Late night flights are wonderful…said no one ever. While offering an efficient time to travel, red eyes take a toll on the body. Interrupted sleep, dehydration, and prolonged sitting in uncomfortable seats can start off a trip on the wrong note, but there’s steps that you can take before, during, and after your flight to set yourself up for a successful arrival. The following tips have helped me survive red eye flights; try them for your next overnight trip and land feeling a little better than everyone else.
Prioritize Sleep the Night Before
While it may sound helpful to “get yourself tired” before your flight to sleep more easily on the plane, this is actually counterproductive. Losing even one night’s sleep can start affecting your immune system and the last thing you want to do is enter a germ-infested airplane with compromised immunity.
Treat Hydration as a Sport
Leading up to the flight, hydrate as much as you can with water and water-dense fruits and vegetables. Bring a large, empty water bottle with you to the airport to fill up once you go through security to continue hydrating before you board. Tip: bring a bottle with a wide lid so that it’s easier for flight attendants to fill up your bottle (instead of getting a tiny cup of water). This also saves plastic so win for the environment. Upon landing, fill up your water bottle again at your new destination. This might sound excessive, but airplanes severely dehydrate you so this mentality of actively hydrating yourself assists with digestion, headaches, and fatigue – all common issues with flying overnight.
Eat as little as Possible
I get into more detail about the benefits of fasting on flights in another blog post, but the main takeaway here is that food signals to your body that it’s time to be awake, but that’s the last thing you want to do on an overnight flight. The more you can mimic being asleep – even if you can’t fall asleep – the easier your body will adjust to the new time zone.
Pack An In-flight Survival Bag
This tip makes flying incredibly more pleasant. Bring a small bag to stash at your front seat back pocket while your carry-on is the overhead bin for maximal leg space. This small bag will have all of your in-flight essentials easily accessible without having to get up and fish for certain things in the dark. Some of my favorite things to include in my bag are ear plugs, eye mask, travel pillow, water bottle, chapstick, hand lotion, headphones, hand wipes, melatonin, phone charger, face mists, and nasal decongestant spray. Tip: once you have this “travel pouch” made, keep it replenished and store it somewhere accessible at home so you can always be prepared for your next flight.
Take a Yoga Class Before
Not only is yoga a great way to stretch out the body and promote circulation of the blood pre-flight, but it can also help relax the mind to better handle travel-related stress. I recommend avoiding the high-intensity resistance workout because sitting for a long period of time will only exacerbate tightness in the body post-workout. Plus, higher intensity workouts boost metabolism and spike your appetite – something worth avoiding while flying. Ideally, you limit eating on flights to help your body adjust its circadian rhythm. If you wouldn’t normally eat at 2am, why should airplanes be any different? Just because the flight is offering food, doesn’t mean you should eat it.
Planes vary in temperatures, especially depending on where you sit. I’ve found that packing extra layers always benefit me on flights as they also double as great padding for the arm chairs to sleep in different positions or provide extra lower back support. I learned this tip from a yoga teacher: ask for an extra pillow to fold and place underneath your tailbone and this will alleviate lower back pain from the airplane seats.
Avoid Blue Light
The blue light from our phones, tablets, laptops, and airplane movie screens disrupt our melatonin production, making it even harder to fall asleep. The airplane seats are already uncomfortable enough, so no need to make it any harder on yourself. While I personally love a good airplane movie binge, overnight flights are not the time to engage with screens. If you have trouble falling asleep and need some entertainment, rely on audio or print. Before the flight, download podcasts, guided meditations, and mellow music onto your device. Set your device to “night mode” so the brightness is completely gone while you navigate through different content. Once you start listening, put your phone away and resist the urge to stare at your screen. I typically last 15 minutes before I start dozing off when I operate like this.
Sit in the Back of the Plane
There’s several hidden perks for this and an actual flight attended recommended this tip in a past post. Sitting in the back means you’re closer to the bathroom – while that doesn’t sound ideal at first, it’s nice that you can make a quick dash and not have to worry about someone beating you there if you’re at the front trekking all the way to the back. Airplane’s tend to have more open seats in the back so you can discreetly take up a couple extra for more sleeping space. Being close to the flight attendants means it is easier for them to hook you up with extra water and snacks because they typically hang out there when not providing any services.
Get Moving Right After
You’ve landed and are likely groggy, stiff, hungry, thirsty, and a little disoriented. Movement is the most effective way to wake up the body, circulate the joints with fresh oxygen, and signal to your body its time to begin the day. Whether it’s a leisurely walk or an intense workout, exercising upon landing is a surefire way to reset your circadian rhythm and fight off jet lag. Bonus points if you can get a head start at the airport terminal.