More jetlag, please?
June 14, 2012 8:10 AM   Subscribe

Normally, waking up is a struggle for me, involving many uses of the snooze button. I was in Europe for almost two weeks in late May, and while I was there, I found that I was waking up rather early every morning, before my alarm clock, and felt incredibly refreshed and ready to go.

The effect persisted for about a week after I got home, at which point I started feeling more and more tired when it came time to wake up. (I'm still on vacation, technically, so it's not a matter of dreading the day ahead.)

Was it all because of jetlag? Something in the water? Walking/biking around all day as opposed to being more sedentary? Any tips on how I can get that refreshed feeling back? It was really lovely while it lasted.
posted by greatgefilte to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Walking/biking around all day as opposed to being more sedentary?

The improvement in my sleep quality when I get even a modest amount of exercise is one of the single biggest improvements in my lifestyle I've ever had.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:13 AM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


The thing is, I tried the "going to the gym for an hour every day" routine, and it didn't affect my fatigue at all. Maybe it's more to do with constant low-intensity activity throughout the day? That would be pretty hard to reconcile with an office-based job.
posted by greatgefilte at 8:16 AM on June 14, 2012


I'm a chronic snooze-button user as well, and this happens to me whenever I travel east enough for jetlag to take effect. It's never persisted after the adjustment period unfortunately.

However, another thing that has produced a similar "refreshed" feeling in me is living in a place where the sun rises much earlier than I'm used to. This seems to trick me into feeling like I'm sleeping a lot later than I actually am. Maybe you could try to artificially create an effect like that with one of those sunrise alarm clocks?
posted by sparrow89 at 8:21 AM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


+1 for earlier sunrise. Here in the Netherlands, sunrise is now circa 5:20 am (sundown circa 10:00pm), but (pre)dawn starts around 4:00 am. Packs a punch. Also, vitamin D!
posted by likeso at 8:27 AM on June 14, 2012


It could be related to the sunlight. Did your room in Europe face east, or have larger windows than your room back home?
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:27 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe it's more to do with constant low-intensity activity throughout the day?

In my experience, yes--constant or frequent low-impact physical activity through a day is better (sleepwise, at least; any exercise is of course good as long as you're not hurting yourself with it) than shorter periods of high-intensity exercise. Which certainly is complicated by the sedentary nature of office work plus commute times etc.; you have to try working it in as you can. Take a few minutes every hour or so to get up, walk around the building, move briskly up and down the stairs, that kind of thing.
posted by Drastic at 8:28 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Any difference in diet? Did you find yourself drinking caffeine/alcohol more/less?
posted by downing street memo at 8:32 AM on June 14, 2012


If it feels like you need to sleep longer, but need to be up at a certain time then... go to bed earlier? It sounds as if you just aren't sleeping enough.

Were you going to bed earlier when abroad?
Were you sleeping better? Different mattress, different pillow, less noise?
posted by BadMiker at 8:40 AM on June 14, 2012


Walking/biking around all day as opposed to being more sedentary?

The thing is, I tried the "going to the gym for an hour every day" routine, and it didn't affect my fatigue at all.


The constant low-intensity activity is part of it, but there is another reason: travelling makes you tired because your brain is working harder, and that in turn takes energy. That's part of why it feels exhausting to be in unfamiliar surroundings, even if you aren't exercising. When you are at home, you are surrounded by familiar things and your brain can 'shut down' to a certain extent. When you are travelling, you are surrounded by unfamiliar stimuli - different languages on the signs all around you, different customs and food, possibly communicating in a different language - every waking hour, which requires considerably more attention and effort. This extra effort requires energy, just as walking around requires energy. So, by the end of the day, you are exhausted.
posted by googly at 8:43 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Melatonin is recommended for help in getting the sleep schedule adjusted after jet lag, and it being your usual sleep hormone (and effected by light), I'd recommend combining a sunrise alarm clock and a low dose of melatonin in the evening for awhile to encourage your body to get on the waking up early schedule. It's always worth tweaking your sleep hygiene to get that refreshed feeling!
posted by ldthomps at 8:43 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


However, another thing that has produced a similar "refreshed" feeling in me is living in a place where the sun rises much earlier than I'm used to. This seems to trick me into feeling like I'm sleeping a lot later than I actually am. Maybe you could try to artificially create an effect like that with one of those sunrise alarm clocks?

+1 for earlier sunrise. Here in the Netherlands, sunrise is now circa 5:20 am (sundown circa 10:00pm), but (pre)dawn starts around 4:00 am. Packs a punch. Also, vitamin D!


Hm, I was actually in the Netherlands for the first part of my trip, which is where the refreshed feeling seemed to start. I do have one of those sunrise alarm clocks, maybe I'll try setting it much earlier than usual.

Any difference in diet? Did you find yourself drinking caffeine/alcohol more/less?

No, no real changes in diet. I don't drink caffeine or alcohol on any regular basis.

Were you going to bed earlier when abroad?
Were you sleeping better? Different mattress, different pillow, less noise?


No, not significantly earlier. I don't think I was sleeping qualitatively better -- the mattress/pillows were average, and there was actually more noise (damned Westerkirk and your earworm-inducing bells!).

