HOW TO SUR­VIVE A RED-EYE

There are plenty of ways to help you get through a daunt­ing long-dis­tance flight

Sunday Herald Sun - Escape - - TRAVEL WISDOM CABIN FEVER - PAUL EWART

Ah the dreaded red-eye. No mat­ter how of­ten you fly or how much of an ex­pe­ri­enced trav­eller you are, a long-haul red-eye flight in econ­omy is never high on any­one’s wish list. I’ve done plenty of them, in­clud­ing a par­tic­u­larly trau­matic one re­cently, from Jo­han­nes­burg to Perth, fol­lowed by a five-hour lay­over, and then a flight to Syd­ney, which roughly equated to my be­ing awake for more than 30 hours straight. Ouch.

Overnight flights can be a one-way ticket to ex­haus­tion – crossing mul­ti­ple time zones, aching in a cramped po­si­tion and wo­ken con­stantly by the slight­est tur­bu­lence or noise. Of course, the eas­i­est so­lu­tion is to up­grade to busi­ness or first class – any­one can han­dle a red­eye flight when you’re tucked up in a flat-bed – but most of us don’t have the nec­es­sary bank bal­ance to fa­cil­i­tate a left turn at the pointy end.

Thank­fully, over the years I’ve de­vel­oped a few tricks of the trade to max­imise com­fort and even, from time to time, get a lit­tle bit of shut-eye, all the while re­duc­ing the like­li­hood of com­mit­ting air rage.

CHOOSE YOUR SEAT CARE­FULLY

In my mind when on a red-eye there’s no ques­tion about which seat you should opt for: win­dow. Firstly, the wall of the plane will sup­port a pil­low, sec­ondly scor­ing a win­dow is the only way to en­sure you won’t be wo­ken up by your seat-mates for trips to the loo.

When book­ing your seat, think about your pre­ferred sleep­ing po­si­tion. I al­ways sleep on my right hand side, so I make sure to se­lect a win­dow seat on the right side of the air­craft. Also, con­sider stump­ing up extra cash for an exit row seat. And avoid seats near the gal­ley and bath­rooms, which are the hub of noisy ac­tiv­ity.

DRESS FOR SUC­CESS

And by suc­cess I mean a de­cent sleep. Com­fort is ab­so­lutely key when fly­ing, so pack py­jama-like gear in your carry on. The tem­per­a­ture on an air­plane is un­pre­dictable, so wear­ing mul­ti­ple lay­ers means you can add or sub­tract cloth­ing eas­ily.

SKIP THE MEAL CART SER­VICE

As tempt­ing as it might be to get your money’s worth, do you re­ally want to eat that? Eat­ing late at night will put your poor body to work at­tempt­ing to di­gest it when it should be sleep­ing.

PACK RIGHT

My in-flight ar­se­nal in­cludes hand sani­tiser (toi­let han­dles, seat belts, arm­rests, meal trays and seat pock­ets are a hot­bed for bac­te­ria), lip balm (the re­cy­cled air will dry your kissers out in no time) and baby wipes (a shower in packet form, well, sort of ).

Earplugs are es­sen­tial for block­ing out back­ground noise, en­gines and scream­ing kids. Also es­sen­tial is an eye mask and I al­ways take at least one other ad­di­tional blan­ket or large scarf and a good-qual­ity travel pil­low.

LIMIT YOUR LIQ­UID IN­TAKE

While ev­ery travel ex­pert and his dog spruiks in-flight hy­dra­tion, para­dox­i­cally, on a red-eye when the goal is to get as much shut-eye as pos­si­ble, drink­ing too much water isn’t al­ways the best idea – the last thing you want is to be wo­ken up to an­swer the call of na­ture. In­stead, pre-hy­drate to re­hy­drate. I gorge on water in the air­port af­ter se­cu­rity and then nip to the toi­let be­fore board­ing.

PRE­PARE YOUR­SELF

Help sig­nal to your brain that it’s sleepy time by re-cre­at­ing your usual bed­time rou­tine. Brush your teeth, wash your face and take out your con­tacts. It’s not just hy­gienic, it’ll make you feel bet­ter and help you sleep too.

CROSSING MUL­TI­PLE TIME ZONES, ACHING IN A CRAMPED PO­SI­TION AND WO­KEN CON­STANTLY

BUILD A SLEEP CO­COON

This is where your pack­ing list re­ally comes into play. Af­ter I’m prepped and ready to hit the hay, I build my own lit­tle sleep co­coon. Earplugs in, I pad out the wall by the win­dow with a pil­low and a rolled-up jumper to build a makeshift sleep­ing sur­face.

Try to snag an extra blan­ket from an empty seat nearby or use the backup blan­ket you’ve brought (see above) which you can use to make a tent over your up­per half.

STAY CALM AND CARRY ON

Ac­cept­ing the sit­u­a­tion means less stress, so just kick back and re­lax. Try lis­ten­ing to sooth­ing, soft tunes. I al­ways take laven­der oil in my toi­letry bag and have a good in­hale while I prac­tise a sim­ple breath­ing med­i­ta­tion. Try down­load­ing an app such as Headspace be­fore take­off for easy guided med­i­ta­tions to curb in­flight anx­i­ety lead­ing to extra z’s.

BE A PILL POP­PER

If sleep still evades you and you’ve tried ev­ery­thing to in­duce a slum­ber – in­clud­ing watch­ing the lat­est Jen­nifer Anis­ton rom-com – you might want to pop a pill or two.There are plenty of nat­u­ral and ho­moeo­pathic op­tions and over-the-counter an­ti­his­tamines of­ten have se­dat­ing qual­i­ties.

BOARD WITH EX­HAUSTED LIT­TLE ONES

If you’re trav­el­ling with kids on a red eye, keep them awake all day so that they’re on the verge of sleep upon board­ing. Af­ter all, do you re­ally want to fuel an in­ci­dent when your bored child re­peat­edly kicks the back seat of the man in front?

FRESHEN UP IN THE MORN­ING

Your neck will be sore, your skin will feel bone dry and you’ll prob­a­bly have death breath. I al­ways take time be­fore land­ing to brush my teeth, change clothes and spritz on some kind of fra­grance.

MAKE TRACKS POST-FLIGHT

Once you’ve passed through cus­toms and are in your ho­tel, don’t take a nap. In­stead, head out for some nat­u­ral light, which will help re­set your in­ter­nal clock to the new time­zone.

PIC­TURE: IS­TOCK

Tak­ing the right gear on board can help make a long-dis­tance flight more bear­able.

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