Traveling Through Time Zones

Elliott Bay in Seattle, Washington.
For the Labor Day weekend, my boyfriend and I flew to Tacoma, Washington to visit some good friends who had moved across the country a few months earlier. We left the Eastern Time Zone on Thursday, September 1st, and my friends picked us up from the airport at around 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time. I was tired at that point, but also glad to see my friends, so, at their suggestion, we decided to go to a 24-hour diner to eat a very late dinner and catch up with each other. Shortly after sitting down at the table, I took my nighttime dose of lithium, plus some Benadryl, to ensure that I would get a good night's sleep. Whenever I travel, I am keenly aware that I cannot skip any doses of my medication, as missing medication, traveling, and changing routines, can all trigger unwanted mood episodes.

After our late dinner, we drove to my friends' house and I went to sleep around 2:30 a.m. Pacific Time, which was 5:30 a.m. Eastern Time (my time). I told my friends that I would need to sleep at least 8 hours before we woke up and got ready to take a nature tour in a nearby town. As it turned out, they needed just as much sleep after our late night, and we were operating on the same schedule the next day. I had a great day that day, but was very tired. We spent the next three days touring Seattle. By my third day on vacation, I felt that I had adjusted to Pacific Time. I slept well at night and did not wake up three hours too early as I had done for the previous two days. On the days that I woke up early, I just stayed in bed and tried to rest. I think that all of the exercise from walking and touring probably helped me to adjust the time change. We ended up having a wonderful, memorable, and stress-free vacation. It was great to see good friends and explore an area of the country that neither of us had seen before.

On Tuesday, September 6th, we flew back home. My boyfriend's mother picked us up from the airport at 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time. We both planned to go to work the next day, and it was hard for both of us to go to sleep that night since it seemed  like it was three hours earlier to us. We both worked on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. On Friday, we were exhausted and ended up getting into a big fight, which now, thankfully, is over. We agreed that we had both been overly tired. We spent last weekend catching up on things we had put off for the three days before, when we had been jet lagged. Now everything seems to be back to normal.

Traveling through time zones is considered to be an activity that can put people with bipolar disorder at risk of  having relapses. However, I would not let it stop me from traveling. If the opportunity for recreational travel arises, I want to take it. That being said, I would probably not take a job that requires frequent trips across time zones. When traveling through time zones, it is important to take all medications on time, to realize that you may not feel 100% until you adjust to the new time, and to give yourself the proper amount of time to recover after your travels. If you are traveling with others, I think it is best if they understand that you need to take certain measures, most importantly, getting enough sleep, in order to prevent mood episodes. Lastly, it is important to remember that the purpose of taking all of these precautions is to stay safe and have fun!

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