Sleep/Jetlag Knowledge base
Jetlag, also called desynchronosis and flight fatigue, is a temporary disorder that causes fatigue,insomnia, and other symptoms as a result of air travel across time zones. It is considered a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, which is a disruption of the internal body clock.
In general, the body will adjust to the new time zone at the rate of one or two time zones per day.
Is it dangerous? Generally not, at least not directly unless you need to drive or operate heavy machinery. But it is unpleasant and unwelcome, and in extremes it can be harmful. Twice a year we have an experiment running with X millions of people, and it shows the negative consequences,
including X% of higher occurrence of …..?stroke? and x% higher occurrence of suicide in men. This experiment is called daylight savings time and the change is just 1 hour. So if you travel across several timezones, you better watch out for yourself.
Our body, as well as bodies of all animals exposed to sun, are ruled by the day and night cycle. Our biological clock is set in this pattern so strongly, that even when we are not exposed to changes in light, we will roughly follow 24h sleep-wake cycle. This cycle guides not only when we feel sleepy, but also our metabolism, hormonal balance (including our hunger/satiety hormones), ….[from book]. Any disruption has a downstream effect to all these processes.
This cycle is now internalized and is guided by
– Sleep pressure mediated by adenosine
– Sleep onset mediated by melatonin based on light exposure
[add explanation of melatonin vs. adenosine vs. cortisol]
Our bodies have 2 systems that are closely related to circadian rhythm – what we call Central clock and Peripheral clock.
The central clock is said to regulate 10-15% of gene expression, and it is constantly updated based on (blue) light exposure, when light sensing molecules in our eyes* “charge” enough. Peripheral clock also governs many metabolic processes (3000-5000 genes in liver get turned on or
off based on time of the day), and it “starts ticking” based on the incoming nutrients.
If we don’t synchronize central and peripheral clock, processes in our bodies are also desynchronized. For example if we eat a meal in the evening, we “wake up” the peripheral clock making it think it’s still bright day, but at the same time central clock is already guiding us towards
sleep and changing our metabolic rate.
Many studies… confirm the importance of avoiding food intake prior to sleeping – with impact ranging from 70% lower body fat (…., study with mice) to significantly decreased recurrence of breast cancer (……, study with …. women).
Having consistent daily schedule of sleep and food intake makes the transition to new timezone easier – we can use meal and sleep timing to gently nudge body to adjust. On top of that we can use the peripheral clock “reset” in environment where we have little control over our light exposure (e.g.on a plane or at the airport).
*these light sensing molecules are not related to vision. Even people who were born blind will follow natural light/dark cycle as long as their melanopsin cells are intact.
It’s getting more and more obvious how important role sleep has in our lives. Sleep enjoys renewed attention from scientists and medical practitioners, and unlike with nutrition there is little disagreement about what constitutes good sleep and what are its benefits.
Sleep has many functions – from …. Through restoring hormonal balance, to storing new and connecting new and old information. It is a neurologically and metabolically active state, and it’s important that you will not disrupt it with “sleeping” pills which just sedate higher parts of your brain.
Lack of sleep, or bad sleep, has many negative consequences. To use words of Matthew Walker, PhD, “Routinely sleeping less than six or seven hours a night demolishes your immune system, more than doubling your risk of cancer. Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor determining whether or not
you will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Inadequate sleep—even moderate reductions for just one week—disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic. Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you
on a path toward cardiovascular disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure.” …reference on this book!
Sleep deprived kid will have most of the symptoms of ADHD. If this is not scary enough, bad sleep quality both contributes to and is reinforced by all major psychic conditions – depression, anxiety, and even suicidality.
Sleep has effect on our higher cognitive functions – and lack of it causes us to make poor decisions, be less kind to others, and even alters our morality (sleep deprived people cheat more often).
Quality of sleep is defined by 3 important factors
– Distribution of sleep phases
– Total duration of sleep
– Timing of sleep
As we sleep, our body and brain go through cycles of distinct types of activity, predominantly defined by the type of brain waves. Each of them has a specific function, and the specific requirements change over our lifetime (e.g. fetus would predominantly engage in REM sleep, while late teens seem to require more deep sleep), but we need a good mix of all if we want to function optimally.