This extra effort requires energy, just as walking around requires energy. So, by the end of the day, you are exhausted.

Well, maybe, though I never felt exhausted at the end of the day. And by this logic, making it through my third year of medical school should've had a similar effect, which it certainly didn't. :)

Good suggestions, all. I'm going to try setting the sunrise alarm earlier and maybe see if melatonin does anything.
posted by greatgefilte at 8:51 AM on June 14, 2012


Can you make your office job less sedentary? If you can use a standing desk, that would significantly up your activity level during the day. If you can't, try setting an alarm on your computer to remind you to get up from your desk once or twice an hour to walk around the office, instead of sitting for several hours at a time. We've all read the "sitting is bad" data, but in addition to that, sitting isn't tiring, so it doesn't give your body the same disconnect between being active and being at rest that walking/standing all day and sleeping all night does.
posted by decathecting at 9:03 AM on June 14, 2012


Maybe you had a comfier mattress while in Europe and you slept more deeply.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:06 AM on June 14, 2012


I'm guessing it's jet lag. This happens to me when I go east. It's great and it can persist for quite some time especially if you don't let yourself fall into your old routine.
posted by whoaali at 9:10 AM on June 14, 2012


Almost certainly jet lag, especially because the effects went away a week afterwards.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 9:16 AM on June 14, 2012


I'd guess two factors are involved. First, the jetlag mixes up your sleeping cycle. For someone like you (and me), who has bad sleeping habits such as using the snooze button, this is a temporary good thing. Probably, if you had stayed in Europe for a longer time, the effect would have subsided. Second, your life on vacation abroad is totally different from your everyday routine. As you say you walk around more and get more fresh air. But more than that, you're in a differen frame of mind. There are many new things to discover, a foreign language is spoken, you get to see monuments and strange people, you're confused, astonished, excited, all of which stimulates your mental activity. Perhaps at the end of the day, you're exhausted, but after a good night's sleep, you're well-rested and ready (excited) to explore new things. Again, unfortunately, this cannot be extended to a work life which involves a lot of routine.
posted by faustdick at 9:21 AM on June 14, 2012


When I was in Costa Rica once, on vacation/ traveling for a month, I often woke up every day near 6 just because. I was just really relaxed and happy and not having the pressure of waking up just made me naturally want to wake up, please I think the large doses of Vitamin D and overall sense of well being.

It was like I needed less sleep. Often when I'm at the beach this happens to me too - I'll wake up feeling refreshed very early. It could be just the pressure of getting away caused this?
posted by Rocket26 at 9:24 AM on June 14, 2012


I find that alarm clocks with a "sunrise" function of a light slowly lighting up before the alarm goes off, work wonderfully.
posted by jannw at 9:29 AM on June 14, 2012


I have DSPD and experienced the very same thing you describe here when I was in the Nordic countries at the end of April and beginning of May. I routinely awoke at 6:30 in the morning and fell asleep around midnight every night--and there were no alarm clocks in the equation at all.

I am absolutely sure it was directly connected to light and my perception of time based on the length of my sleep time during what my body perceived as the morning hours--even when those hours were extremely early compared to my North American reference points.
posted by yellowcandy at 9:37 AM on June 14, 2012


Was the altitude lower "there" compared to "here"? Going down in altitude can improve your energy levels temporarily.

Also, could there be something in your normal environment that you are mildly allergic to? Might it help to try to get different bedding or something?
posted by Michele in California at 10:02 AM on June 14, 2012


While I'd agree with the light/exercise thing, I think "different frame of mind" counts for a lot: you're encountering lots of non-routine things during the day, you're subconsciously preparing yourself for lots of non-routine things the next day.

So perhaps you need to introduce a bit of planned novelty to your days?
posted by holgate at 10:02 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


You might want to consider picking up a Zeo and check out your sleep patterns .. perhaps you can find insight in the data to improve it.. I've had mine for over a month and my sleep quality has gone up after making data driven decisions from the data I collected from my Zeo
posted by mike_a at 10:11 AM on June 14, 2012


The zeo is great.

But also, were you on vacation in Europe? Because I always wake up easier/better on vacation - I just assume it is because I'm waking up to do things I want to do/am excited about.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:43 AM on June 14, 2012


I'm seeing more and more writing on the idea of "social jetlag". Sounds kinda like what you're experiencing. Check out this article from New York Magazine. I found it fascinating.
posted by fso at 10:55 AM on June 14, 2012


Sunshine, fresh air, and fun are energizing. Can you take a walk at lunch?
posted by theora55 at 11:08 AM on June 14, 2012


Could it be something environmental in your home?
posted by trip and a half at 2:00 PM on June 14, 2012


Lots of great suggestions. Thanks, folks, I'm going to try them out and see what happens!
posted by greatgefilte at 3:31 PM on June 14, 2012


Try getting a full spectrum light. You might need to have an early dose of those rays.

I got one for SAD when I lived in Nashville and I could NOT take sunset at 4 PM. It really helped me!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:18 PM on June 14, 2012


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