Jet lag and why it needs to be left behind

Alexandra Martinakova, Staff Writer

If you’re someone who enjoys traveling, we would get along very well. I’ve loved traveling since I was a little kid. That’s exactly what I did to get here to Hamden, Connecticut. — I traveled across continents, sat on a plane for nine hours and moved there. 

Because of the distance and time I would’ve spent away from my home in Slovakia, I thought it was a good idea to book a plane ticket back home for Thanksgiving break and fly back to see my friends, family and my dog. She was a priority on this trip.

Let me tell you, it was a very bad idea.

Don’t get me wrong, it was incredibly pleasant to see my friends after three months, and I was very glad to know that my dog has not forgotten about me. Even seeing my family wasn’t as painful as I was expecting it to be. However, had I known better, I would not have booked the ticket and would have spent the money on a little treat for myself. Why? Very simple answer, jet lag is ruining my life.

For those who have never traveled across multiple time zones and might not be familiar with the word, jet lag is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “extreme tiredness and other physical effects felt by a person after a long flight across several time zones.” I like to point out the word extreme, even if it might come across as slightly dramatic. Anyone who has ever suffered from it will be on my side in this, the feeling of jetlag is very hard to explain without cursing. 

Now jet lag itself is bad, which is an understatement, but if you do what I did — which is travel to Europe and back in under a week — once that double jet lag hit me, I regretted every single decision I ever made. 

Traveling for longer periods of time and flying is exhausting. Since there were no direct flights, I had to make my way to JFK International Airport, fly seven hours to Zurich, Switzerland, and land on the following day. I then waited for the connecting flight to Vienna, Austria and then drove another 45 minutes to my house. I then did the exact same thing backwards, except now the flight from Zurich to JFK took eight and a half hours and I had to get up at 3 a.m. I did this all in under a week.

Exhausted doesn’t even cover it. The first night I got back, I slept for 13 hours straight. I was furious too, because if you possess my luck you’ll get your bag either searched or forgotten every single time you fly. Jet lag shouldn’t be too difficult to deal with, the symptoms last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, as they are supposed to be present for one and a half days for every time zone crossed according to SleepFoundation.

I crossed six. That means it would’ve taken around nine days for me to get used to the time zone back home. I left after six days. You do the math. I’m too tired for it. 

I’ve been told that I could’ve just stayed behind for the break and wouldn’t have to deal with double jet lag, but as an international student, there isn’t much for me to do once the university closes. The Department of Cultural and Global Engagement, does provide an option to stay with students who volunteer their homes, but I do not celebrate Thanksgiving. After three months, I wanted to go home, just like everyone else. Is it my fault that I’m now falling asleep while walking and can’t even see the screen as I type? Absolutely, but it won’t stop me from complaining. 

I know that time zones are important, but not even three coffees can make my brain function logically right now and I would not complain if they decided to delete time zones off of the face of the Earth. If it would let me sleep the lag off, I’m all for it. 

So what have we learned? Don’t cross twelve time zones in six days, because no matter how you structure the equation, the math will not make sense for your circadian rhythm, your biological clock and you will fall asleep in your favorite class. Not that that had happened, it’s purely a made-up example.