How to get a good night’s sleep as crew

How to get a good night’s sleep as crew

Health is important as you go about your cabin crew duties because the job is physically demanding and you’ll always want more energy to enjoy the destinations you get to visit. Making sure you look after your sleep need is an equally important part of looking after your health, especially when it comes to looking after your immunity. Sleep is the latest performance enhancer we’ve been neglecting for so long, with a better understanding of how to consistently meet your sleep needs you can perform better and enjoy a better quality of life. In this article, We’re going to look at the importance of good sleep, the challenges of getting good sleep and how to overcome them as crew. I will also offer you some tips I used to manage my sleep schedule during my 20 year flying career. 

 

The Cabin Crew Sleep Challenge

For occupational and environmental health purposes cabin crew are classified as shift workers. As a group of people we share some of the same challenges as doctors nurses and other round the clock professions when it comes to rest and fatigue. Besides the broad challenge of sleep deprivation the challenge crew face tends to be related to matters of sleep quality and sleep quantity. This is a quick explanation of the difference between those two terms. Sleep quality refers to the types of different sleep available within a night’s rest. Sleep quantity is pretty much what it says on the tin, the amount of sleep one is able to get in hours and minutes. 

Sleep quality refers to Deep sleep,REM sleep and Light sleep. Deep sleep is the sleep we have when we wake up the most refreshed and restful. It happens during the earlier parts of the night, and is responsible for cleaning and repairing our entire body from our day’s work. REM sleep on the other hand, happens in the later part of the night and early morning. REM sleep is when the body’s filing system comes into play. We use REM sleep to sort out the events of the day and put them in order. Dreams happen in REM sleep and are a tool we use to make sense of the days events. Light sleep is as the name suggests, it is easier to be woken up in Light sleep and REM sleep than it is in Deep sleep.

Sleep quantity, the total amount of hours slept are deemed to be in a healthy range when the hours are between 6 and 9 hours per night. While there is debate about optimal amounts of sleep for individuals there is no doubt that we all have a lot of sleep debt which impacts health and performance.

For crew, early morning starts, late nights and being up at inappropriate times can lead to not getting enough of all the types of sleep to maintain good health. Recent research from the scientific community has uncovered more about the different types of sleep and their value. As crew it makes sense for us to prioritise Deep sleep over and above any other type. This is because it is the most physically restorative, and as noted the job of cabin crew is physically demanding. 

Deep sleep naturally occurs between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am in the morning, wherever possible making sure that we are in bed for this time frame will help us get the best quality deep sleep available. In fact the scientific literature goes on to say that if all types of sleep are withheld the body naturally prioritises Deep sleep first and then REM sleep. 

Work patterns guarantee you cannot be in bed between the hours of 10 pm and 2 am the same time every night (especially if you are on long haul) so the question we should ask ourselves is how can we make up any shortfall so we continue to enjoy the benefits of sleep and energy?

Sleep Hygiene

The first thing I would recommend is making sure you sort out your basic sleep hygiene. This relates to the specifics of the environment in which you are sleeping whether that be at home or in a hotel room while away on duty. Make sure it is silent and dark with no light interrupting your line of vision as you sleep. Make sure you are comfortable, specifically this means making sure the temperature is just right, not too hot or cold. 

 

Bedtime Habits

The next thing to consider is giving your body subtle cues before time that say bedtime is approaching. You can do this by making sure you pack your own sleep accessories. This could include sleep masks, earplugs, essential oils,and not forgetting good bedtime habits. If you get into the habit of doing this every bedtime your body begins to recognise the pattern irrespective of the location you may be in and gets ready for sleep. In order to make this work it means cutting out bad habits like heavy meals late at night and minimising your exposure to blue light which interferes with your body’s production of the sleep hormone melatonin. 

 

Consider Using a Sleep Tracker

Lately good quality sleep trackers have been known to help people with sleep challenges get an understanding of what to focus on to get a good nights sleep. Wearables are useful if you don’t mind using technology in bed. I use a sleep tracker even though I no longer fly and it is very good at showing me how much quality Deep sleep and REM sleep I  get. This allows me to adjust and make up any lost sleep I have if I purposely decide to work late or get up early for the demands of my day. The beauty of a good quality sleep tracker is that the numbers don’t lie and you are able to closely monitor your sleep and try different things to improve your sleep quality.

 

Prioritise Sleep

I recommend all cabin crew consider prioritising sleep for their lifestyle. It makes perfect sense as you will constantly be on-the-go and your sleep will follow the work patterns of your roster and the unpredictability of a flying lifestyle.  It makes sense to ensure a short-term sleep challenge doesn’t become a long term chronic condition. This is important because chronic sleep challenges wear down the immune system to an extent that they can lead to something more serious over time.

