Studying abroad means getting a chance to jet to exciting destinations. Those long flights can be stressful, tedious and uncomfortable. Long flights can be less so if you can manage to get some shuteye on the way. That’s not easy with intruding light, noise and elbows.
It’s possible, though. Here are some pro tips to help you catch some Z’s on long flights so you experience dreamland rather than purgatory.
Location, location, location
If you can manage to spend a little extra and book an optimal seat, it can be worth the money. Seat Guru by Trip Advisor may become your go to expert. Type in your date of travel, airline and flight number – up pops a seat map with yellow ‘caution’ seats warning about restricted legroom, narrower seats, unmovable armrests, misaligned window, no recline and more. It also provides a comparison chart of airlines to your destination who may provide wider seats, outlet plug-in, video, wifi and more.
The window seat is a great pick for several reasons. No one is climbing over you to use the bathroom, it provides a surface to lean against and control over the window shade – which means no blinding sunlight when you’re trying to get your beautyrest.
While you’re at it, avoid problem areas on the plane where there might be a lot of activity – like the exit rows and the rows closest to the restroom. It is wise to avoid the back row of the plane. Those seats usually do not recline and are high traffic areas.
Watch what you eat
You lose control over a lot of things when you board an airplane, but you still maintain total control over what you eat and drink. Food and beverages can have an effect on your attempts to sleep. Avoid soda and coffee – the caffeine may keep you up. You should also avoid alcohol. That may seem counterintuitive, since alcohol is a depressant, but alcoholic beverages dehydrate you and have been known to make sleep more elusive. If you need to drink, go for water to hydrate or caffeine-free herbal teas like chamomile.
In addition, avoid consuming too much of anything. A full stomach or bladder is the easiest way to keep yourself awake and uncomfortable.
Need help relaxing? Don’t ask your phone.
If you think a little web browsing or tinkering on an app might help you fall asleep, think again. Technology actually does a better job keeping us awake by stimulating cognitive activity and keeping our hypothalamuses revving with the light from the screen.
Mayo Clinic research suggests that making relaxing bedtime activities like reading a book or listening to calm music might help you get more sleep – along with shutting out as much light as possible.
There’s only so much you can do on a plane, but do the little things to make your body feel a little cozier inflight. Keep your carry-on as small as possible, so you can have some leg room, or prop up your feet on it. Recline – courteously. Dress in comfortable clothes that will keep you at the right temperature in stuffy cabins. Carry on an eye mask, sunglasses or a baseball cap to cover your eyes and shield light. Bring your own pillow, sweatshirt or blanket if you need to so you can avoid germs on overused, unsanitary ones provided by airlines. Ear plugs or noise cancelling ear phones can be sleep saver.
Having your seat belt on and visible to flight attendants will prevent them from waking you to check.
Jet lag, time difference and the lack of deep, delta sleep affect our decision making and alertness. Travelers are particularly vulnerable in this state. Keep alert. Make eye contact. Stay close and in touch with your stuff. It takes about a day, maybe two to recover. You can find tips from the Centers for Disease Control. Try to avoid naps so your circadian rhythm realigns with daylight in the new timezone. Some people rave about melatonin’s ability to help catch up. Melatonin is a prescription drug in some countries like Australia.
Sweet dreams. Safe Journey!