Light sleep (includes Stage 1 with alpha & theta brain waves at the beginning and end of sleep, and Stage 2 when heart rate and breathing are slowing down) functions as …
Deep sleep (Stages 3 and 4 characterized by slow delta waves) is the time of growth hormone release, tissue repair and regeneration and activation of the immune system. Difficult to wake up from ……
REM sleep is the most curious part of night. Physiological effects are rather scary – our eyes dart rapidly (hence Rapid Eye Movement), our muscles are paralyzed, and even the thermoregulation is shut down. This phase is crucial for memory consolidation, information processing, but also metabolic waste management and tissue repair. It is the time of dreaming, and muscle paralysis prevents us to act on our dreams.
Sleep cycles would on average take about 90 minutes, and typically we would see pattern light sleep, followed by deep sleep, followed by REM sleep. Studies were done with suppressing specific type of sleep for one night, where participants would be deprived of e.g. just REM sleep, but sleep normally otherwise. The fact that the next night their brain would generate more of the type of sleep they were deprived of suggests that all of them are indeed important.
Which sleep phase is the most important? A healthy balance of all of them is non-negotiable for healthy life. Each phase has different functions …
… in the most extreme cases sleep deprivation leads to death. Immune system, nervous system, metabolism, .. [select sentence from book describing all the problems]
Frequent sleep <6-7 hours: 2x risk of cancer, Alzheimers, immune system [rats study], cardiovascular disease risk, glucose metabolism impact ->prediabetic Long haul air crews – shrinking of brain regions related to learning and memory + impact on short term memory. Frequent flyers – higher rates of cancer and type 2 diabetes compared to matched group of general population]
Contrary to popular beliefs, ideal sleep duration for adults is 7-9 hours **research**. This time is necessary to spend enough time in and get the benefits of all the sleep phases. Studies were done …
During travel, especially across timezones, our sleep is the first thing to be impacted. This is why it’s even more important to sleep at minimum 7 hours during the travel.
It would seem that it doesn’t matter when you sleep, as long as you will get enough hours. But there are reasons why this is not fully true.
First was outlined in Circadian rhythm chapter. Our sleeping and waking hours are guided by the ebb and flow of adenosine, melatonin and cortisol during the day. Sleep onset is short (= it’s easier to fall asleep) when the adenosine and melatonin are high, and it will probably be very difficult to fall asleep if none of them is present.
Second reason is the extension of the impact of different sleep phases. While we usually get all types of sleep throughout the night, based on latest research our bodies focus more on deep sleep during the earlier hours of the night, and then in second half we focus more on REM. If we push our bedtime a few hours later, we might miss on opportunity to get enough deep sleep, and if we need to wake up too early we are compromising on REM.
Traveling from point A to point B can feel like a drudgery that produces tired, grumpy and unproductive people, with the effect lasting for several hours and maybe days.
But there are multiple vectors of attack that you can engage to prevent it from happening to you and those who travel with you
those who travel with you
– Adjust before you fly
– Make body clocks work for you
o Sleep during the flight
o Sleep at the airport
o Sleep in your destination
o Coffee / caffeine
o Support sleep
o Light up
– Physical comfort
o Travel comfort
o Stressful situations
Normally our body is able to adjust our biorhythms only by 1 hour every day. To make the transition easier, you can start preparing for the new timezone in advance by shifting your daily routine closer to the destination time. Let’s say you’re flying eastward to country with +3 hour time difference (your current 7am is their 10am). You can start adjusting 2 days before you leave by going to bed and waking up 1 hour later each day, getting closer to destination time even before you travel.
If you’re crossing too many timezones this may not be practical, but each hour of adjustment counts. Adjust as much as your daily schedule allows you, and you will catch up with the rest of difference during your flight and first day or two after arrival.
To guide our circadian rhythm, our body uses different cues from the environment. Light (specifically the blue spectrum) is the strongest trigger that guides the central clock in our brain (suprachiasmatic nucleus). But there are other “zeitgebers” – changes in temperature, food, activity, and even social interactions if they happen on regular basis.
These “zeitgebers” (that which gives time) reset the circadian rhythm. Usually this is seen as undesirable – for example if you eat too late at night, your sleep is disrupted and you don’t feel refreshed in the morning.
But you can use them to your advantage if you need sudden change in your circadian rhythm when you travel. Drop in core body temperature can help you to sleep, food at the right time can help your body to wake up and adjust to new timezone. This is why Hecatee uses these cues to improve the quality of your travel and sleep.
As was proven in several studies, people consistently underestimate how big impact their insufficient sleep has on their performance – and the more sleep deprived people are, the more difficult is to recognize the impairment.
To have objective information about the real duration, it’s best to use technology to track it. If you don’t have a wearable device (Oura ring, fitness band, or any smart watch), you can just use your phone. There are plenty of apps to choose from – for example Sleep as Android, Sleep Cycle alarm clock or other.
They can help you to track how much you sleep, but also how well rested you feel in the morning, and whether you suffer from social jetlag. Social jetlag is a phenomena resulting from our typical work week – majority of people wake up much later during the weekend compared to weekday waking
time. Waking up 2 hours later on Saturday has the same disruptive effect on your health and energy levels as flying to a country with different timezone, and many of us do this to our bodies every week. Becoming aware of this issue, and tracking if and how it impacts your wellbeing, will help you to see if you need to adjust your sleep timing.
One of the most hated aspects of air travel is sleep on the plane – unless you can afford to fly first or business class and take advantage of the flatbed.
So should you fly business class if you can afford it? The calculation can be quite simple. Let’s say you are traveling for important meeting. Imagine what could happen if the meeting goes wrong because you’re not refreshed enough and will be less productive or less capable to negotiate.
Calculate the potential loss, and probability of it happening. Then you can compare it to price difference between economy and business class. If the risk is relatively small, just get the economy ticket and follow the advice from Hecatee to travel as good as it gets. If the potential loss is too large and you need to deliver 100% during the whole trip, price of business class ticket may be worth paying.
[should this be removed?] Other way to look at it is to estimate how much would be your productivity loss. Let’s say the value of your fully productive hour is X, but only Y if you are tired. Z is the number of hours of lower productivity that you can avoid by flying business class.
Productivity loss avoided = (X-Y) * Z
Some airlines introduced Premium Economy class. It’s important to look at what is the difference compared to standard Economy class – each airline defines their own rules. Sometimes Premium means additional leg space which may be helpful for your comfort, but often it is just things like free
meals and drinks. These are usually (as most of airline meal) low quality and rarely worth the additional price tag.
Potentially interesting perk (offered free by some airlines) could be the seat selection. Window seat will give you less sleep interruptions, but aisle seat offers more freedom to move. Look at seating arrangement on your flight and pick the best seat for you. The aisle seat in middle row [picture] is typically the sweet spot for long haul flights with 3 rows of seats. It will give you the freedom to move, but will minimize sleep interruptions (less people next to you who need to pee).
Of course the best seat on the plane is the one with free seats around you. If you are doing the check in online or at a kiosk at the airport, the seat selection is usually available for most airlines (except for budget airlines). Look at the seat map to see available seats and pick the best ones for you. If you are checking in at the airline counter you can still try your luck – just smile at the agent and ask politely if there are such
Better sleep during flight
Even if you are not keen to pay significantly more for business class ticket, there are things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep.
Good pre-sleep hygiene is even more important than usual. We’re not talking about brushing your teeth (even though you should do that too – don’t forget to bring your toothbrush and toothpaste). Even more than on a normal day, it is important to wind down 1-2 hours before you need to sleep,
manage body temperature as much as possible, and avoid blue light. More detailed list and explanations are in section ………..
Other flight specific items you should consider are
Neck pillow. Sleeping in seated position is far from optimal, and neck will suffer the most. Pick the most comfortable pillow for you. If you prefer the usual horse-shoe shaped pillow, make sure its shape is adjustable to your needs. You can try some of the new designs, e.g. this
neck-brace type …[image]… This shape has the advantage of supporting your front side, so your head does not fall.
- Sitting position. If your seat has head support, use it. Use pillow provided by airline to find the most comfortable position – try it behind your back in different heights, or even sit on it.
- Sleep mask. Good sleep mask will block all the lights that may temper with your melatonin production and cause you to wake up when you should be sleeping. Go for a comfortable option with material that is pleasant for you.
Noise mitigation. Humming of the jet engine, toilets flushing, noisy neighbors enjoying free alcohol – all of these play against good sleep. You can use ear plugs …[example[… or ear putty ….[example from TF]… to find a quiet place in your head. Another option would be headphones – either standard ones which you can use to play calming music or fiction audiobook, or noise cancelling headphones that will filter out the noise from your
environment. Whichever option you choose, make sure they’re comfortable enough for you to have them on for several hours.
Special tip: there is music specifically designed to improve sleep. Try brain.fm Sleep …., or a fantastic 6 hour album by Max Richter – Sleep (highly recommended!). It’s shorter version From Sleep is fantastic for naps.
- Comfortable clothes and shoes. Sleeping in a suit or tight blouse is far from ideal. Even if you are going to the airport directly from a meeting, change before you board. On long flights spend as much time as possible without your shoes. For obvious reasons we don’t recommend going to the toilet in your socks – put your shoes on, or you can pack simple slippers (e.g. from your hotel).
- Water. Remember that we breathe out roughly 1l of water when we sleep. When you combine it with the desert-like humidity on the plane, you really want to make sure you have water available when you wake up.
**How to make sleep as comfortable as possible
If you can afford to pay for extra legroom
Sometimes it makes sense to invest (time and money) to a proper sleep at the airport. If you have a long stopover during your recommended sleep time, it’s definitely worth exploring options in and near the airport. It may even make sense to plan your flights to have a sleep stopover – especially if your meeting next day is an important one. Short sleep on bed beats short sleep on airline seat any time.
Some lounges have sleep pods – simple small rooms with a bed and shelf for your things. They would charge extra for this service, but if you have access to such lounge it’s usually not very expensive.
Airport sleep pods
Some airports also offer either sleep pods or capsule-hotel style rooms. These tend to be more expensive, but have 2 advantages.
– They have hourly rates – you don’t have to pay for the whole night if you only have a few hours.
– They are right at the airport premises – which may be helpful if your stopover is relatively short and you don’t want to waste time walking or riding to the hotel.
Airport hotels are a good option for longer layovers. Some airports have hotels that cater for different budgets, some don’t. When deciding whether to pay extra for the hotel, you should consider these
– Do I have meeting next day that requires my full attention?
– Is there other place at the airport where I can take decent rest?
– How far is the hotel? How much time do I have? Is it enough?
If it makes sense, go for it. Night at the airport hotel is much cheaper than paying for the business class ticket.
Airport premises – free options
Even if you don’t want to pay any extras, you can find a good spot to relax. Some people seem to like sitting at cafes – and while they may have more comfortable seating compared to gates, usually they have bright lights and a lot of noise, not to mention that you have to guard your belongings well.
Instead you should look for “quiet zones” or “relax zones”, which many airports started offering to help travelers. They are usually in less busy part of the airport, secluded from all the buzz. Some even have recline seats or “beds” where you can lie down.
If your airport doesn’t have them, look for gates that are further away – there will be less noise and people walking around.
And if you don’t care much about people seeing you lying on the ground, find a clean and safe space and do that. Some of the repair functions of sleep (e.g. cleaning up the beta amyloid plaques related to Alzheimer’s disease) only happen in horizontal position.
Sleep at the destination
On top of being burdened with bad sleep on plane, or a long trip, we have another thing to face. There is a common knowledge that the first night that we sleep in new environment does not usually leave us fully refreshed. There is an evolutionary explanation – when our ancestors had to spend
night outside their safe and well explored environment, light sleep was advantageous to protect them against predators and other risks. Modern perspective is not less interesting – studies show that the first night in the new environment, one of our brain hemispheres is ‘on vigil’ and ….. (what happens?Less REM sleep?). The next night the other hemisphere takes over (to a smaller extent) and lets the first one rest.
So we already know that at least first night will be affected, but what can we do? First thing to focus is recommendations from ……… section. The right temperature, ….. etc – these are valid tools no matter where you sleep. Selecting hotel away from busy road or party district is a good idea. Some of the hotel chains have similar designs of their rooms in many locations – that may help to trick your brain into thinking this is
a safe environment.
When in hotel, ask for quiet room (away from the constant ‘ding’ of the elevator). Ideally there should be no strong light sources behind your window, or at least the …curtain…….. should be able to block it.
Next look at the bed. Hopefully the mattress is hard and soft enough to support your sleep. Check if the pillow suits your sleep style, if not sometimes you can ask for a different one, or just use folded towel.
Next is your room. Remove all the light sources that could disturb you during the night. Alarm clock, TV screen, countless LEDs – turn them off if you can, if not at least cover them.
It may also help to remove all the marketing materials the hotel provides. Our brains can’t help but to read when they see letters, it’s easier if they are out of sight.
If you are a worrior… type, you can check the emergency exists to feel like you are prepared in case something happens.
As you are preparing for the night, minimize the exposure to light. Pick the least bright source, ……..how to make phone into light source?…..
If there are sources of light outside your window, use the blackout curtain. You will not get benefit of being woken up by light in the morning, but it’s more important to avoid light during your sleep. If you need to use devices with screen, use tools to reduce the blue spectrum. If you have blue light blocking glasses, definitely use them.
If your hotel has a pool, you can consider going for a short leisurely swim. It may help your body to switch into parasympathetic mode, and help to cool down your core body temperature. Just make sure you don’t overdo it – you should avoid increasing core body temperature through exercise.
Good way to avoid stress is to be well prepared for the morning, especially if you are travelling for business. Prepare your clothes, presentation, etc. Make sure your alarm is set in the right timezone, following …[app name]… recommendations.
As mentioned, talking to a friend or family member, or reading a fiction book can help to switch your brain into more relaxed state. Short sleep meditation would be a perfect way how to ease up into sleep, or you can use the “2 minute military method” to lull you to sleep.
Ideal would be if you are awakened by natural light, but if you had to use blackout curtains you can use this trick. Set your alarm clock 10 minutes before you need to wake up. Upon waking, open the curtains and/or turn on all the lights, and set another alarm in 10 minutes. ??This can help you to
Alternatively you can travel with devices that will mimic sunrise by slowly increasing the light intensity before the actual alarm goes off. ??they are also a good light source in the evening?
– light alarm clocks
– how to make phone into red light source
– half brain sleep at new place
Melatonin is a chemical released by our brain that signals body ……… Should you use melatonin to alleviate time zone changes? Exogenous melatonin can be quite helpful, especially if you can’t control the factors the production of the “sleep hormone” in your body (avoiding blue light, lowering core body temperature). But there is one important thing – most of the melatonin pills contain ….times higher dosage than you actually need. The ….[finish based on info from book]…
When we travel, we need to think about food from 3 different angles:
– Nutrition for our body that gives us energy and can help us to cope with all the perils of travel
– Factor that can increase the risk of issues by causing damage (inflammation, irritants)
– Tool to adjust to new timezone
Food as nourishment
Our body needs balanced intake of macronutrients to provide energy, and micronutrients to function properly and defend from different aggravators.
Whatever is your current diet, you should step up when you travel. Keep in mind that when you travel
your body is under attack, and it needs all the help you can provide to keep everything in order. Fresh
vegetables and healthy fats will …
Food as poison
Even though we should really be eating better when we travel, usually the opposite is true. We grab the stale sandwich at the airport lounge or hotel lobby. In the airplane they feed us the cheap microwaved and unappetizing (even with large amount of salt and MSG) meals. It doesn’t help that
it’s often for free – even if we would not buy it if we had to pay, we feel compelled to eat it. Not only it does not have the right nutrients our bodies need, but this kind of food heavily burdens metabolism and triggers inflammatory response.
