I like sleep. A lot. I don’t do well without a good amount of it. Like, eight or nine hours. I don’t always get enough at night (like tonight – I probably won’t go to bed until 12:30am after getting this posted), but I’m a big proponent of naps, so I make up for it the next day. You might see me disappear from social media for two or three hours and think “Good for her, she’s being productive.” No, chances are I’m napping.
Because I do so badly when I don’t get a lot of sleep, jet lag hits me hard. Some of my worst moments have been while jet lagged. Saying really dumb things on business trips. Getting into fights with my husband. The only time I ever spanked one of my kids was while I was severely jet lagged.
Common wisdom says that for every time zone you travel across, it takes your body one day to adjust. So for a trip to Las Vegas last week, I’d planned on staying on NYC time. I didn’t have any late dinners planned, so it was totally doable (I’ve done it before on short trips to California).Can fasting get rid of #jetlag? Click To Tweet
But then in the two days before the trip, I totally screwed myself up. I went to bed at 2am one night and 3am the next, with giant naps the next day. So by the time I got to Nevada I was practically on Pacific time already. Then, to make things worse, my late night flight got in even later than it was supposed to (among other things, we had to wait while a guy was kicked off of the flight for smoking in the back of the plane!!). I ended up going to bed that first night at 4:30am Vegas time, which was 7:30am NYC time! I was completely messed up right from the beginning.
The next five days were a blur of super late nights, early mornings, and big naps. By the end of the trip my body had absolutely no idea what time zone it was in. I was due to get back to NYC late on a Sunday and hit the ground running on Monday. I was dreading my 6:30am alarm clock.
Then I remembered an article I’d read a few months ago. The gist of it was that besides the internal clock that responds to daylight, there’s a second clock that responds to when you eat. If you don’t eat for a long time, that clock assumes you’re asleep. So if you don’t eat for 12-16 hours, then eat, your body assumes that it’s now morning.
In practice, that would mean that I would stop eating 12-16 hours before breakfast time in NYC. I generally eat breakfast at 7:30am if I don’t have to be anywhere early. My flight was at 2:30pm on Sunday, breakfast would be at 7:30am Monday, so I should stop eating as early as 12:30pm Sunday Las Vegas time, or as late as 4:30pm Las Vegas time. Since I’d be arriving at the airport around 12:30pm, I decided to have lunch there and then be done eating. No eating on the plane, no eating a late dinner when I got back to NYC.
After going through security I ate a cheese sub and some Doritos. I finished eating at 1:30pm Las Vegas time – 15 hours before breakfast.
By the time I got off of the plane six hours later I was starving. But I stayed strong. I had some Diet Dr Pepper and lots of water, and went to bed a little before 1am.
When I woke up at 6am (earlier than my alarm – I often wake up while my husband is getting dressed), I was really tired. But I couldn’t tell if that was from jet lag, or just because I’d only gotten five hours of sleep. I got everybody out of the house, ate breakfast, and did some work. By mid-morning I wasn’t being very productive, so I decided to take a nap. I didn’t set an alarm, but a phone call woke me up after about half an hour. I felt good, so I didn’t try to go back to sleep.
I went to bed at a decent time that night, and woke up the next day feeling really good. I didn’t take a nap and was productive all day. So basically, I’d had one morning of sleepiness that I can’t even conclusively attribute to jetlag, and that was it! Done.
But that was only for a three hour time difference (plus my crappy sleep schedule while on the trip). What about a longer trip? Well, when I first posted the article on Facebook back in September, a friend saw it. She happened to be in Australia. So she tried it on her way back home, and said that the day after that monster time zone leap she felt fine! Now that’s amazing, a much better testament than my little Vegas trip.
I’m eager to try this on a much longer trip, but I don’t have one on the horizon. So if any of you try it, I’d love to hear how it goes! I also wonder if my kids would be able to handle not eating for that long. Actually, they do that a lot on Sundays, when sometimes they don’t emerge from their rooms until noon or later. If this whole fasting thing really has merit, then that’s probably messing them up even more for Monday morning.
I wish I’d known about this back when I was waitressing, and had to do two overnight shifts a week!
Another tip? If you’re traveling at times when you would normally sleep, set yourself up to get all the sleep you can! For me, that means bringing these on board with me:
- A pair of super-comfy socks so that I can take off my shoes and relax
- Some quality earplugs that are connected to a neck strap
- A contoured sleep mask that won’t push down on my eye make-up
- An inflatable pillow that has a built-in pump – no blowing!