By Leigh Signal | CNN
For most of us, the prospect of a long-haul flight is exciting, mixed with a few nerves. We’re off somewhere different – perhaps a vacation, maybe to catch up with friends or family. Even work can be more interesting when you’re in a new location.
Of course, you want to arrive fully rested and ready to go. But by its very definition, a long-haul flight involves travelling for a long period of time, often more than 12 hours. If you’re on a flight from New York to Singapore, it can be close to 19 hours.
All that time you’re confined in a seat that’s supposed to recline but feels like it hardly moves, while the seat in front seems to recline ten times lower than yours.
So, what can you do to get a a decent rest?
Accept the situation
The first tip for sleep in this setting is to relax your expectations a little.
Humans are just not well designed to sleep in an almost upright position. Unless you’re lucky to fly in a class with a lie-flat seat, you’re very unlikely to step off a long-haul flight having had a solid eight hours of sleep.
Research by colleagues and myself has shown pilots – who get a bunk to sleep in during their in-flight rest breaks – have light and fragmented sleep. Despite not having great quality sleep, you can be assured our research also shows pilots remain very good at their job throughout a long-haul flight. This, plus findings from many other lab-based studies, tells us that even a short amount of light sleep has benefits.
So, even if you can’t get your usual eight hours during the flight, any sleep you do get will help you feel and function better at your destination.
Also, we’re not great at judging how much sleep we’ve had, particularly if our sleep is light and broken. So you’re likely to have slept more than you think.
Time your sleep and drinks
The timing of your flight, and consumption of alcohol and caffeine will directly impact your ability to sleep on an aircraft.
Assuming you’re adjusted to the time zone the flight departs from, daytime flights will make sleep on board much harder, whereas nighttime flights make sleep easier.
All humans have a circadian (24-hour) time-keeping system, which programs us for sleep at night and wakefulness during the day. Sleeping (or waking) against this biological time-keeping system poses significant challenges.
We do have a natural decrease of alertness in the middle of the afternoon, which makes this a good time to try for sleep on a daytime flight. On nighttime flights it will be easier to sleep once the dinner service is finished, otherwise you will be battling noise, light and the movement of people around you.
As a stimulant, caffeine helps us stay alert. Even if you’re a regular coffee drinker and can fall asleep after drinking caffeine, your sleep will be lighter and you’ll be more easily woken.
On the other hand, alcohol makes us feel sleepy, but it interferes with our brains’ ability to have REM sleep …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment