Taking the Red Eye? Avoid These Sleep-Depriving Mistakes
August 6, 2018
By Bill Conn

It’s 2:23 p.m. on a Monday, the first day back at work after a 10-day trip to visit family on the other side of the country. I took the red-eye home—in case you’re not familiar, it’s a flight that takes off in the evening and reaches your destination the next morning.

I consider myself a seasoned traveler; I’ve been everywhere from Shanghai to Seoul, Munich to Maui, London to Lisbon and many places in between. But I made some amateur mistakes this time, likely born of my overconfidence. Here I sit paying the price…luckily the coffee is brewing.

Here’s where I went wrong. Avoid these mistakes on your next long trip so you can be productive when you land.

Perfecting the Airplane Sleep Routine

You likely have a sleep routine for a normal night at home, and you should also have one for the airplane.

  • Choose Your Seat Wisely: If you’re hoping to get some shuteye on the red eye, pick a window seat so you can avoid the traffic walking up and down the aisle and from other travelers in your row. My mistake: I picked the aisle, and the flight attendant bumped my shoulder when she passed by. Every. Single. Time.
  • Hydrate: You’ll wake up feeling a lot better if you stay hydrated. Studies show that even a little bit of dehydration can affect your mental state and physical recovery negatively. My mistake: I definitely didn’t drink enough water this time. I was groggy when we landed and also had a nasty case of the dreaded cottonmouth.
  • But Don’t “Hydrate” with Alcohol: The last thing you want is multiple trips to the airplane bathroom. Personally, I avoid that space if I can since it makes me feel wobbly and dizzy. And, let’s be honest, they’re never as clean as you want them to be. My mistake: While I didn’t hydrate with water, I did have a beer (hey, it was the end of vacation). It may relax you, but it won’t improve your sleep on the plane and will actually make dehydration worse.
  • Dull Your Senses: Some people can sleep through anything, while others are fickle. Put me in the latter bucket. If you have trouble sleeping under normal circumstances, bring earplugs and a sleep mask to block out the sensory input. My mistake: I had nothing like that with me, and my seatmate (my wife) insisted on reading with the overhead light.

When You Get to Your Destination

  • Pep Up with Personal Hygiene: When you land and make your way home or to the hotel, take care of your normal hygiene needs: brush your teeth, wash your face and take a shower if possible. My mistake: I eventually did all these things, but not before vegging on the couch for an hour. At that point, I was feeling slow, sluggish and just plain gross.
  • To Nap, or Not to Nap: If it’s a true red-eye, you’ll be at your destination very early. Hopefully you followed the advice above and arrived feeling fresh. Taking a nap is a dangerous proposition; it may make you feel better that day, but it could affect your sleep the following night. My mistake: I took a “nap”—which turned out to be about six hours long. As a result, I did a lot of tossing and turning instead of actually sleeping last night.

This advice can help, but keep in mind that a day or two of jet lag won’t kill you and it’s probably a price worth paying for the vacation you had. If all else fails, there’s always a different type of “red eye” you can fall back on—a cup of coffee with a shot of espresso.

Related Posts

How to Avoid “Traveler’s Tummy” and Protect Your Gut Health

How to Avoid “Traveler’s Tummy” and Protect Your Gut Health

Traveling sounds like the best way to spend your time off until you experience traveler’s tummy, turning your vacation into a spiral of digestive concerns. If you’ve been in and out of the bathroom after eating a local delicacy on the street, you’ve likely eaten...

How AI Is Transforming the Ecotourism Industry

How AI Is Transforming the Ecotourism Industry

Artificial intelligence is making an impact across nearly every industry, including ecotourism and travel. Businesses can leverage advanced technologies to craft personalized experiences, improve the planning experience and...

About the Author

Bill Conn
Bill Conn is a travel enthusiast and writer at Scribewise. His favorite travel destinations include Shanghai, Vancouver, Munich – and of course, his home town of Philadelphia. Visit www.scribewise.com