Does anybody really know what time it is?

Anyone who says you can’t go back in time has never been to Australia.  I departed Sydney at 2:45pm Friday afternoon, and arrived in San Francisco at 11:00am Friday morning.  Say wha?  I know, crazy huh?

1:31pm Friday August 16th      Sydney, Australia

1:31pm Friday August 16th
Sydney, Australia

1:31pm Friday August 16th San Francisco, California

1:31pm Friday August 16th
San Francisco, California

The beauty of the International Date Line, ladies and gentleman – skip a day in one direction, or go the other way and get a “day-do-over”. Time changes can be fun, but jet lag? Not so much. Beyond fatigue and disturbance of the sleep-wake cycle, jet lag disorder can cause trouble with concentration, difficulty with cognitive function, muscle aches, irregular menses and, everyone’s favorites – constipation or diarrhea. At least two time zones must be crossed to experience symptoms: The more time zones, the worse the symptoms.

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The mysterious “body clock”, aka circadium rhythm, is the biological process a body goes through in a twenty-four hour period. Re-setting the “body clock” can be done by tricking it with timed exposure to daylight, adjustments in sleep time and giving the mind-body connection a well informed helping hand.

So what are the historical and common rules to combat jet lag?

1) Hydrate with water, because your body behaves better when you are hydrated.

2) Avoid stimulants such as excessive eating, alcohol and caffeine. Stimulants…nuf said?

3) Sleep on the plane – resist the urge to watch “Abe Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”.

4) Nap no longer than 20-30 minute during the first few days – longer than that will effect your ability to sleep through the night.

5) Sunlight exposure will remind your body it is daytime – windows work too.

For more on common jet lag info, check out tips from the CDC and Sleep Foundation.

http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/jet-lag

http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/jet-lag-and-sleep

Those are the basics. Now here are some fancy ways to make the trip a little easier.

Jet Lag – there’s an app for that!

Actually, there are many. Most apps have you enter your departure and arrival times, then adjust your bedtime before during and after your trip. Other apps map out timed exposure to daylight, to cue your body to be tired when you should be.  While effective, I don’t want to be a slave to the clock and light exposure thing, which only works if your schedule permits.

Jet-Lag Rescue is different.  It is based on The Meridian Clock theory in Chinese Medicine.  Different points on the body correspond to different times of day. Depending on your travel time and destination, you are given two customized pressure points to massage and naturally reset your circadian rhythm.  Body diagrams included!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/jet-lag-rescue/id431085452?mt=8

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Sleepy head

Change your bedtime a few nights before you travel. Takes some planning but you just might arrive to your destination in-step with the local time.  If you are traveling west, make like a night owl, and go to bed a few hours later than you normally do – stay up for Leno AND Jimmy Fallon!  Traveling east?  Hit the hay a few hours early. If you have trouble remembering the east or west thing – just remember E is for East and Early.

Mellow-tonin

Melatonin is a great sleep aid. Naturally released by the body, as a hormone, levels increase after dark, and reduce during daylight. Supplements are sold over the counter. My personal fav is Gummie Melatonin – the insomniac’s ultimate midnight snack.  Note: Caffeine suppresses the release of Melatonin – just sayin. For jet lag, Melatonin supplements should be taken on the day of travel and then for two to three days, a few hours before bedtime. Beware: it can interact with some medications, so consult your doctor before using it.

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Sweet smell of sleep

Lavender oil. Simple but true – aromatherapy is crunchy hippie stuff but lavender is no joke. It has a sedative, calming effect and smells heavenly. A few drops on your pillow and voila! Dreams de Provence anyone?

The Black Sheep WARNING

Lots of people say no to prescription sleep aids. I do not judge. They have their place. Truth be told, on occasion, when I have been in need of a good nights sleep, Ambien has been a god send. No z’s about it – over the counter and prescription sleep aids are drugs. Drugs come with side effects, warnings and adverse reactions. NEVER try any medication for the first time, on a plane! If something goes wrong there may be hours, and at least thirty-five thousand feet between you and medical help. Trying out your new script for Lunesta or Xanax? Practice at home! And always get your doctors consent before trying a medication – that means, don’t ‘borrow’ your friend’s meds.

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, no one enjoys the funky fog of jet lag. Not everyone’s the same, so do what works for you.  If all else fails, don’t sweat it. And don’t worry about sleep today; it’s already tomorrow in Australia!

Bon Voyage!

Hell’s bells

Sleep is my favorite past time, more delicious than chocolate and the cure for almost anything. The art of napping is my sleep specialty, and today, in the presence of jet lag, a nap is mandatory.

I arrived in Australia yesterday morning, and slept well last night, but since jet lag is sneaky, I decide to grab a nap before dinner.

