Starting to enjoy a healthy and consistent sleep cycle, limiting, or even eliminating, your caffeine and alcohol intake during the week prior to your journey and sorting out your affairs and travel arrangements to the airport, will put you in good shape for your flight. During the flight itself, focus on two factors: relaxation and hydration.
Although you may not want to sleep, or be able to sleep, during your flight, make sure that you rest and relax as much as possible. Try to plan your rest so that you will be aligned as closely as possible to the time at your destination. If you know that you will be arriving in the early morning, for example, make an effort to get some sleep by using ear plugs and/or an eye mask to simulate night time conditions as much as possible.
If you tend to have difficulty getting to sleep on a long flight, you may be tempted to resort to sleeping pills and other artificial sleep aids. As stated earlier, you should resist this temptation and only use sleeping pills as a last resort once you reach your destination.
While prescription sleeping pills, such as Ambien and Sonata, will help to induce a sleep-like state, sleeping pills typically do not promote genuinely restful or restorative sleep. Instead, they suppress your body’s central nervous system in order to trigger a state similar to sleep, often preventing your body from working through its natural sleep cycle.
The use of sleeping pills during long flights also carries a variety of potential risks.
Because sleeping pills do not promote restful sleep, it is likely that you will wake up groggy or drowsy and not properly alert. Of even more concern, using sleeping pills can lower mental clarity, making it difficult to concentrate or make decisions – vitally important when you need to negotiate new airports, cities and transportation systems.
Instead of turning to artificial sleep aids during your flight, you may want to try using a simple natural sleep remedy like chamomile or lavender tea. Both herbs are known for their sleep-inducing quality and can be used on an as-needed basis to help you sleep better. If you find that an herbal tea doesn’t prove effective, you may want to try a stronger natural remedy like valerian root or melatonin.
Valerian root represents a centuries old solution to insomnia and other sleep problems, even earning it a classification as the medical equivalent of valium. Melatonin, on the other hand, is, as already stated, the hormone naturally produced by the body in preparation for sleep.
Both valerian root and melatonin can come in capsule form, and you should start by using the lowest possible dose of either supplement. On a cautionary note, remember to use only one natural remedy at a time and to seek the guidance of your doctor if you regularly take prescription medications for an illness or existing medical condition.
In addition to herbal sleep remedies, you might also try listening to soft, soothing music or doing some kind of gentle relaxation or guided meditation exercise. These steps will not only help to reduce the influence of jet lag upon your arrival; but they will also help you maintain normal blood pressure and healthy circulation – the key to refreshing sleep and safe long haul flights.
Exercise during the flight is also important as it refreshes your body and promotes both mental and physical activity. In addition, exercise is important to prevent the possibility of deep vein thrombosis (clots forming in the legs).
You should ensure that you keep yourself well hydrated during the flight by drinking lots of water or fruit juice. You should, however, avoid alcohol and caffeine, as well as carbonated drinks.
Finally, make yourself as comfortable as possible by wearing loose clothing and slippers, rather than shoes.