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I do not play well with sleep deprivation. And trans-Atlantic red-eye flights in economy class are an exercise in sleep deprivation for me; I can't sleep sitting up. So, having gotten home more or less alive, I've just slept for about 18 hours straight; now I will try to stay away for eight to twelve hours before I succumb again.

William Gibson wrote, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that when we fly across time zones our souls can't keep up with us, and take a few days to catch up; I think he's onto something.

33 Comments

1:

This is why I despise Daylight Savings Time. In my mind, it makes everyone fly across a timezone and get a taste of jet lag as a result, twice a year.

2:

and wasn't it Bruce Sterling (can never remember these things) who said something to the effect of jetlag being his drug of choice?

3:

IIRC, most people recover from jetlag at approximately one timezone per day, so the switch to DST should affect you for about a day. Many people vary the time that they go to sleep by more than one hour over the course of a normal week, so the effect of DST is probably like staying up late on Friday night.

I can't say as I have ever noticed any jetlag like effects from DST. It takes at least 4-5 hours to generate a noticeable effect for me, and it's really bad only when day/night are completely flipped. With transatlantic flight, the lack of sleep on the flight is worse than the jetlag. It's transpacific that really sucks.

4:

Not just transpacific; flying from the UK to Australia is a very special experience indeed (and I'd advise anyone doing so to budget at least two days after arrival before they plan on doing anything more intellectually challenging than tying their shoelaces).

5:

Charlie @4:

I imagine that the change of season and altered day length must add to the fun.

6:

I've always agreed with that Gibson line. My worst was a trip from Boston to Moscow via Frankfurt in January a couple of years ago.

Overnight flight to Frankfurt then connect to Moscow. Left in the dark, arrived in Frankfurt in the dark, arrived in Moscow in the dark to -30C temps. I felt like my soul took the long way around in catching up.

Charlie, just picked up Saturn's Children and am enjoying it muchly - nice work!

7:

Modafinil might just possibly be your friend, unless of course it raises moral issues or gives you hives or something.

8:

The worst side effect of jet lag is an endless barrage of useless advice from friends on how to counter it. Nothing like hearing people yammer on when feel like complete shit. As best I can tell, it just affects some people more than others.

9:

I'm pretty sure that's just a paraphrase of something in one of The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, but I'm afraid I can't quote chapter and verse.

10:

The deep problems of jet lag are because the human body has different biological clocks for different organs and tissues, so that chaotic dynamics occur during attempted resynchronization. One suffers no less if one apprehends an emergent phenomenon whose cure has not yet been devised by complexity theory.

11:

I always thought I couldn't sleep sitting up on a plane until I got noise canceling headphones (of course, business class helps too...). That and some kind of head position control works wonders for me. Recommended:

Noisebuster
http://www.noisebuster.net/
http://www.amazon.com/Noisebuster-NB-Noise-Canceling-Headphones/dp/B000RZWK4C/ref=pd_bbs_sr_2?ie=UTF8&s=hpc&qid=1218643149&sr=8-2
I've bought from Active Forever (in the US) with no problem.

Lewis and Clark inflatable neck pillow
http://www.amazon.com/Lewis-and-Clark-520-Inflatable/dp/B000IKK39U/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=hpc&qid=1218643240&sr=1-2
Better quality than a lot of them. Note that putting a pillow around your neck can be quite warm.

Ymmv,
Steve

12:

Charlie @4:

If you are doing UK to Aus I heartily recommend leaving 10-12 hours between legs of the flight and getting a room in an airport hotel. You still get jet lag, but its not the brain crunching where-am-I? kind.

Getting back to Heathrow at the end still saps your will to live though - its such a dive.

13:

"William Gibson wrote, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that when we fly across time zones our souls can't keep up with us, and take a few days to catch up; I think he's onto something."

William Golding had that thought earlier, and got a whole travel essay out of it: "Body and Soul" in his 1965 nonfiction collection The Hot Gates. Wonder whether Gibson ever read it?

14:

@7: I am loath to add another prescription drug to my laundry list. And while I have melatonin, whenever I need it I'm so tired I forget about it!

@11: I refuse to fly through Griefrow this year. (I'm using Dublin as my hub instead. At least it's in the right direction for the USA, and they haven't lost my luggage yet.)

15:

"...our souls can't keep up with us, and take a few days to catch up..."

I got a similar image from a Wallace MacFarlane story in Analog back in 1970 or so - the body's ka flapping wearily along, hundreds of miles behind the body itself as it zips effortlessly through the air, and falling ever further behind until the destination is finally reached. Something I still think of whenever I get on a plane and which seems even more poignant when I get off again.

16:

@9: "...an ancient Arcturan proverb, "However fast the body travels, the soul travels at the speed of an Arcturan Mega-Camel." This would mean, in these days of hyperspace and improbability drive, that most peoples' souls are wandering unprotected in deep space in a state of of some confusion, and this would account for a lot of things."

Episode 10 of the radio series.

17:

Accident statistics show that when we change to DST the accident rate increases. The cause seems to be sleep deficit, rather than shifting the circadian rhythms per se.

Here's one link, but there are lots more. It's pretty well documented.

http://www.mcmaster.ca/inabis98/occupational/coren0164/two.html

18:

"No matter how fast the body travels, the soul travels at the speed of an Arkturan MegaCamel..." - Douglas Adams

Even flying Business Class AND flying West, I've found around the world flights will really really screw me up.

