the fitness center.
I couldn’t wait to tell Sally about my sleeping triumph, but drowsiness overtook me a little while after she woke up. I unexpectedly found myself napping at 8am. What was up with that?
Doing the math, I realized that 8am eastern was 3pm in Athens. Knowing that my natural napping window was between 1pm-3pm gave me cause for celebration: although I still had 4 more nights to complete my adjustment, my napping schedule had already made the transition. This was certainly a good sign, no?
On Tuesday night, I went to bed while it was still light out (6pm) and got up at 2am the next morning. In case you were wondering, no, there was no one else working out in the fitness center at 2:30.
On Wednesday, the roll-on lavender oil I ordered arrived and I applied it to my temples before getting in bed. It smelled ok and I fell asleep without any trouble and I slept well. There’s no way to tell if it actually helped, though, but since nothing bad happened, I’ll use it on the plane today.
Reflecting back, making that first 2-hour time shift was brutal and my circadian rhythm fought me every minute of the day for several days, but the shift from going to bed at 8pm to 6pm was a breeze. Is it possible that my suprachiasmatic nucleus (which controls the circadian rhythm) has learned a new trick?
So that’s it. I’ve transitioned 5 hours out of the 7-hour time difference. I’m ready. I’ve trained hard. I can do this.
Look out, Athens, here I come!