Shaking off the Jet Lag

There was (if you didn’t notice) a little lapse in the usual sporadic pace of blogging, as I was away on summer vacation. We visited the city of San Francisco, California and did lots of very touristy things and had an excellent time.

The blog I probably would have written over my absence would have been about the Sheri Sangji case, but some sterling work by ChemBark, ChemJobber and, especially, Jyllian Kemsley (surely that should be Chemsley?) covered all bases and I have little to add to their words. Thanks, guys.

I mention my trip to California in particular as when we got back to home to North Carolina, there was the inevitable jet lag. I don’t know if it is just getting older, but the time changes seem to be harder to get over than there used to be. Even the one hour shift to daylight saving time from standard time knocks me off kilter for a few days. As it happened the transition to Pacific time was a breeze – effectively you sleep in and we tended to be heading to bed early anyway after a busy day wandering around and looking at stuff (as the fig allows, at least!). But back home, suddenly it is get up really early and go to bed really early. Even after the weekend, I was still wide awake at 1 in the morning, wondering how I was going to make it into work at a reasonable hour. Some dragging was involved.

It seemed to us that we were in a loop, we couldn’t get up as early as usual, so we would not feel sleepy enough at bed-time and stay up too late and have trouble getting up next day. So to break the cycle, my wife suggested a single dose of melatonin to get us back on schedule.

The over-the-counter medicine was a low dose (and pleasantly orange flavored too) but it really did do the trick of making me feel sleepy ahead of midnight. Which meant I could get up earlier, get back into the routine.

So what is this miracle? Well, it is a neurotransmitter made in the pineal gland which is involved in our normal sleep-wake cycle. Typically, levels rise through the evening and fall in the morning. It is affected by the light (and contributes to seasonal disorders when you live somewhere that gets dark early in the winter). That is a reason not to turn full lights on when you wake up in the night (or even at bed time) because you don’t want the melatonin levels to drop before you are back in bed and snoozing.

Interestingly, a study was done of the use of melatonin on sleep disorders and it concluded “There is no evidence that melatonin is effective in treating secondary sleep disorders or sleep disorders accompanying sleep restriction, such as jet lag and shiftwork disorder. There is evidence that melatonin is safe with short term use.”

I definitely felt a sleepiness when I had my little pill. Was it the placebo effect? I’ll add that I went to bed early but read in bed for a while. That usually has a soporific effect unrelated to the quality of the reading material. So the idea of acting upon the problem got the circadian rhythm back on course? Just allowed us to break the cycle? That would seem to be the case.

Just as well, as school starts again next week – and that involves an even earlier start!

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