Have you ever burst into tears because you couldn’t decide what to have for supper? Truth is, I have.
People often see the life of a flight attendant as glamorous and exciting. Who can blame them, when you can go from breakfast in Paris to cocktails and tapas in Barcelona in the same day?
It is very common for cabin crew to suffer from the “f word” as it is so often referred to, because it is not ever used lightly and it isn’t easy to talk about. Airlines have strict guidelines they must adhere to with crew’s schedules, including honoring minimum rest periods, controlling limitations of movement between time zones and maximum duty hours. However, they are not always realistic for the human body tolerate, a slow gradual build up of sleep deprivation, with long working hours, early and late starts can really creep up on you.
Fatigue can affect anyone and everyone’s symptoms can range from physical symptoms like headaches, feeling weak, having slow responses and poor decision making skills. To emotional symptoms such as; suffering from depression, anxiety, being easily irritated, and even experiencing insomnia.
I myself, turn into the most volatile and irritated person on earth when I am fatigued. My decision-making skills are thrown out of the window; if you ask me how I am doing, I will either bite your head off or struggle to string a sentence together that actually makes any sense. Or better yet, cry if you ask me if I want my eggs scrambled or poached. So much so I actually make my family and loved ones nervous upon my arrival home from a long trip away, as they never know quite what condition I will be in.
I’m not talking about falling asleep on your jump seat kind of tired, although that is not ideal either. I’m talking about going to sleep for 12 hours and waking up feeling worse than you did the night before. In the same day, I will not be able to fall asleep and will suffer at the mercy of my good friend – insomnia.
Admittedly, talking about being tired is a fairly dull topic. However the truth is when the ‘f word’ hits; we make bad choices, selfish decisions and give into temptations. Not to mention as crew we put ourselves, colleagues, aircraft and passengers all in danger, but also jeopardies our personal relationships, health and wellbeing.
So although I do not have all the answers and still struggle a great deal with fatigue, I would not wish it upon anyone else. So I’ve done a little of my own research to avoid it in the first place, to help combat any symptoms and hopefully keep this pesky soul sucker away.
Get ahead of the problem Study your roster, look for periods that might pose fatigue risk and prepare for them. If you can, swap off certain duties. Give yourself as much rest as possible during tight turn around periods. Plan your rest before a night flight.
Try to get good at sleeping Sounds obvious, but the more you get used to napping the less time it will take to fall asleep when you need to rest before a duty, or have rest within a duty.
Make your bedroom a sleepy zone Create a relaxed environment in your own room, with no TV or bright screens, read books not twitter. Including in the your hotel room, I never turn my TV on and always put my phone on the other side of the room.
Check your overall health If you are genuinely worried about long term or chronic fatigue; speak to your doctor and get an assessment.
Spend more time in corpse pose As if I needed to preach the benefits of yoga anymore. British studies show that after just 1 class a week for 6 weeks; clients reported improved energy and clearer thinking.
Up your water intake Dehydration alone can decrease alertness and cause lack of concentration, so drink plenty of water especially before and after a flight.
Cut the caffeine Only use it as stimulant to keep you awake when you need it. Caffeine can stay in your system for 3-5 hours, so ditch it as your go-to to avoid over doing it.
Take some time out If you just cannot catch up with yourself, so take leave or report your fatigue to your airline or workplace. Most companies have allowances for fatigue related time off.