The phrase “sleeping on an international flight” is an oxymoron. Like honest politician. There’s no such thing. At least for me.
Let me start by saying, I know that I’m extremely fortunate. I’ve been able to travel across the Atlantic 16 times in the past 12 years for vacations. Awesome! But the sum total of sleep I’ve had in the air on all those trips is around 35 hours. Total. Not only do I look nasty and smell “fragrant” when I get to my final destination, but I’m cranky. Because I’m tired. Sometimes really cranky. My husband will vouch for this.
Most international flights leave at night and get you to your destination early in the morning. I don’t like this. I want to leave at noon so I don’t have to be wide awake all by myself. My husband sometimes falls asleep before the plane takes off. Bastard.
International flights are the last remaining habitat of that almost extinct species – free airplane food. They feed everybody dinner about an hour after reaching the mystical, magical “cruising altitude”. Like sometimes at 11 PM. The airlines are wiley in this… They know that, like cats, airline passengers will sleep when their tummies are full. The cabin lights dim. All gets quiet. That’s when I start my own version of “Walking Dead”.
So now it’s midnight and I’ve been up since 5 AM the previous morning doing the stuff that you have to do before you go away for 2 weeks. I’m tired – damned tired. Like Sally Bowles in Cabaret, I think “Maybe this time….” I walk up and down the dark aisles, lit dimly by the light of an occasional video screen. And I see a sea of people before me, representing all nationalities, races, religions – blissfully snoozing. A beautiful cross section of humanity. But at the moment, I hate them all. I’m wide awake.
Working against me is that my territory for sleeping is a seat designed more for folks from the Lolllipop League. In the good old days before the bust, you could sometimes snag a whole row of middle seats and pretend you were in first class by actually lying down. Usually with the folded up arm rests prodding and poking sensitive areas. But you could actually almost stretch out and get parallel to the ground. Or water. This occasionally worked for me.. I would sleep for a couple of hours But empty rows don’t happen anymore. I’ve had to lower my expectations. Now, one empty seat next to me will wash waves of excitement over me.
I’ve tried over the counter sleeping aids, pharma sleeping aids, health food store sleeping aids, drinking electrolytes and massive amounts of water (too many trips to the loo…), counting sheep, meditation, listening to calming music, pre-trip sleep deprivation, compression socks, soft jammies and most combinations of the above. You get the picture. I’m a mess on long flights.
So I now just accept that I am gong to feel like crap for the the first couple of days of an international trip. And not whine about it. At least, not much. I think I’ve said before, I’m a slow learner… I’ve decided that it’s totally worth 18 to 24 hours of no sleep to be able to see and hear and taste amazing things, meet amazing people, do amazing things.
But like a Jamaican Olympic bobsled team, hope springs eternal.
Maybe next time!