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Rock-a-bye pilot: Some top tips for sleeping in a hotel bed

by Lisa Artis The Sleep Council

There is nothing quite like a night in your own bed and this month an organisation called The Sleep Council is holding a ‘Bed Month’ campaign to highlight the importance of a good night’s kip in a comfortable, supportive bed. But for pilots who travel the world for work, many of their nights are spent in beds that are not their own.

A bad night sleep can leave people feeling tired and unable to perform at their best. Pilots tell us fatigue is the number one flight safety risk. So how can pilots ensure they get the best sleep despite being in an unfamiliar bed? As part of BALPA’s ‘March on Fatigue’ month, Lisa Artis from The Sleep Council has given us her nine top tips for pilots who want to maximise their ZZZs.

How to get a good night’s sleep when away from home

From unfamiliar environments to irregular bedtimes and the biggest culprit, jet lag, your sleep can get disrupted in many ways when you’re away from your own bed.

Being away from home, in a hotel, we are often out of routine. For some that means greater relaxation and better sleep, perhaps in peace and quiet, away from a busy household. Others won’t get a good night’s sleep, because they’re up late and their body clocks are out of sync.

Regardless, everyone needs as perfect sleep environment as possible in order to achieve quality sleep. And we all know that a good night’s sleep makes us feel so much better! Just one bad night’s sleep can cause moodiness and sluggishness and affect concentration, memory and performance. Long term sleep deprivation can have a huge impact on your health too.

Try the following tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

1) You can’t take your bed with you but if it’s possible, take your pillow. Not only is it familiar but it may provide the right comfort and support, allowing you to get a better night’s sleep.  If not, many hotels offer a choice of pillows – take advantage of this.

2) Check the temperature. Many hotels set the temperature themselves, so make sure it suits you. The right temperature for sleep is between 16-18 degrees.  Your body temperature needs to lower slightly before you go to sleep which is why it’s difficult to drop off when you’re too hot. If you’re someone who often feels cool in bed, take bed socks and wear them if you’ve got cold feet.

3) A dark room is most conducive for sleep as light tells your body it’s time to wake up. In darkness, your body releases a hormone called melatonin that relaxes your body helping you to drift off. Make sure you pull down the blackout blinds and/or draw the heavy, dense curtains. Pack an eye mask too, especially if you have to sleep in the day.

4) If you think outside noise might bother you, take some ear plugs.

5) Switch off electronic devices an hour before bed. TVs, computers, phones and tablets prevent us from falling asleep, and can also be disruptive throughout the night. Beeps, buzzes and even the tiniest standby lights can wreak havoc with the body’s circadian rhythm, so make sure everything is switched off. You can arrange a wake-up call from reception, meaning you could turn your phone off completely!

6) When you return to your hotel room, start your wind down routine as normal and spend at least 15 minutes relaxing. Take advantage of having a soak in the bath and use the complimentary toiletries to help you relax. Bring a book when you travel and read before bed – it does help you to fall asleep.

7) Drink water. Many hotels offer complimentary still and sparkling water in the rooms, helping guests to stay hydrated.

8) Cut down on stimulants such as caffeine in tea or coffee – especially in the hours before bedtime. They interfere with falling asleep and prevent deep sleep. Have a hot milky drink or herbal tea instead.

9) They say you are what you eat, and when it comes to getting a restful night’s sleep, the food and drink you consume has a drastic effect. The best foods for sleep include milk, cheese, cherries, chicken and rice, while fatty meat, curry and alcohol are some of the worst. Some people choose not to eat after 6pm, as late meals can make it difficult to sleep.

Further information:

For further sleep advice, visit www.sleepcouncil.org.uk or request our Good-Night Guide on 0800 018 7923.

For BALPA’s position on fatigue click here

Members can access BALPA’s Fatigue Reporting Guide click here.