Why Does Jetlag Have To Be So Addictive?

Filed Under: Travel

Perhaps others can relate, perhaps I’m truly just crazy, or maybe both. I don’t know.

I’m writing this post while sitting in my room at the Hilton Zurich Airport at 3AM, unable to sleep. On Saturday I flew from Los Angeles to Paris to Zurich, I got in at noon on Sunday, I napped from 1PM until 6PM, and I’ve been up ever since. I have a flight at noon, but for whatever reason can’t sleep anymore. And I don’t quite know why.


Really the crazy part of all this is that I’m saying to myself “I need to travel less internationally, and just stay in one timezone for a couple of months.” Or at least I need to do a better job than I’m doing now, where I’m spending more than half of my time abroad, in all kinds of timezones.

Here’s the thing — I don’t think jetlag is that complicated if you’re staying somewhere for an extended period of time, but if you’re like me and are typically in places for 1-3 days, it’s a pain.

I can’t sleep, I’m dead tired and just dreaming of being on either Eastern or Pacific time in the US (where I typically get up at 4AM and go to bed by 8PM), but somehow I’ve found myself in this situation again.

But here’s the crazy part: there’s something about jetlag I love, because I keep doing this to myself. I guess you could say I have an abusive relationship with jetlag, because it treats me very poorly, but I keep coming back for more.

I actually don’t have much international travel planned once I get back to the US later today, and as of now I’ve told myself that I won’t take any more crazy international trips for the rest of the year. Of course that sounds great in theory, but in practice I suspect by Wednesday I’ll be itching to get on another longhaul flight and do this to myself all over again.

Let me be clear, I’m specifically talking about jetlag here. Sure, most people enjoy travel. Many of us even enjoy flying. But in some sick, twisted way, I sort of even enjoy jetlag.

I’m convinced that my loss of a body clock has altered my “normal” schedule, for better or worse. Back in the day I’d naturally get up at around 8AM and go to sleep at midnight. Nowadays I’ve turned into a morning person, and am always up way before sunrise. So when people ask if I’m jetlagged when I get back to the US, I suspect me being jetlagged would look more like a normal person’s sleep schedule than my normal schedule. If I usually get up at 4AM, me getting up at 8AM would represent a greater adjustment to my schedule than getting up at 2AM or 3AM.

Despite all the struggles I associate with jetlag, there’s something I love about it. I love waking up when a city still seems asleep. Sometimes I even love wandering the streets of a city at 3AM. I love looking forward to my first cup of coffee.

So yeah, I’m not sure what exactly the point of this post is, other than to see if others can relate to this bizarre sentiment. On one hand I recognize the constant time changes are bad for me and nearly make me go crazy. As I write this I’m telling myself I want to do this less.

At the same time, I know that within a couple of days I’ll be itching to do it all over again.

Can anyone relate just a little?

  1. Ok, Ben’s lost it…

    Just kidding, I can more or less relate to what you are saying and I believe jetlag can be addictive IF and only IF you don’t have any commitments the following days. If you’re travelling for business then jetlag is the worst. If you’re travelling for leisure it feels like a total disconnection from your usual organized life of waking up in the morning doing stuff and going to bed at night. So yeah jetlag is great !

  2. Being addicted to jetlag sounds a little crazy to me – cant relate to that. I live in Europe and travel almost every month to North America and Asia and have found a little bit of meditation to be an extremely effective way of dealing with jetlag.

  3. I totally get it.

    The thing that gets me about it is however annoying it is there is something amazing about how your body clock works even if you feel really tired you wake up at the normal time or can’t sleep. Makes me angry and amazed every time!

  4. Jetlag is rough and for a short trip I do my best to stay on EST. Just got back from a long weekend in Madrid where it was quite easy to stay close to NYC time the whole trip. Dinner at 10, in bed at 3, awake at 10.

    I’ll also use this comment to THANK YOU for posting about gin and tonics in Madrid. I would have never thought they’d be a thing in Spain but sure enough, they were everywhere, they were well crafted, they were well garnished (fresh juniper berries and basil for one, black licorice and orange peel for another, etc…) and they were strong AF. I’m sure they’re even more popular in the summer than in November but they were still quite enjoyed.

  5. Mazochism 🙂 ?
    But seriously, I could NEVER do what you do, irrespective of how much money I would be offered.

  6. That’s totally me!! I’ve done many crazy MRs during my time and there really is something awesome about being up all night, going out for late night munchies, enjoying the serene city, and watching it wake up.

