Tired. Crabby. Dehydrated. Sluggish. Foggy. All words to describe your grouchier-than-normal self upon completion of everyone's favorite flight - the 'Red Eye'. Red Eye flights, especially from the West to East Coast, are a great way to eek out a few extra vacation hours by combining sleep + travel in one easy step. An ideal situation for the easy airplane sleeper. But for the insomniac flier? Not so much.
Having taken a few cross-country late night flights and struggled with sleep-deprivation the day after, I am clearly in the later camp. No matter how hard I try, I cannot sleep on planes. I always emerge feeling like a crabby, irate Golum when provoked about his precious ring. Do not cross me.
But when work or other scheduling conflicts make the Red Eye unavoidable, here are a few tips to finding some much needed energy the day after.
This will be your godsend. Flying already dehydrates you. Add lack of sleep to the mix and you become a living parched cactus. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your flight. Better yet, get a refillable water bottle to keep at your side rather than rely on drink service. A portable water bottle that also acts as a good filtration system is the way to go. I love Epic Water Filters' Stainless Steel Filtration Bottle.
Being tired is a lot like having a hangover. You find it hard to focus, feel irritable, and likely have stomach/digestive issues. Loading your system with sugars and/or fatty and fried foods will not help. Stick with soups, breads, fruit, crackers…. anything light and easy to digest. Trust me - the last thing you want is to fight a sick stomach when you already feel lousy. Some type of chicken noodle or broth soup is a favorite.
Napping is a personal preference as some frequent fliers prefer to stay awake during daylight hours to keep sleep times regulated. I am a natural napper, so would jump at the chance to sleep the day after a red eye flight, but having to work the next day often prevents such a luxury. If work beckons, try to keep more complicated tasks to the morning hours when you are likely most alert (believe it or not) and before the post-lunch/afternoon slump happens.
Notice the word “light” here. If you are already a pretty active person, incorporating a light workout such as the stationary bike, walking, or even stretching can help clear your brain in the short-term. If such suggestion appalls you, try sitting in the sun for a bit over lunchtime. Direct sunlight helps in more ways than one, and perhaps is a chance to catch a quick cat nap?
GO TO BED AT A REASONABLE HOUR
Even though you can never truly make up for lost sleep, padding your normal sleeping schedule with a couple of extra hours is beneficial.
BRING REINFORCEMENTS ON THE PLANE
Even if you don't sleep, at least you gave it your best effort, right? I always bring earplugs, a face mask, and neck pillow. See more about 'How to Create Your Own Sleep Cocoon' on the plane.
Accept the temporary set back and know that tomorrow will be better. As with any time your body feels run down, give yourself a little extra TLC, take it easy, and make healthy choices to get back to 100% at a quicker pace. And in the end, remember, mind over matter - it does work :)