We were warned.
They told us it would take at minimum a week to recover from jetlag when we returned to the States. They weren’t exaggerating. In fact it took me closer to two weeks to feel relatively normal after moving my body clock forward 13 hours, getting used to that and then turning the clock back. Two rough, sleepless weeks.
If you haven’t traveled to a place so many time zones away, you might ask what the big deal is. It’s just jetlag. A little drowsiness. What’s the big deal? But the jetlag you experience after traveling to, say, Europe is nothing compared to this. Let me describe it.
During the night, your body is thoroughly exhausted, but you are wide awake and your mind is racing, and the more you can’t sleep, the more frustrated you get, and the more frustrated you get, the more you can’t sleep. Mornings are foggy and grumpy.
During the day, operating on zero sleep, you feel like you have to concentrate all your energy to hold yourself together in one piece. One moment you feel like you are about to collapse into a puddle of jelly, the next you feel like you’re about to throw up. You bump into furniture and walls walking around the house. You say, and do, stupid things. You mumble sentences that make no sense. You lose your thought halfway through a sentence. You send email messages to the wrong person.
Your body desperately wants to sleep, but you know if you don’t change your internal clock, you will be awake all night, so you try to fight it. Caffeine is not as much help as you might think. In fact, I remember drinking many cups of coffee that had absolutely no noticeable effect. Until twelve hours later, when I was trying to sleep and was bouncing off the walls.
This is not a good time to make strategic business decisions.
I took two extra days off so I wouldn’t have to go back to work until the Wednesday after our return. I thought that would be enough time to get me ready to go back to work.
A week would have been better, but three consecutive weeks off is not possible for most of us. I would peg two extra days as the absolute minimum. If you are able to delay your return to work until Thursday, that would be even better. Whatever happens, do not go back to the office on Monday or Tuesday unless you’re at risk of losing your job if you don’t go in. At the very least, you’ll be opening yourself up to ridicule by your co-workers for the goofy things you say. And at worst, you’ll make business decisions you really regret later.
In the evenings for the first several days you will notice that you hit a wall around 8:30 or 9 p.m. If at all possible, go to bed when this happens. Take advantage of the fact that your body wants to sleep. If you force yourself to stay awake through this and stay up too late, you will not be going to sleep that night.