Food as a tool to adjust to new timezone
Section ……..[add section name and link] explains how food serves as reset button on our circadian rhythm. You can use this to your advantage when you need to adjust to new timezone. Precise meal timing may seem complicated, but Hecatee will guide you for best results.
– Know when you need to eat and plan based on that
– If given choice on the plane, commit to always picking the healthier option
– Some airlines allow you to pick meals in advance based on different diets – get the option that seems to be the healthiest
– Check airport food options in advance and decide where to go
– If you’re at the lounge, commit to eat just the 2 most healthy options there
– If the recommended food timing is different from timing of airplane food or your lounge access, bring your own snacks. Nuts, dark chocolate, fruits or even veggies are great options.
The reported air humidity is somewhere between 10 and 20%, which is around the same level as the Death Valley, the hottest place in North America. Dry air
Body, but also skin… Drinking more water than usual is therefore a good idea. Even if you need to pay a few dollars to stay hydrated, it’s well worth the money. TSA will not allow you to bring water, but most of airports have drinking fountains just before boarding where you can refill your empty bottle.
For longer flights we recommend bringing not just water bottle for room-temperature water, but also thermal flask for warm beverages.
Best way to hydrate is of course drinking mineral water. Sodas and juices are bad choices, because they’re typically loaded with sugar. Interesting choice may be tomato juice. During flight our taste buds are blunted, but they still perceive umami taste. People report that the tomato juice tastes good during flights even if they don’t normally consume it. Beetroot juice or green juice powder can provide similar results while boosting immunity at the same time.
Another good option is herbal tea or hot cocoa – which are rarely available as a standard option, but you can easily prepare them if you bring ingredients and ask for hot water. Drinking calming warm beverage like chamomile tea or reishi mushroom elixir before sleep will help you to fall asleep faster. Some of us carry a travel pouch with small selection of herbal teas, packets of mushroom elixirs and cocoas, as well as coconut milk powder. It may seem a bit overboard, but imagine the nice feeling when you have a comforting warm drink after a stressful day.
Free alcohol available on flights and lounges is tempting, but you should avoid it as much as possible. The effects of alcohol are bad on land, but they are multiplied in the air by the changes of air pressure, stress, dehydration and lack of sleep. Studies have shown that ……[thrombosis]….
The double whammy of dry air and consumption of alcohol (or tea and coffee) can leave you seriously dehydrated.
Some people use alcohol as a sleep aid, but this approach is incorrect. Alcohol does sedate the prefrontal cortex and may help you to ……the wakeful state. But the sleep quality – already compromised by time shift and uncomfortable position – will suffer even more, and you will feel even more tired than you would without consuming it. If you can’t resist and really want to enjoy a drink, at least don’t drink it too close to going to sleep.
– Keep hydrated. When they serve water during the flight, always ask for 2 cups. Buy water
even if it’s chargeable.
– If you can, bring water on board (it can take long before they start serving drinks)
– Bring thermal flask and your favourite non-caffeinated hot beverage (herbal teas, mushroom extracts, cocoa, turmeric latte, coconut milk. Ask staff for hot water – often you can get it free of charge both on the plane and at the airport.
– Try asking for tomato juice, or bring beetroot or green juice powder to enhance your water
– Avoid alcohol
If you love coffee you are not alone – coffee is the most consumed psychoactive drug in the world and the author of the app loves it too, hand grinding good quality beans for a tasty cup of coffee almost every morning, and having one more cup in the afternoon.
The active ingredient of coffee, caffeine, binds in our body to the same receptors as adenosine, the neurotransmitter that informs the body of increasing sleep pressure as we explained in Circadian rhythm chapter. By blocking these receptors body doesn’t get the message about sleep pressure
building up, even though adenosine concentrations are growing. Just as caffeine gets cleared out of the system, the body realizes that it’s time to sleep.
