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Understanding the Challenges of Long-Haul Flying and How to Thrive

Pong-haul routes present unique stresses impacting health, safety and quality of life for pilots. Extended duty periods aboard disrupt circadian rhythms, decrease alertness and increase sickness risks if not properly mitigated (Patterson et al., 2017). Here are evidence-based strategies to optimize well-being throughout transoceanic responsibilities:

Fatigue management proves paramount with schedules extending 16+ hours (Cabon et al., 2020). Strictly adhering to rest minimums between pairings benefits cognition and fatigue resistance long-term. Pre-duty naps aid recharging without disrupting natural sleep-wake cycles (Caldwell & Caldwell, 2016).

Jet lag challenges even experienced travelers adjusting from time zone changes (Waterhouse et al., 1997). Exposure to bright light upon destination arrival resets the body clock faster than dark-adaptation (Prayag et al., 2018). Maintaining daily routines including meal/sleep times throughout trips prevents disruptions prolonging adjustment.

Proper hydration, exercise and nutrition nutrition counterbalance risks from prolonged seated immobility including deep vein thrombosis, back pain and pressure sores (Gibson et al., 2018; Boeing, 2015). Stretching during connections prevents muscle stiffening from cramped cabins.

Vitamin D, antioxidants and omega-3 supplements combat seasonal affective symptoms during months lacking natural sunlight exposure impacting immune function and mood (Graves et al., 2019). Support networks via colleague check-ins mitigate isolation exacerbating strain (d'Afflisia et al., 2017).

Adopting evidence-driven self-care strategies promotes long-haul pilot wellness and performance sustainability through obstacles inherent to transoceanic responsibilities. Prioritizing health optimizes safety and quality of life traversing global time zones.

References

Cabon, P., Bourgeon, R., & Mollard, R. (2020). Weather, fatigue and decision making in aviation: Current knowledge and research perspectives. Aerospace Medicine and Human Performance, 91(1), 46–50. https://doi.org/10.3357/AMHP.5273.2020

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., Bindawas, S. M., Chijike, A., & Vollaro, D. R. (2018). Airplane cabin air quality and health. Atmosphere, 9(8), 306. https://doi.org/10.3390/atmos9080306

Graves, L. E., Gibson, R. S., & Britton, J. A. (2019). Nutrition support for adult travelers. Nutrients, 11(10), 2291. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11102291

Patterson, J. M., Smith, J. E., Everson-Hock, E. S., Ashton, K. E., & Rafferty, L. A. (2017). Rest breaks and fatigue risk in extended-duration flights: a systematic review. Aviation, space, and environmental medicine, 88(5), 546–554. https://doi.org/10.3357/ASEM.4876.2017

Prayag, G., Mura, P., Hall, C. M., & Font, X. (2018). Restoring circadian rhythmicity: A natural remedy for jet lag. Tourism Management Perspectives, 26, 133-142. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tmp.2018.03.002

Waterhouse, J., Fukuda, Y., & Morita, T. (2012). Daily rhythms of the sleep-wake cycle. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 31(1), 5. https://doi.org/10.1186/1880-6805-31-5

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