Hello my Aviator, time literally flies. I am already flying for one year the Airbus A300. As you may have noticed the operation requires me to have a lot of flights at night. A restful sleep is not only important for pilots to be fit to fly. Sleep is one of the most important needs in life. I am a pretty good sleeper and I want you to learn from my tips for a better sleep. I hope they will help you so a good night’s sleep does not remain a dream.
Some colleagues of mine have approached me and inspired me to share my tips and guidelines in this blog post. They thought since I am the fit and healthy pilot I might help others. Especially in the Aviation industry pilots have to cope with irregular working hours. Thus many are experiencing problems sleeping well. Lack of sleep can cause moodiness, lack of concentration, and sluggishness. A former colleague of mine faced these problems. The frustration turned into depression and in the end, she had to take a timeout in the hospital. The effects of a bad night’s sleep are not to underestimate.
My tips for a better sleep
Body’s internal clock
Try to get in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, also called circadian rhythm. This is one of the most important strategies for sleeping better, but also the most difficult one to follow as a crew member. Keeping regular sleep-wake schedule lets you feel more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times. Choose a bedtime when you normally feel tired.
Good night tea
Instead of alcohol which makes you sleepy, have a cup of tea before you go to bed. Access alcohol might even have the effect that your sleep is less restful. Any herbal tea works, as long as it is without caffeine. I can recommend the organic Snore & Peace Tea of Clipper. For me, a tea has a soothing effect and calms my body and my mind down.
Don’t let you disturb by noise. In a hotel, I always hang the “do not disturb” sign out and I sometimes even unplug the hotel phone. If you have a noisy environment I recommend wearing earplugs to eliminate the risk of waking up by noise. I use costume made earplugs of Hoerluchs. They are fitted to my ears and are really comfortable to wear. A more affordable option is the product of Ohropax. Those earplugs are made out of wax and adjust to any shape. The downside is that you might lose them during sleep.
A room which is too bright makes it harder to fall asleep or wakes you up to early. Sometimes I use a sleeping mask when the room is not dark. I have not found the ideal one yet. Even the sleeping mask out of the first class of Lufthansa might come off while sleeping. Last night I tried the sleeping mask, SleepMaster. This sleeping mask is a little bit more expansive, but it is really comfortable to wear and I did not lose it while sleeping.
Avoid bright screens within one hour of your bed-time. In case you have to use your phone just prior going to bed make sure, you have turned down the brightness and activated the night option, which is called “night shift” on the iPhone
Reading helps me a lot to fall asleep. I am reading a magazine or a book and I avoid reading from a back-lit screen. This technique helps me to relax and to clear my head if my brain has been overstimulated a lot over the day.
How does food affect your sleep?
What you eat and drink before bed can affect your sleep. Spicy and acidic foods can also kill sleep efforts because they cause heartburn. Lying down makes heartburn worse, and the discomfort from heartburn hinders sleep. Additionally, a heavy meal activates digestion, which can lead to nighttime trips to the bathroom.
Foods containing the amino acid tryptophan—a building block of the sleep-related chemical serotonin—could make you sleepy. (not proven if the amount is enough to change your sleep) Foods such as eggs, chicken, fish, and nuts contain roughly equal amounts of tryptophan. Carbohydrates make tryptophan more available to the brain. Some whole wheat crackers with peanut butter are a good before bedtime snack.
How does exercise affect your sleep?
Exercise regularly and you will sleep better at night and feel less sleepy during the day. Regular exercise also improves the symptoms of insomnia. Additionally, it increases the amount of time you spend in the deep, restorative stages of sleep. The harder the work out is the deeper is my sleep. But also light exercise will improve your sleep.
Try to finish moderate to vigorous workouts at least three hours before bedtime. Relaxing, light exercises such as yoga or gentle stretching in the evening can help promote sleep.
Most important is that you have the willingness to try out new techniques and alter your habits to potentially notice an improvement. Routine, relaxation, and listing to your body’s internal clock is the key to success. One of my next blog posts will be about how to cope with working at night.
How many hours do you sleep a day and what is your tip for a better sleep?Please leave me a comment below the article and subscribe to my newsletter with your email.
Happy landings and happy sleeping!