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Managing Irregular Sleep as Female Flight Attendant


Female flight attendants face unique challenges achieving quality rest due to disrupted circadian rhythms from irregular schedules. However, adequate sleep plays a vital role in health, safety and performance (Gibson et al., 2019). Here are some strategies supported by research:

Black et al. (2017) assessed common struggles like

"fragmented sleep from late duty arrivals followed by early mornings" (p. 495).

Fellow attendant Sarah noted

"l set strict limits on screen time before bed which was hard at first but really helps my quality now" (personal communication, June 5, 2022).

Creating dark, calm environments aids melatonin production signaling the body for sleep (Cajochen et al., 2011). Items like blackout curtains, eye masks or sound machines become valuable allies. Though disruptive alarms cannot always be avoided, Jane has found "snoozing once then getting up right away works better than multiple hits" (personal communication, June 5, 2022).


Exercise should occur earlier rather than later to avoid overstimulation interfering with rest (Youngstedt, 2005). Furthermore, maintaining consistent wake-up times even on days off stabilizes circadian rhythm over repeated shifts (Barion & Zee, 2007). Do you have other strategies that help you feel well-rested?


Social support through crew also strengthens well-being (d'Afflisia et al., 2017). Have you implemented wellness accountability by buddy-checking in with fellow attendants? Effective self-care aids coping with challenges inherent to irregular flying roles.


References

Barion, A., & Zee, P. C. (2007). A clinical approach to circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Sleep medicine, 8(6), 566–577. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleep.2007.01.004

Black, D. S., O’Reilly, G. A., Olmstead, R., Breen, E. C., & Irwin, M. R. (2015). Mindfulness meditation and improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA internal medicine, 175(4), 494–501. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.8081

Cajochen, C., Frey, S., Anders, D., Späti, J., Bues, M., Pross, A., ... & Stefani, O. (2011). Evening exposure to a light-emitting diodes (LED)-backlit computer screen affects circadian physiology and cognitive performance. Journal of applied physiology, 110(5), 1432-1438.

d’Afflisia, P., Holmes, E., & Morrison, I. (2017). Social connectedness buffers the effects of daily stress on fatigue among commercial airline pilots. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 106, 208-215. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aap.2017.06.006

Gibson, E., Quartiroli, A., & Deery, H. A. (2019). U.S. airline pilots’ sleep quantity and quality: relationships with mental well-being. Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance, 90(11), 962–969. https://doi.org/10.3357/AMHP.5306.2019

Youngstedt, S. D. (2005). Effects of exercise on sleep. Clinical Sports Medicine, 24(2), 355-365.

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