No sooner had I finished writing last week’s blog about sleep than it dawned on me that I had to start preparing for our upcoming Mediterranean cruise. We fly to Athens on October 29th which means that we have 3 weeks to adjust our sleep patterns to compensate for the 7 hours we’ll lose on the flight.
We booked the cruise months ago and I have been eagerly looking forward to it, but now all of a sudden it is imminent, and now, also, I am acutely aware that having my circadian rhythm out-of-joint for a week while I adjusted 1 hour per day was not the best way to get the most out of the trip. So I began the transition this week.
The task before me is pretty daunting. I normally go to bed around 11:30pm and get up at 7:30am. But in Greek time, that would be like going to sleep at 6:30am after pulling an all-nighter. Not good.
It’s my understanding that the kinder-and-gentler way to prepare for a trip like this is to start several weeks before the flight by going to bed 15 minutes earlier every night and waking up 15 minutes earlier until you are on schedule in your destination’s time zone. Compensating for the 7-hour difference, then, would take about 28 days using this system. I only had 21 days left until departure, though, so I figured I had to accelerate the pace a little.
The first night, I got in bed at 10:30pm and got up at 6:30am. Unfortunately, I had a lousy night’s sleep and was miserable most of the day. The good news here, though, is that since I’m retired, I can just take it easy and nap when the spirit moves me, which is what I did.
Then we went to the Jersey shore for two days. We picked the time to coincide with the October full moon. We thought it would be fun to watch it rise over the ocean, so we got a beachfront hotel room with a balcony on the 3rd floor with a pristine view of the ocean.
The sky was cloudless and the view of the red moon hurdling over the horizon at about 6:30pm was spectacular. It was shortly thereafter that I realized, “Hey…we can watch the sunrise tomorrow morning, too!”
Which is what we did. I only needed to get up by 6:00am to see it, but I happened to wake up at 4:30am and decided not to go back to sleep. Bundled up and sitting on our balcony, I was treated to the full spectrum of the sunrise. It began around 5:30am with a deep red-violet glow at the horizon that gradually brightened to a red-orange wash as the sky above it lightened to turquoise. The light show went on for an hour before the sun finally crested onto an already day-lit sky. Just beautiful!
And I did it again on Tuesday morning, going to bed at 9:30pm that night, and getting up at 4:30am on Wednesday.
We were back home in the apartment by then, so I turned on all the lights in an attempt to fool my body clock into believing that it was time to get up. I turned the brightness on my computer screen up as high as it would go and did crossword puzzles while waiting for the sun to rise. The view isn’t nearly as spectacular from the apartment balcony as it was from the shore, but the colors are just as rich and they provide a modicum of reward for the abuse to which I’m subjecting my body.
Getting up at 4:30am isn’t really agreeing with me…yet. I have to believe though, that it will get better with each passing day. I’ve made up nearly 3 of the 7 hours I’ll lose, so at least there’s that. I’ll admit, though, that I can’t really imagine myself going to sleep at 4pm (11pm in Greece) by the end of the month and feeling good about it.
And then there is the issue of food. I also have to change the times that I’m eating so that I’ll want breakfast and dinner at the right times while on the cruise.
For now, I’m feeling ok for about 4 hours after I get up, but then I fade fast. I’m eating whenever I get hungry, which now seems to be most of the time. I have no energy to exercise, but I at least try to take a walk every day. The fitness center in our apartment building is open 24/7, so maybe I can try to work out in the wee hours. It might be worth a shot. Bottom line: once your sleep rhythm is out of wack, it’s really hard to maintain a brain-healthy daily schedule.
Playing with all of my bio-rhythms at the same time is a strange experiment. I suppose it’s better to get all of this discomfort out of the way now rather than to find myself walking around in a fog as we visit the ancient empires of the eastern Mediterranean.
Lord, I hope so!