Saturday, August 14, 2010

Did Jet Lag Contribute to Famed Flight Attendant Outburst?

You’ve heard the story a million times now. Flight attendant gets fed up with passengers, curses them out on the planes PA system, quits job, grabs beers, opens hatch and slides down the emergency chute.

The theatric outburst elevated Steven Slater from anonymous flight attendant to working class hero overnight. He did exactly what everyone dreams of doing but would never dare to carry out: an epic cathartic release of all his job-related frustrations.

He’s been awarded with celebrity status, countless media interviews and eventually the inevitable book deal. Oh, and he’s charged with a federal felony.

What would make someone commit high-profile career suicide and risk going to prison? Exhaustion and jet lag must have contributed.

Jobs at commercial airline are among the worst for sleep. Most flight attendants are familiar with the dreaded rotating shift. Flight attendants are constantly switching shifts and making quick turnarounds. The most desired, exotic gig of working on international flights is the worst of all. International duty means shifts up to 18 hours long and constant battles against jet lag.

Living out of a suitcase doesn’t help either. A constantly changing sleep environment can be difficult even when staying in high-end hotel rooms.

Many of the stresses of the job are inescapable, such as flight delays and rude passengers. Flight attendants do have some degree of control over their sleeping patterns.

Sleep hygiene isn’t just for home. Try to bring your bedtime ritual with you on the road. If you’re a high strung flight attendant try taking a bath a couple hours before bed. Or pack your favorite yoga DVD and practice in your hotel room.

If you’re only staying in the time zone for a short time act as if you never left and sleep when people in your home time zone sleep.

Lengthier stays in other time zones require more preparation. Try gradually adjusting your sleep schedule starting about a week in advance. Go to bed a half hour earlier or later every night. Once you arrive in your destination use light therapy and try to stay awake until the late evening. It’s up to you to determine which approach to jet lag you’ll want to take.

One last piece of advice, take it easy with crew parties at the hotel. Alcohol will only fuel the effects of jet lag.

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