Travel and Sleep Health: An Inverse Relationship

This weekend, I attempted to sleep in both days as I had no specific reason to wake up. The first day, I managed 7am which, while later than normal, was not really my goal and only gave me 7 hours. The next day I managed to wake up after 8am giving me closer to 9 hours. This caused me to reflect on some interesting side effects of the COVID lockdown.

First, my sleeping patterns have become less variable. Where I used to be out with friends past midnight at least once a month, now I cannot remember the last time. This has caused me to fall into regular patterns of sleep which, while likely better for my quality of sleep, does not help when I want to sleep in.

COVID is not the only factor as my schedule has become less variable over the last decade, so routine cannot be the only reason for my diminished snoozing ability. What else has changed? Two factors: first, I moved away from the west coast, and second, I travel less due to COVID.

Between my personal life and my job, I was usually spending at least one week per month (and usually two) in a different time zone with central and eastern US being the most common. I would also chain work and personal trips together; this led to me being well practiced at tweaking my routines to get my body ready for a new time zone. And it kept my body guessing.

With COVID, that is gone. I have not been on a plane since March of 2020 which is shocking to type. My body has finally adjusted to a certain time zone, and with it a defined sleep pattern. I would like to think this means I am getting better sleep but given that I still fall asleep in less than 5 minutes, it would seem I remain deprived.

My conclusion from these reflections is that I need to cross an ocean; I want to get back to the person who is out there experiencing life in the flesh, and I will sort out the effects as I go. Now the only question is if I book a flight now or wait until I get a better idea on my vaccine timeline than “sometime between June and the end of 2021.”

Home is something to look forward to returning to, not a permanent existence.

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