A very good reason for sleeping on a flight is that I like to hit the ground running when I arrive at my destination. After all, I’ve been looking forward to this adventure and don’t want to miss any of it by being jet-lagged; dull in the head, cranky, tired and constipated, and remain that way for days when I get there. Night flights provide the perfect opportunity for sleeping but even in daylight hours I don’t usually have too much trouble sleeping at least for some of the time in the air. That’s partly because I’ve worked my butt off in the weeks leading up to the holiday and partly because I board the plane with a few “essentials” to help me sleep.
Sleeping Essentials (for me) on a long flight
- Sleeping pills: Not the drug kind but the natural kind. A capsule that increases melatonin which induces drowsiness. Sleeping pills are not recommended for flyers for a couple of reasons. a) Sleeping for too long increases the risk of deep vein thrombosis. 2) Should an emergency arise, you may be out-to-the-count and sleep right through it. (Wait a minute – would that be a bad thing?)
- Travel Pillow: For my neck. They’re cheap enough (about $15) and can usually be purchased at the airports if you forget to pack one. A travel pillow prevents my head from lolling around, eventually falling either onto my own chest or my neighbour’s shoulder. The last thing I want when I get to my destination is a stiff neck and dribble down the front of my T shirt.
- Eye Mask: Shuts out the light, and if you’re flying on a budget airline especially, you’ll need to. Budget Airlines often leave the cabin lights on all night long while they try to flog their wares up and down the aisles.
- Ear Plugs: Also very necessary for the reason above. Especially necessary too if you happen to be seated near a rowdy bunch of people or children.
How I Avoid Jet Lag
- Sleep when I’m tired: Sleeping isn’t usually difficult for me for the reasons I mentioned earlier. After the first round of the “drinks trolley” I’m ready to curl up and pass out and I can sleep for 2, 3, or 4 hours.
- Drink plenty of water: Since 9/11 and governments became paranoid, we can no longer take bottles of water onto the planes. I ensure I drink plenty of water in my waking hours, purchasing it if necessary and taking advantage of free water when it’s available. The air in an ‘plane is very drying and it’s important to maintain body fluids. Fizzy drinks cause bloating, which only cause more discomfort. Water is best; when possible, I drink one glass of water per hour at least.
- Limit my coffee intake: One cup of coffee early in the flight is usually enough for me to prevent any withdrawal symptoms from lack of caffeine. Yes. I’m a coffee addict.
- Exercise: When awake I constantly exercise my ankles by rotating my feet. Every now and then I’ll walk around the cabin, stopping to stretch in the spaces which make this possible (usually an area near the toilets on a ‘plane). Deep vein thrombosis is a very real danger for long-haul passengers, whether flying, driving, or travelling by train. Sitting motionless in an upright position either awake or asleep, especially in a cramped position causes the blood to flow more slowly, with more risk of forming blood clots in the legs.
Gone are the days when I’d “dress up” to fly. Comfort is now my priority over fashion. Not that I’m a slob mind you..
I wear comfortable flat shoes, or boots on a long flight but take them off soon after I’m seated, putting on instead, a pair of warm socks. It can get quite cold flying at an altitude of somewhere in the region of 30,000 to 40,000 feet!
Stretch tights or pants, and top with a loose sweater for warmth when required, allow me to move comfortably and ensure that I still look decent and “uncreased” when I finally disembark. If I’m needing/wanting to look extra fresh when I arrive at my destination I’ll take a change of clothing in my over-head luggage along with cleansing/moisturising creams and make-up. Near the end of the journey I’ll slip into the toilets before the “rush hour” and freshen up, especially on a very long flight. After all, who wants to start their day in the clothes and make-up they’ve just slept in?
I know many people who find it impossible to sleep on flights and perhaps you may be one of them. I guess I’m fortunate.