Half life of caffeine differs based on genetic predispositions, but it is roughly 6 hours. So if you are taking your double espresso at 4pm, it is similar as taking single espresso around 10pm. This can be useful when you need to prepare for a new timezone, but it is not a good daily practice. Even if you are able to fall asleep in the evening, …..moderate circulating caffeine levels …. impact on sleep.
The author of this app is fast caffeine metabolizer, but her last year+ of sleep tracking and self observation …lead to gradual replacement of beans to 50:50 normal and decaffeinated, and reduction of consumed coffee in general.
Tea can serve as alternative. It may be even better option because it combines effects of caffeine with calming effects of theanine. If you find it difficult to get decent coffee or tea at airports and planes, you can always bring your own (for example Mushroom Coffee …link…), or take a shortcut with supplements like SmartCaffeine (…link…)
1. Remove as many distractions as possible.
it’s difficult to get a good sleep when you’re in a sitting position, the engines are humming, passengers around you are talking, lights are on and air crew keeps waking you up for (usually bad quality) meals and drinks.
Try to minimize how many people will have a chance to wake you up. Sit in an isle in the middle row (usually just 1 person), or if you intend to sleep the whole flight you can take the middle seat in middle row or window seat. **picture**
Reduce the noise by either noise cancelling headphones, or plain earplugs. Some airlines offer them free, or you can buy some of the **innovative models** that give you more comfort and function.
If you decide to prioritize sleep over free meal (read **article** to learn why this is a great idea), you can tell air crew that you wish not to be waken up for meals. They will respect that.
Flights, especially the long ones, tend to be a fairly stressful affair. Traffic jam on the way to the airport, rushing around the airport interspersed with waiting in queues, unfriendly (or even friendly) immigration and customs officials, changing gates, bureaucracy, noise and difficult last minute decisions whether to buy that tempting chocolate or that gin brand you’ve never seen before – it all adds up. I’m sure that you too have that little thing that makes you crazy when you travel.
To cope with all that our nervous system switches to fight-or-flight mode – which is useful while we need to manage all the airport complexities, but harmful when we can’t switch back when we are sitting on the plane or in our hotel room.
Relax at the airport (lounges, quiet areas)
When you at the airport and have access to airport lounge, head directly there unless you were planning to buy something at duty free stores (most of them are not cheaper than online shopping). If the timing is perfect for food, check whether they have any reasonable food. Don’t forget about salad– your body will need some fiber. Depending on the app recommendations be careful with coffee/caffeinated drinks, but you can have herbal tea anytime.
If you don’t have access to lounge, you need to compare your options. Public lounges are often just slightly more expensive than meal in better airport restaurant, but those tend to be busy and have less than mediocre food. Check reviews and decide whether it’s worth paying. Some have sleep pods which come in handy if you have stopover during your sleep time. If you don’t want to pay extra for the airport lounge, just try finding a quiet spot where you can relax comfortably, not too far from your gate. Most airports in Asia and Europe have dedicated quiet areas.
Cup of warm tea (in your thermal flask) will help you to unwind.
Think about what is the most annoying part of trip for you, and make it your “zen training”. For some it’s the unreasonable requirements from different “authorities” – be it immigration officials, TSA, and other busybodies. If that’s your trigger, avoid those you can, but don’t argue with them, unless they really harass you. What they do may not make sense to anybody else in the world except from them, but they will insist anyway. Feel free to object (politely) and try using reason, but don’t expect them to be moved. You can consider it your zen training. Breathe in, breathe out. Let it go.
If waiting in queues drives you mad because you are losing productive or pleasant time, use podcasts, books or music to make your wait more pleasant. You can use it to rehearse beginning or end of your sales presentation, or imagine all the places you plan to visit at your destination. Or use it for short meditation – body awareness or breathing meditation are good in this context.
Planning well ahead, arriving early and hiding in the sanctuary of airport lounge is the obvious, but only partial (and costly – time and money) antidote.