For some reason the flight back to China from the UK – over three weeks ago – left me with the worst jet-lag I’ve ever had. It has taken me all this time to get my body clock back to normal, which is just one reason for my long blogging hiatus.


Jet-lag is a horrible experience, you feel disorientated, exhausted, irritable, queasy,and lethargic; you have a perpetual headache and you are unable to sleep when you want and need to.
It’s not just your head that suffers, your gut does too – in fact it probably suffers more than your head, as all your bodily functions are way out of line, so you feel hungry at weird times, and yet have little appetite to eat much. Your bowels start behaving badly.

When I was younger it didn’t seem to hit me so hard – mind you, I was not doing the same number of long distance flights as I am doing these days – in 2015 I did four return flights between China and the UK, plus flying to south India and back – that is a lot of air-miles. Because there is an seven/eight hour time difference between China and the UK jet-lag has always been an issue for me, but never as bad as this time.

Jetlag east west

Jet-lag is worse if you are flying eastwards, and less so if flying westwards.
Apparently this is because if you fly eastwards you lose time, and if you fly westwards you gain time. Best of all is to fly up or down the globe staying more-or-less in the same time zone.

Seriously, human beings were not designed to whizz half-way round the world in a matter of hours, and yet many of us do it regularly. A long journey of two or three months by sea would let the body adjust gradually to new time zones (but then again you could suffer from mal-de-mer which is also pretty ghastly).

This time even my usual anti-jet lag tactics didn’t seem much help. I turned my watch to Chinese time as soon as I got on the plane, I didn’t drink alcohol, I kept hydrated. I stayed awake (eyes propped open with matchsticks) till the appropriate time to sleep and I took a 5mg melatonin capsule half an hour before bed.

Getting to sleep wasn’t the problem, it was getting back to sleep after waking in the wee small hours. At first I thought that as I was awake I might as well read my book – on a Kindle, check out Facebook on my iPad, read the UK press online etc.  But the sleeplessness went on and on.

Finally I decided to do something I had read about on Huffington Post,  I would ban all my electronic devices from the bedroom. No iPad, no Kindle, no WeChat, no text messages.  It took a day or two but now my sleep is back on track.  I decided to continue the no devices rule, as a result I am sleeping better than I have for ages. Apparently these devices emit ‘blue light’ which muddles your brain about what time of day it is – so when I was taking melatonin it was like pressing on the accelerator and brake at the same time – and your mind becomes over stimulated by all the stuff you are reading/watching etc.

If you want to sleep better and longer, perhaps you should consider banning  all electronic devices from your bedroom too.


About herschelian

Started my 60s by moving to China with my DH. Surprised to find I am still here in Beijing eight years later - still finding it an adventure!
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6 Responses to Jet-lag

  1. Bea dM says:

    hello and glad you’re back! I read this with interest as I used to fly to Asia once a year, and it was just as you described: hard to handle on arrival there – a great pity as it was meant to be a holiday. Easier though still irritating and rhythm-upsetting coming back. Melatonin never did anything for me except give me a tummy ache :). Thanks for the advice, I agree 100% with no-devices but had never heard of blue light. Maybe reading in bed from a “real” book and not Kindle would also be a good idea: back to the past!

  2. camparigirl says:

    I always noticed it was harder to adjust when flying eastward but never knew why. Thanks for that and welcome back.

  3. Pat Keenor says:

    Great advice, Although I have no long haul flights planned at the moment, I live in hopes!

  4. I guess if CampariandSofa engage I should too. Nihao

    • herschelian says:

      Ni hao Winston, good to see you here. CampariandSofa are awesome, any friend of theirs is a friend of mine! I must now gird my loins and try to be a more active blogger…new readers like you help me to get my arse in gear!

  5. renu says:

    I find you echoeing my thoughts..I too fell the same jetlag and sometimes for 15 much so that I have started disliking flying.

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