This is the first in a series of articles about getting a good night’s sleep as a business traveler. I’m a nine hour’s a night girl so I have to make sure that I sleep well on the road, or in the air as is the case today. The luxuries of a first class cabin lay-flat bed aren’t always available to me. My class of service on an airline is determined by how many miles I have available to upgrade (transatlantic) or on which airline I have status (domestic flights). Needless to say, there are times when all the miles have been used up or I’m flying on very full flights on which it’s impossible to upgrade. Economy it is then. With the people, crammed into a seat with a 30-inch pitch. Here’s what I do to make myself more comfortable:
1. Use Seat Guru. I’m over upgrading on redeyes. I paid for an upgrade from LA to Orlando not that long ago thinking I’d be able to grab a good night’s kip in first class. The flight left at 11 PM so I wasn’t interested in the meal service. Sitting in the bulk head, I curled up, leaned against the window (I can’t do aisles on an overnight flight since I woke up with my head on a complete stranger’s shoulder) and started counting sheep. I drifted off but was wakened by a droning. It wasn’t the engines. My proximity to the galley was the problem. With service over, the flight attendants were seated for several hours, chatting away loudly. They yakked all night. I began to understand why it was a nonstop flight – it was a reference to their vocal cords.
My new trick is to go to www.seatguru.com and check out their recommended seats. For example, instead of upgrading on red eyes, I get row 16 or 17 in coach on an American Airlines 737 in which the middle seat is blocked off. This provides a bit more room and plenty more space for belongings. Avoid seats near the galley (as I learned) and the rest rooms. The queue for the loo can be quite disturbing.
2. Wear an eye mask. The lights in a plane will keep you awake all night, and mess with melatonin levels, which the body produces naturally to regulate sleep. Even if the lights are dimmed, you’ll still perceive that they’re on and you won’t enjoy quality slumber.
Wearing a mask will ensure melatonin production and save you from taking a supplement or, heaven forbid, a sleeping pill. If you really want to boost melatonin levels, consume natural sources such as pineapples, bananas, oranges, oats, sweet corn, brown rice, tomatoes and barley the day before you fly.
Don’t worry about looking silly with a mask. That’s only an issue for ladies wearing lots of make-up which rubs off on the mask and leaves them looking like a startled panda.
3. Eat Before You Fly. True or false? You sometimes eat on planes because you’re bored and service breaks the monotony. If you have the chance to eat before you fly, you’ll be able to make better choices, and maybe even add a salad to improve digestion and lessen the effects of jet lag. A heavy meal will interfere with your sleep patterns even more at 35,000 feet than it does on the ground.
Think about what’s going on inside your body. Cabin pressure is causing gases to expand and blood volume is decreasing from the lack of oxygen. Your organs are working harder to function normally yet you’re seriously thinking of eating everything on that little tray in front of you? On a regular day, your liver goes to work digesting and detoxing typically between the hours of 10 PM and 2 AM. If you’re eating closer to those hours because of inflight service and your liver’s already working harder because of in cabin conditions, it won’t do its job properly. You can say goodnight to dreams of uninterrupted slumber.