    It’s not an experience everyone have been able to try but it really is unique and addicting!!

  7. In a way, I like jet lag because I am NOT a morning person. Jet lag sort of forces me into being a morning person, and I feel like I get a view of a city (including my own when I return from a trip) that I’d otherwise not get.

    That said, I think you can “beat” your addiction if you stay put in a place for a few weeks. But just like withdrawals, you’ll have to resist the urge to book another crazy trip. Get over that hump, and you’ll be fine. Rest up!

  8. Since I’ve stopped drinking alcohol I naturally wake up before 6am every day. I used to dread early starts now mornings are my favorite part of the day. Maybe that’s what you’re becoming addicted to and jet lag is just an enabler 🙂

  9. If you love it, then don’t change anything. However, if you would like to avoid it, do not take a nap upon arrival in Europe. I make this trip six times a year from the West Coast and I rarely get jet lag. After I arrive in Europe I check into the hotel, take a shower and then go straight to work for the rest of the day. I have dinner around eight and then I go to bed around nine, dead tired! On occasion I might wake in the middle of the night and if I have trouble getting back to sleep, I take a melatonin tablet.

    You might want to work at ending your addiction now that you’re getting a bit older – jet lag can weaken the immune system and lead to colds and flu.

  10. @ Donna — +1! Naps are definitely the top contributor to jet lag. I never nap, but I’ll swim, shower, walk the city, anything to stay awake until at least 8PM, and then have no problems resetting my internal clock.

    I didn’t do any of that in Baku, which was a good reminder as to why I’m generally so adamantly against napping.

  11. I have the same weird addiction. After the entire trip of jet lag, sleepless nights, sleeping in airports, hours in a seat (albeit comfy), navigating strange cities and the constant regimine..,

    I still fly those 75k miles a year because I love it! It’s much less boring than when I’m in class or paperwork as an engineering student. By the time I return I’ve got more trips in mind and browsing FlyerTalk 😛

  12. Can’t wait for your review of the new First Class Lounge in ZRH. IMHO it is a great ground product and is up to a Level of LH’s FCL – and even close to the FCT.

  13. Time change can play to your advantage. I used to regularly fly to Spain for the weekend, especially on long holiday weekends like MLK. Since they love to eat late there and party all night long it actually was easier for me to eat and go out there like the locals, sleep from 6am to 2pm. Just stay on US time!

  14. It sounds like you need to decide which of these things is true: you want to get on a normal schedule and stop getting jetlag, or you love jetlag and want it to continue. You’re straddling the line right now, saying “on the other hand, but then again”. It seems like you do want to get on a normal schedule, but that you’re afraid that will mean giving up some other things you love. As you said, it’s easier for you to get up at 3 than 8, so do that. If you love being up when the city is asleep, you can do it without suffering jetlag. Figure out what parts of “jetlag” you love aren’t actually jetlag, but other things you associate with it or you only do because of it, and figure out how to keep those things in your life while getting some rest.

  15. I can totally understand where you’re coming from! I fly around 125,000 miles per year, most of it in ultra long-haul flights. I fly to the opposite side of the world atleast once a month so jet lag has become normal to the point that I can’t sleep properly/feel restless if I’m in one place for more than a couple of weeks.

  16. I’m normally not a morning person, but with all the traveling I do, by them time I’m back home in LA, the part I love about is going for an early morning breakfast at Dennys or IHOP and seeing the city before the city wakes up. That’s really the only part I like, having a quiet breakfast, weary eyed.

  17. I am addicted to the unbelievably sound sleep I get after coming off a long haul flight. I can sleep 12 hours straight. Deep. Sound. Sleep. Love it.

  18. A few years ago I learned about a product from Sprayology from some flight crew members that participated in a jetlag discussion on another travel blog. I don’t do international travel without their Travel Essentials kit. It works for me – if I follow their simple instructions I arrive at my destination ready to work or play and easily adjust to the local time on extended stays.

  19. I’d be a little worried long term about this, Ben. There’s more and more info about the importance of sleep to physical and mental health.
    I’d suggest making yourself stay put for a few months, to evaluate what’s going on.

  20. Look into polyphasic sleep. It’s something I’ve done for ~15-20 years now and works nicely with traveling.

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