I recently returned to Korea from a trip to Ireland to visit my family over Christmas and as usual I am suffering the effects of jet-lag. I always suffer and it always corresponds with the number of days I was away. In this case I was away ten days and so I can expect ten days of poor sleep and very unusual sleeping patterns. At the moment I am waking up at 2:00AM and not being able to get back to sleep.
Now, I could just stay in bed and try and force myself to sleep, but I have found this does not work for me. I just end up tossing and turning and not falling asleep. Before long, my alarms are going off and I have to get out of bed.
So, this year I decided to just go with whatever I am feeling at the time. When I wake up — say 2:00AM — I give myself another 30 minutes to see if I fall asleep. If not, I get up, turn on my computer and just get on with my work. What has surprised me is how much work I have managed to get done between 2:30AM and 4:30AM. It’s very quiet, no email is coming in and social media is asleep. I don’t think it would work to try and do this full-time as I often have meetings with clients that go on past 10PM. But at the moment, while I am finding it difficult to sleep at regular times, it certainly prevents the stress of not getting crucial routine work done because a lot of my work for the day has already been done before I leave the house in the morning.
Another advantage is I have been able to go out and exercise at 4:30AM. Some days I have gone out for a run, other days I have done some weights at home. This has really given me an energy boost for the morning and has helped me to feel really positive about the day ahead. I am not usually a morning exercise person, I’ve never enjoyed it. But while my body thinks 4:30AM is 7:30PM, I’m enjoying the early morning clarity, and fresh, crisp air.
Trying to force your circadian rhythms to get back to normal doesn’t work. Of course you can try. In my experience though, all that happens is you end up feeling even more tired than you would if you just left nature to run it’s course. Your natural body’s clock will soon go back to being fully awake during the daylight hours and going to sleep during the night. Until that happens just take advantage of being awake when everyone else is asleep and use that time to get stuff done.