My fiancé, Steven and I are staying at the Melbourne Park Hyatt on a quite street near Fitzroy Gardens. Our suite overlooks the stunningly beautiful St. Patrick’s cathedral, famous for it’s gothic revival architecture. In preparation for our nap, I open the door to the balcony for fresh air and, in doing so, can’t help but notice the sun setting behind the cathedral. It looks like the emerald city – minus the green. I leave the door open, jump into bed and curl up under the cozy down comforter. Sleep overcomes me as my head hits the overstuffed pillow.

Mere minutes pass before it starts – BONG! BING BONG BING!!! The cathedral bells begin to chime. It is 5:10pm on a Tuesday – totally random chime-time. I wait patiently for the bells to stop, trusting it can only last a few minutes. They stop. I look at the clock, 5:12, I shrug and close my eyes. Then- BONG! BING BONG BING! Again? Really? Looking out the window I saw no wedding party or lights on inside the church. Are the bells on a timer? Is the timer broken? The clanging is not musical and sounds nothing like Amazing Grace or The Lord’s Prayer. It is just noise, like a toddler banging on enormous pots and pans.

The second round of ringing lasts a long time. Is it getting louder? We Google for any possible religious significance of the current day. Suddenly, they stop.  But only for a second – BONG! BING BONG BING! For whom does the bell toll? We laugh at the impossibly deafening noise and shut the balcony door. The bells are so close that closing the door does nothing to improve the effects of the noise on my now vibrating brain.

Geez! What are the regulations on noise pollution in Melbourne? It’s not just what noise does to your ears, it’s what it does to your body. It can cause or trigger asthma, ulcers, colitis, headaches, abnormal menses and cognitive learning disabilities in both adults and especially children. Speaking of the kiddies: Pregnant chicks in noisy environments can experience an increase in fetal heart rate, meaning possible premature labor or birth defects. Surely “the powers that be” down under must know that, at low decibels, prolonged exposure to elevated noise levels can result in even generalized health consequences such as: hypertension, tinnitus, hearing loss and…sleep deprivation. Need I say more?

The clock now reads 5:30pm, and the bells have stopped and started five times. My mind is numb, not in a good way. Steven sings, “The bells are ringing for me and my gal…”, a few choruses of the disco fav “Ring my Bell”, then throws in a few Quasimodo jokes.

I decide to call the church and inquire with a respectful, “WTF?”  I get the answering machine.  So, I call the front desk of the hotel. They explain to me that the church has Bell Practice every Tuesday evening from 5:15pm to 6:45pm. This was not on my list of possibilities.

A quick internet search using “park hyatt bell practice noise”, and the bell drama is revealed.

St Patrick’s: will not install bell dampers to muffle the sound because it compromises the quality of the historic ding-dongs. So Pat’s continues to ring with a clear conscience because they claim they are not in a residential neighborhood – forget about the five star hotel next door.

Melbourne PD: maintain that bells ringing more than a few minutes are considered a noise disturbance, and PD would like to be notified so they may go to the church and put the kabash on bellapaloosa.

Park Hyatt: denies hotel guests have complained, about anything. Bell Practice is the new black!

Any hope for a nap is long gone, but another hour of ring-a-ding-ding and I may feed myself to a dingo. Departing for dinner early is the only way out.

I now have a headache, not from the bells but from the big dose of cra cra that is the reality of this bell thing.

Noise is a part of life, but within reason. They write tickets for excessive and unnecessary noise in New York City because we all have a right to a peaceful existence. There is nothing peaceful or irrelevant about the fact the bell ringers at Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral will be over rehearsed and ready to roll in a bell emergency. I am however comforted by the knowledge that next time we are in Melbourne we will be staying somewhere where the only bell is a bellhop.

And they ate it….

In case you haven’t heard….

A scientist in the Netherlands grew a burger in a petri dish, like a throat culture, only more disgusting.  In vitro shmeat is reported to have minimal nutritional value and features a grey slimy consistency similar to scallops or squid. Sounds yummy, right?

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The $330K patty, that took two years to grow, was eaten this week in London. Two volunteers were part of the taste test. One was an American food critic and the other, an Austrian food researcher. When asked how it tasted, they appeared to choose their words carefully, ultimately deciding, it wasn’t as bad as they thought…but neither volunteer said it was ‘good’ or ‘tasty’. Shocker!

This creeps me out. I’m a vegetarian. I love animals but my dietary choices have nothing to do with animal rights. Animals are cute, but feel free to eat whatever you want. I prefer to hang out with my avocados and sunflower seeds, because the nutritional value of what I consume is what is important to me. It is no secret that in order to keep up with demand, suppliers pump livestock and fish with hormones and antibiotics. I don’t want that in my body, so I don’t eat it. Simple.