 

Sleep Blocking

Another tool I used throughout my flying career was something I call Sleep Blocking. It’s very simple and this is how it works, from my flying roster I would look at the times I land and the times I take off and build my sleep rules around my roster. For instance if I landed before 12 pm I would always have a nap of  30 or 90 minutes or even 3 hours depending on how tired I was. If I landed after 12 pm it meant I would stay awake throughout the day, and go to bed early that night. This would have the effect of getting me back on my local home time the next morning without fail.

Finally it’s important to know what works for you and your lifestyle, that way you get the best of both worlds, your social life as well as your work life. Experiment with what makes for a good night sleep at home and let that be your guide!

About Christopher

Christopher Babayode is a former flight attendant of 20 years with British Airways, a specialist in Travel Wellness and healthy jet lag solutions for those who travel often. He is the author of Farewell Jet Lag, Cures from a Flight Attendant (on Amazon UK & US). Chris has been featured in the Sunday Telegraph and is a most -read author on Quora the questions and answers platform.

 

Step six…the assessment day

By Chartered Occupational Psychologist Hannah Vallance, Cabin Crew Wings TeamFollowing on from our article from last month Step Five – The Psychometric Tests we look this month at the Cabin Crew Assessment Day.You’ll generally receive an invitation to an...

Step six…the assessment day

Step six…the assessment day

By Chartered Occupational Psychologist Hannah Vallance, Cabin Crew Wings Team

Following on from our article from last month Step Five – The Psychometric Tests we look this month at the Cabin Crew Assessment Day.

You’ll generally receive an invitation to an Assessment Day if you’ve completed the initial application and psychometric testing stage successfully.

However some airlines do incorporate the psychometric tests into the assessment day – you’ll receive full information on this during your application so don’t worry! Regardless, you should prepare for the tests and the assessment day in the same way.

 

 

What is involved in the assessment day?

Assessment days vary slightly from airline to airline but you can expect the day to have the following format:

 

There are usually cuts throughout the day with only the most promising candidates staying until the end.

Some airlines will interview you on the same day if you’ve performed well, while others will invite you to come back for your interview on another date.

There may also be a slot for English language competency assessments for non-native speakers – again this depends on the airline.

 

 

The Presentation

The presentation will involve an overview of the airline and a description of the role. Try to make eye contact with the speakers, and interact when possible.

Then you and your fellow candidates will get the chance to ask any questions you might have. The recruitment team could well also ask the audience questions too so be prepared!

The question and answer section is where your research about the airline could really pay off – you’ll certainly stand out to the recruiters if you can show that you’ve done your homework!

 

 

The Checks

You’ll be expected to pass the height and reach and tattoo checks. The airline will clearly state their requirements in the job description and in the recruitment information.

Your height and reach will be measured to ensure you meet the requirements of the airline you’re applying to.

If you don’t meet the requirements you’ll be asked to leave the process at this point.

There will also be a tattoo check. While you are allowed to have tattoos, these must be in no way visible while you’re in uniform. 

 

 

The Group Exercises

The number of exercises you will have to take part in vary, but you can expect there to be 2-3. 

Usually one will be an ‘icebreaker’ to get things moving, and the others may take the form of a role-play exercise or group discussion.

It’s important that you take part, but try not to be too overpowering! Let the others in the group have their say, and respect that there may be differences of opinion.

There are various resources you can take a look at online which will give you examples of questions to practice with. You can also buy workbooks specifically designed to help you prepare for the assessment day.

 

 

Assessment Day Tips

  • Make sure that you have all your documents to hand, and that they’re up to date. You’ll be given a list of what to bring in the email inviting you to the assessment day.
  • Be punctual, and remember to be polite and smile to make a good first impression! 
  • Give yourself plenty of time in the morning to get ready and plan your journey beforehand.
  • If you have any certificates from Cabin Crew courses, bring these along too.
  • Dress to impress – formal business attire is the way to go!
  • Try not to be too disheartened if you are asked to leave early– it’s a huge achievement even to make it to the assessment day stage and you can use the experience to learn from.

 

 

Next Steps

The next step is a big one – the final interview!  

As I’ve mentioned, some airlines will ask you to do this on the assessment day itself.

