First off, this has no similarity to sleepless in Seattle. Yes, we are from the Pacific Northwest and yes we have experienced lots of sleeplessness, but in no way does it involve Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in a cheesy romance movie. What it does involve is a family in Paris experiencing the psychological effects of a 9-hour time zone shift from their normal routine and the altered states that it produces. Welcome to the Twilight Zone!
When most people hear the term “jetlag” they imagine feeling tired for a day or two and then it’s life and normal. At least, that’s how I remembered it before arriving in Paris. We have not traveled more than 2 time zones since Kerri and I flew to England with my brother back in 2000. At that time, we were exhausted when we arrived, but after a day or two we felt great. Maybe aging has something to do with it, or perhaps having a child, but it has been nearly a week and we still don’t feel normal.
When we arrived In Paris at around noon last Saturday we were tired, as we knew we would be after such a long flight. We went to our apartment and decided to not take a nap so we could try to force a normal schedule. Later that evening we went to bed, a bit earlier than we normally would, but all three of us woke up at midnight. Wide-awake! Sydney was whining about not being able to sleep and Kerri and I were restless and really wanted to sleep. Around 3am, we all finally fell asleep again and woke up about 11am feeling exhausted. We went out and bought groceries and wandered around our neighborhood trying to see what there was. Later that night I stayed up until midnight trying to guarantee that I would not wake up at midnight again, but this time we all woke up at 3am; and once again, wide-awake. By this time we had come to the conclusion that a 9-hour time difference from our home city of Portland, Oregon was truly creating havoc on our internal clocks and was going to take longer than we had hoped it would to adjust. We have since gone back to going to bed about the same time we did back in the States, but we are sleeping longer than we normally would and wake up tired everyday. Our internal clocks are seriously out-of-whack and the only way to start feeling normal again is to wait. An expat couple we met here in Paris told us that for each hour of time zone change, it takes one day to adapt. If that is the case, it looks like we have a total of 9 days before we will be back to feeling normal again.
Having our internal clocks out-of-whack is also wreaking havoc on how we interact with each other and our moods. In other words, we have not been having the time of our lives! After nearly 6 years of planning and preparing for a round the world trip, we are finally doing it and not having fun 100% of the time. Yes, you heard it here first; travel is not always puppies and rainbows. Our daughter Sydney is whiney and argues with us a lot. She has basically gone from age 8 to age 13. Kerri seems a bit down and has questioned the sanity of actually doing this trip. I am edgy and easily snap. Yes, jetlag has reared its ugly head and bored it’s influences into our psyche and has turned the trip of a lifetime into a battle of wills and sanity. Jetlag definitely affects you more than just making you a bit tired.
But the thought that you need one day per hour of time change to adjust is starting to sound like the truth. It has now been 6 days and we are slowly starting to adjust. We are nowhere near feeling “normal” and we still have our moments. But we are finding that keeping ourselves busy exploring Paris really helps to keep us focused on other things. Hopefully after another few days we will once again feel better and be fully acclimated to this new time zone. At least we will be in this time zone for the next year and won’t need to worry about abrupt changes again for sometime.