Jet lag and the doom of 3.45am | Jack Marshall's column

You don’t often see 3.45am. It’s a time made to be slept through sat awkwardly at the nocturnal crossroads of ‘very-late-night’ and ‘very-early-morning’.

Monday, 18th January 2021, 7:00 am
The humble alarm clock: the jet lag-sufferer’s harbinger of doom

Blurry-eyed revellers with Donner meat still fresh on their breath are usually snoring soundly by 3.45am, while eager risers who spring out of bed to fit in a workout and a protein shake before breakfast still have another hour or so.

For most, there are only two causes to see a clock at 3.45am; only two situational safaris on which you’re likely to catch a glimpse of the lesser-spotted quarter-to-four in the morning. One is exciting and the other is not.

The exciting one is To Catch a Flight. You know the feeling: a holiday awaits you after an airport-trip bonanza of dark taxi rides and overpriced fry-ups in bright departure lounges, all the while feeling that sturdy and reassuring rectangle of Passport in your pocket. This 3.45am is nothing but endless potential and adrenaline-fuelled anticipation of indulgence.

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The not-exciting one is Jet Lag, which sadly rears its groggy head as a welcome-back-to-reality tax for having indulged in the first, far more preferable 3.45am sighting. This is the 3.45am with which I recently had to grapple.

First world problems, I know, but stick with me.

Over Christmas, I was lucky enough to visit family in a country with which the UK shares an ‘air bridge’. The time difference is just four hours - we’re not talking New Zealand, where it’s literally tomorrow, here - and the two previous times I’d made the journey, the jet lag bug had never bitten me.

This time, for some reason, it did. Aggressively.

Sat on my sofa at home, 7pm was suddenly a mirage of drool and half-heard snippets of whatever was on TV as a wave of 11pm drowsiness lapped warmly at my feet. Smothered cosily by the dim light and low hum of evening amidst the warmth of a house heated to combat the arctic outside, it was bed by 8pm and up by 3.45am. The ungodly hour.

It lasted a week-and-a-half: 10 days or so of powerlessness in the face of the soothing urge to nod off at 8pm whilst optimistically hoping that residual tiredness would extend the night’s sleep right through to a respectable wake-up time. In a pitch-black room, I’d stir and slowly wake up, nervously checking the time. 4.17am. 4.48am. 3.57am. On one random occasion: 2.15am.

Then it clicked. All of a sudden: 6.15am. 6.38am. 7am! All is well and 3.45am is lesser-spotted once again.