Next month we’ll look at the interview in detail, what you can expect, how to prepare, and how to answer the toughest interview questions

Step six…the assessment day

By Chartered Occupational Psychologist Hannah Vallance, Cabin Crew Wings TeamFollowing on from our article from last month Step Five – The Psychometric Tests we look this month at the Cabin Crew Assessment Day.You’ll generally receive an invitation to an...

Why it pays to be news savvy as cabin crew

Why it pays to be news savvy as cabin crew

We’re joined once again by Christopher, who will be talking about why commercial awareness is beneficial when working as a member of cabin crew. Watch Christopher’s video below to hear more about it:

 

The recent Hong Kong airport closure due to democracy protests makes this article quite timely. While the disruption caused will cost the airlines, travellers and economy dear, being news savvy can keep you in the loop for any potential side- effects it could have on you and your travel plans.

The butterfly effect, the idea that a local event somewhere else in the world can have far-reaching consequences elsewhere is often at play in the world of global travel. It is never really an option to be able to anticipate how and when these disruptions are going to happen, but having an awareness of the news cycle can be useful and help you put contingency plans in place. For instance, it could mean if you were Hong Kong bound you might get turned around and sent somewhere where the weather is the polar opposite of Hong Kong. Crew get into the habit of packing for winter and summer on the same trip for times like this, just in case. 

 

Conversation

Besides keeping an eye on the news for personal safety and work-related reasons there are other pay-offs. Paying attention to the news cycles means you can become a good conversationalist. Current affairs never really go out of fashion as ice-breakers in conversation, whether at dinner parties, casual conversation or on the plane talking to passengers. You can develop good social skills which are an excellent way to build rapport.

It is also likely that you will come across a good mix of people from many nations on your trips, having some idea of what is going on in their world reflects well on you and breaks down stereotypes and perceptions people have. Think of it as part of your ambassadorial role you play for your airline.

 

Travel broadens the mind… if you engage

The saying, “travel broadens the mind” applies when you travel and fully enjoy the destinations you travel to by getting get stuck into the culture and different experiences. While the world has a lot to offer you in the way of variety and excitement you can’t get the most out of it if you don’t know what is going on around you. It pays to be attentive and at least have a working knowledge of where you visit for a variety of reasons, including for your travelling pleasure. I remember a case of getting to see some very rare artefacts in Toronto simply from a news story and being Toronto bound on my following trip.

Gone are the days when a life in the skies was considered to be a finishing school for debutantes! However travel and experiencing cultures across the globe can expose you to enough life experience to be character building whatever age you are. This is a good thing and part of it is about being well informed. This makes travel worth its weight in gold. Life is what happens to you when you are busy doing something else, for cabin crew that something else has infinite variety in the form it takes when you are away from home often.

My Las Vegas non trip

Disruption strikes at any time, but mostly when you are not expecting it. I got a taste of this when the Icelandic volcano Ejyafjallajokull erupted in 2010. For a couple of weeks the news had been reporting on the rumblings and the ash clouds, like a lot of people I looked on and thought nothing of it. Then my flexible roster was filled and I was set to go to Las Vegas. I was excited, I’d never been before and I was curious about the city in the desert, with all its excesses. I got ready the day of my trip only to be stood down 2 hours before my report time because the ash clouds had gotten so bad the flight was cancelled, and thus I am yet to go to Vegas.

 

Places to get updates

Some airlines have departments providing all flights leaving base with updates on the geopolitical natures of world affairs. If the airline you work for doesn’t have an asset protection department monitoring what’s going on, you can always check in with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, at the very least you will get the official threat level assessment. If that is not available to you checking the global news services from time to time could be an alternative. Choosing to stick to major news services like the BBC, CNN, and Reuters may give you unbiased news you can depend on.

About Christopher

Christopher Babayode is a former flight attendant of 20 years with British Airways, a specialist in Travel Wellness and healthy jet lag solutions for those who travel often. He is the author of Farewell Jet Lag, Cures from a Flight Attendant (on Amazon UK & US). Chris has been featured in the Sunday Telegraph and is a most -read author on Quora the questions and answers platform.

Christopher will also be guest speaking at our event later on this year, at the Aviation Job Expo!

Step six…the assessment day

By Chartered Occupational Psychologist Hannah Vallance, Cabin Crew Wings TeamFollowing on from our article from last month Step Five – The Psychometric Tests we look this month at the Cabin Crew Assessment Day.You’ll generally receive an invitation to an...

Step five…the psychometric tests

Step five…the psychometric tests

Following on from our article from last month Step three – The Online Application we look this month at the Cabin Crew Psychometric Tests.

You might be asked to complete these online during the application process, or later on at the assessment day stage.