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The few stem cells used to grow the famous shmeat will require artificial growth hormones to mass produce. Yikes! There is talk about possibly being able to add additional nutrients to this artificial meat source, but the jury is still out on any side effects from eating it. How sad it will be if those volunteers who ate the cultured meat grow a tail and utter next month. Pork, chicken, veal – your turn is coming! Ironically, when asked, a rabbi from Indiana stated that if a synthetic pork thing works out, Jewish people may be able to one day eat guiltless bacon. Oy vey!

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Stem cells and tissue engineering for medical purposes is nothing short of a miracle and the only hope for people with spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy and any number of other medical disorders. These patients have no other options. However, the world has plenty of other healthy food source options. So, why are we wasting precious stem cell lab-time on creating less nutritious meat? Researchers say there is growing demand, but critics suggest eating less meat would be easier than growing dinner in a meatri dish.

shmeat

Give me a salad or a veggie burger. I want no part of medical mystery meat. And, I still can’t believe frankenburger cost more that 250K pounds to make, which is about 330K dollars. Now THAT is crazy! Especially when you consider that royal baby, Prince George was 8.6 pounds, which is only like 13 dollars.

 

Toe-ron-toe

I’m in Toronto and obsessed! A week ago, the therapist giving me a Swedish full body massage barely paid any attention to my feet, and I have been unsatisfied ever since. Like that song that gets stuck in your head, my craving for foot therapy will not be denied. I decide it is time for reflexology. And what better place to find it than in Chinatown?

The mother of all satisfying foot rubs is Reflexology. It even comes with a map!

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Sometimes referred to as acupressure or zone therapy, reflexology began over four thousand years ago in Egypt. It is based on the concept that specific areas of the feet, hands and ears represent different regions, glands and organs of the body. Hooey? Well, it depends on who you ask. One thing is for sure: It’s popular. Denmark reportedly uses it more that any other form of alternative therapy.

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Massage or science? Call it want you want – it improves circulation and relaxation, which supports the immune system. It is also non-invasive, thus perfect for people with physical mobility limitations (post-surgical, pregnant,or elderly peeps), and those who don’t like mainstream body massage.

Bottom-line: It feels good, plus alternative medicine has been practiced for thousands of years, so I keep an open mind, and adopt the old New York Lotto motto: “Hey, ya never know.”

I emerge from the cab in Chinatown and discover that I am mere steps away from a massage salon called Suiki, which scored four stars and has seventeen favorable reviews on Yelp. And as if that weren’t enough, plastic orchids floating in large glass hurricane vases with price tags still attached, and a small candle burning in a chipped ceramic holder adorn the steps leading to the entrance. The chintzy-ness is somehow charming. My friend, Sheryl, who agreed to join me on my adventure, smiles and gives a nod of approval.

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Upon entering Suiki, I am pleasantly relieved to see how clean it is. Knowing my tetanus and hepatitis vaccines are up to date, provides me with an additional sense of security. I am asked to remove my shoes, in exchange for groovy pink rubber sandals. Then we are guided to a dimly lit treatment area with two large chairs on a platform, ala nail salon seating. Easy-listening organ music plays over the sound system – the full-blown bohemian freak factor is delightful.

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We soak our feet in plastic-lined green buckets of liquid. It takes a second to realize that the texture of what I am “soaking” in is not identifiable. Not water. Paraffin? Gel? Jello? When we ask the woman for the name of the substance, she responds only, “yes”. Maybe it’s for the best.

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After ten minutes in the mystery muck, two sweet little smiling-ladies appear with large square cushions, and in unison lift our feet from the buckets and insert cushions under our legs. It looks as rehearsed as a formal tea ceremony.

Lotion is never used in authentic reflexology, so I am both relieved and disappointed when cream is applied to my foot. Disappointed by the lack of authenticity, but relieved because traditional dry reflexology hurts a lot.

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They knead, twist and knuckle our soles to upbeat versions of “Never On Sunday” and “Zorba the Greek”.  My toes, ankles and even my knee caps get full attention. This woman knows what she is doing!

Areas that normally hurt when my feet are massaged do not hurt today, except for my arches. Reflexology charts suggest that if my arches hurt, then I may have issues in my lower back or colon. However, I attribute this tenderness to my summer flip-flop habits. Who knows and who cares? The sixty minutes fly by, and before I know it, my lower legs are being thumped – the universal massage sign for “I’m so glad we had this time together….”.

Leaving Suiki, I feel relaxed, refreshed and satisfied. There is a buoyant lightness to my step as I walk down Dundas Street. Just what I needed! I’m ready to explore Toronto. Now, if only I could get the song “Zorba the Greek” out of my head.