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It’s important for pilots to be alert at all times while navigating through the skies, but unfortunately, jet lag may start to set in if you’re been traveling across different time zones. How can you fight jet lag and find your focus? Here are some of the best jet lag recovery tips for pilots:
Your body will lose a great deal of water while you’re in flight, so you may end up feeling dehydrated. Unfortunately, dehydration can make you feel tired and weak, which makes fighting jet lag even harder. Keep your body hydrated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after the flight so you can avoid exacerbating the problem with dehydration.
Improve your circulation
You can’t exactly get up to stretch your legs while you’re flying a small aircraft, but you can improve your circulation in other ways. Small movements such as moving your ankles and wrists in circles or gently twisting your neck from side to side can get your blood flowing. This is a great way to keep your body energized if jet lag starts to kick while you’re in the air. If you’re feeling the effects of jet lag after the trip is over, a little exercise may help. This is especially helpful if you’re having trouble waking up in the new time zone.
Stay in the sunshine
If you’re feeling jet lagged when you arrive at your final destination, try to get a little sunshine. The bright light and warmth from the sun will give you the boost of energy that you need to power through your day.
Avoid caffeinated beverages
It may be tempting to reach for a shot of espresso, cup of coffee, or even an energy drink, but try to fight the urge to drink these caffeinated beverages. Caffeine gives you a short burst of energy followed by a sudden crash where you may feel more exhausted than you did before drinking the beverage. Therefore, drinking caffeine to fight fatigue caused by jet lag is not a good long-term solution.
Bring sleeping aids
Are you traveling east? If so, then may have trouble falling asleep the first night that you arrive since your body will still be used to western time. Instead of staying up half of the night and waiting for your body to wind down, bring a few items with you that will help you sleep. Don’t take any medications that are designed to make you sleepy—these will typically knock you out cold and make you feel even more fatigued the next day. Try natural remedies such as chamomile tea or warm milk to help you drift off to sleep. Do whatever you do at home to help you fall asleep, whether that is listening to soft music or turning on the TV at a low volume.
Create a rule
Commercial pilots and flight attendants often create their own rules when it comes to determining whether they should fight their jet lag by staying awake or sleeping for a few hours. For example, some pilots and flight attendants tell themselves that if they arrive at their final destination before 11 a.m. local time, they can nap for an hour or two. If they arrive at any time after 11 a.m., they force themselves to stay awake until it’s time to go to sleep. By sticking to this type of schedule, they are able to adjust to a new time zone and reduce the unpleasant symptoms of jet lag. Of course, you don’t have to stick to the 11 a.m. rule, but you should consider creating a similar rule for when you fly and struggle to overcome jet lag.
Time your naps
If you fall asleep once you arrive at your destination, it’s possible that you will wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle and feel more tired than you did before you laid down for a nap. To prevent this problem, set your alarm so you either sleep for 90 minutes or 3 hours. The average sleep cycle is about 90 minutes long, and if you are able to wake up right at the end of a sleep cycle, you will feel rested even if you haven’t slept for very long. Therefore, it may make more sense to sleep for 90 minutes than it would to sleep for 2 hours, since this would disrupt the average person’s sleep cycle.
Eat on schedule
Pilots should always eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner in line with the local time zone. If you’re traveling east, it may feel weird to eat dinner at a time that feels much earlier than usual, but it’s important to do this to get used to your new routine. Eating at the right times will help retrain your brain into accepting the new time zone much faster.
If you know that you’re about to take a trip where you will be entering a new time zone, make sure that you get plenty of rest in the days leading up to the trip. Your sleep schedule may be a bit off for the next few days as you adjust to a new time zone, so it’s best to get as much sleep as you can to prepare yourself for the transition.
Seasoned pilots typically know how to handle their jet lag so it doesn’t interfere with their ability to fly. But, if you feel as if you are too tired to fly because you’ve been traveling too much and jet lag has finally caught up to you, then it’s best to stay on the ground. It’s better to be safe than to take a chance being sleepy in the skies above!