The basic rule of thumb I have is that the body handles a timezone a day for catching up. Even practise doesn't make perfect.

19:

For me, a flight to the US (from Europe) is pretty much without any ill effects. It is just a long day and the next morning I am up and about (although I am upright in my bed at 6 am)

But going eastwards is horrible. Leaving in the evening, arriving in the morning, feeling like shit (because I cannot sleep in a plane as well).

At least on the flight to the US you have a great view, if you sit on the right side of the plane - I could look at Greenland and northern Canada all day (and do, when flying *g*).


20:

I'm pretty much in the same boat (or plane) as Markus: flying UK to USA is just a long day and I'm up and running immediately the next morning -- flying in the opposite direction takes 48-96 hours to recover from.

I'm more or less on UK time again, 48 hours after arriving, but I'm not going to try doing anything complicated for another couple of days.

21:

Perfect excuse to hunker down with some good books and comfort food.

22:

I fly back from Denver to the UK tomorrow and I can't sleep on planes either. We've booked a Heathrow hotel (you can get a 9 am check-in if you arrange it in advance) and plan to sleep for 24 hours before moving on.

23:

I fly back from Denver to the UK tomorrow and I can't sleep on planes either. We've booked a Heathrow hotel (you can get a 9 am check-in if you arrange it in advance) and plan to sleep for 24 hours before moving on.

24:

Andrew, while your soul might not catch up with you, your luggae might.

25:

I think that applies to the London Underground as well. My soul's been trying to catch up since 1984.

26:

Snooze Button For Body's Circadian Clock
ScienceDaily (Aug. 15, 2008) -- We may use the snooze button to fine-tune our sleep cycles, but our cells have a far more meticulous and refined system. Humans, and most other organisms, have 24-hour rhythms that are regulated by a precise molecular clock that ticks inside every cell.

After decades of study, researchers are still identifying all the gears involved in running this 'circadian' clock and are working to put each of the molecular cogs in its place. A new study by Rockefeller University scientists now shows how two of the key molecules interact to regulate the clock's cycle and uncovers how that switch can go haywire, identifying one potential cause of heritable sleep disorders. [truncated]

This web page also hot links to some earlier jet lag bio articles. All of which will be bio-hacked as we approach the Singularity. Beggers in Spain, and all that.

I'm hoping that Mr. Stross recovers from REM sleep deprivation with long sleep with MANY dreams, some of which have images and scenes and characters useful for his fiction...

27:

Not being able to sleep on a red-eye is a special kind of frustration, because you can't sleep, but other people around you are, so it would be rude to flip on your overhead light in order to read or something. Especially since the person in front of you has his seat reclined, so the light shines directly in his face rather than your book.

28:

When I demoted myself from university professor to high school and middle school teacher, I was informed that it wqas part of my responsibility towake up students who fell asleep at their desks. I lost one job for failing to do so.

I'm a fairly dynamic lecturer, and anyone who falls asleep in my classroom has bigger problems than the upcoming exams. Such as health, dysfunctional family, disability, or simple exhaustion from their burger-flipping job. Many USA teenagers work night shifts and/or weekends, not out of Protestant Ethics, but because their familes are deep into the red on rising food prices, gasoline prices, and the (corrected for inflation) Real Wages which have been falling for decades, while the plutocracy cashed in under the Reagan, Reagan, Bush, (not Clinton, as he presided over creation of 22,000,000 jobs), Bush, and Bush/Cheney/Haliburton administration.

What is the sleeping in school context in Western Europe? Asia? South America? Africa? I only know what people tell me, f2f or on the net.

29:

I'm a fairly dynamic lecturer

YouTube!

What is the sleeping in school context in Western Europe? Asia?

Often happens in Japan, a lot of teachers tolerate it.

30:

What is the sleeping in school context in Western Europe?
I'm out of school ten years now, so I don't know how it is nowadays.
But back then, it happened maybe a dozen times in 5 years of <tertiary school> that somebody fell asleep. Usually the reason was them being out, partying all night (alcohol is allowed from age 16 here in Austria). Most people drank a lot of coffee and stayed awake in that case, but sometimes someone did not manage. Most professors simply let them have their sleep and knew, that they would catch up on the things taught that day by themselves. Yes, it was that kind of school.

31:

William Gibson wrote, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that when we fly across time zones our souls can't keep up with us, and take a few days to catch up; I think he's onto something.

This is why Santa Claus flies only once a year. The rest of the time he's sleighlagged, the poor bastard.

32:

I second Ian @11. When travelling Aus-Europe a stop over half way does wonders and you'll only be a few hours behind the flight that goes straight through. Depending on who you fly with, half way-ish can be Tokyo, Dubai, Bangkok, Seoul, Singapore and KL - all good.

33:

One of the reasons I really hate travel by train , car or plane is I feel utterly disconnected from me and where I am when I arrive. The further I have to go or the faster I travel to get there the worse the feeling.

I describe the feeling as Soul Lag and now it turns out that William Gibson makes the same suggestions.

There got to be something in this, not any of that soul/spirit malarky just a general marking of territories and onwership of a place if you ask me.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on August 13, 2008 12:09 PM.

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