These tests can seem a little daunting, especially if you haven’t encountered these types of tests before. However, forewarned is forearmed, and once you know exactly what to expect, you’ll be able to face them head on!

 

 

What is involved in the psychometric tests?

The two main areas of testing are Numerical Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. The tests generally take the form of a multiple-choice assessment.

Numerical reasoning tests will assess your basic mathematics skills, whilst verbal reasoning tests will look at how well you read and interpret written information.  In both cases you will be given the question or information, then a selection of answers to choose from.

The other type of tests you will be asked to complete are designed to assess your character, personality and judgement skills.

This may include a Situational Judgement Test (SJT), which will give you a scenario and then ask you to pick the answer which best describes how you would deal with the situation.

You’ll be given a set amount of time to complete the tests in. Try not to worry too much and rush through them, it’s better to take your time and do them well.

 

 

Why do cabin crew have to do psychometric tests?

As crew you’ll have to perform simple calculations as part of your everyday role, and will have to be able to read and process important information.

The job also requires a certain strength of character and personality type, and the airline will want to make sure that you are up to the challenges of the job and would react appropriately in s tricky situation.

 

 

How can I prepare for the Psychometric tests?

The best way to prepare is to practice – there are various resources you can take a look at online which will give you examples of questions to practice with.

You can also buy workbooks specifically designed to help you prepare, with practice questions in all areas.

For the numerical reasoning tests try to do as much mental arithmetic as you can in your everyday life, for example adding up prices in your head when you’re shopping instead of using the calculator on your phone.

Reading a little every day can really help improve your reading speed and interpretation skills, pick up a book, a magazine or even read a few news articles online.

 

Next steps

If you’ve been asked to complete the tests online and have been successful you’ll usually be invited to attend an airline Assessment Day.  

However as I’ve mentioned, some airlines will ask you to do these tests on the assessment day itself.

Next month we’ll look at step six – the assessment day in detail, what you can expect, how to prepare, and how to get through the day! 

 

Step six…the assessment day

By Chartered Occupational Psychologist Hannah Vallance, Cabin Crew Wings TeamFollowing on from our article from last month Step Five – The Psychometric Tests we look this month at the Cabin Crew Assessment Day.You’ll generally receive an invitation to an...

How to improve your communication skills as a cabin crew member

How to improve your communication skills as a cabin crew member

Working as a cabin crew member or flight attendant means that you need to interact with your passengers. There’s no way around it, you must be able to make positive impressions on your passengers by having the right social and communication skills. This article will cover the basic information you need to know to be an excellent flight attendant. 

There are two different types of communication when it comes to dealing with people in general, but for our context dealing with passengers: verbal and non-verbal. In the customer service world, face to face interactions all come down to these two types of communication and knowing how to handle both will make or break your career as a cabin crew member. 

 

Verbal Communication

There are two main components of verbal communication which you need to always be aware of, and these are your tone of voice and your choice of words. People will interpret a lot from the tone of your voice, and it’s completely different when you speak to different people in your life like your family, friends, colleagues, or your boss. You need to be able to use the right tone to convey what you’re saying to your passengers to leave them with the right impression, whether you need to be friendly (almost always) or firm (sometimes necessary). Even if the passenger in 24A is rude and frustrating, think about the tone you’re using in your replies. 

In terms of your word choice, this is also important, because coming off as flippant or not serious will not go over well with your passengers. Also, sarcasm is very rarely well-received in the customer service world, so leave that one at home. Pamela Knight, a communication manager at Write My X and 1Day2Write, tells her readers to “make sure you’re not interrupting your passengers or trying to finish their sentences for them. It’s important to avoid coming off as too bossy or assertive when dealing with passengers, so think about passive turns of phrase, and choose the words carefully. Try different pitches and intonations to see how they come across.”

 

Non Verbal Communication

Non verbal communication is just as important, if not more, as verbal communication. This includes how you look and dress, whether your uniform is in good condition, and your hair is in place. This reflects on the company and your professionalism so you want to make a good impression. Also be mindful of your smell; obviously, body odour is extremely unpleasant, but you can also do too much and be wearing an overpowering perfume. In a crowded airplane, a strong perfume can be very off-putting for passengers, not to mention some might be allergic to scents.  

You should also be aware of the eye contact you make when you interact with passengers. It’s important to make eye contact to show you’re listening and interested in what they’re saying, but don’t keep it for too long because it’ll seem like you’re staring. In fact, body language is very important as a cabin crew member. According to Greta Vandercourt, a recruiter at Next Coursework and Brit Student, “gestures like folding your arms or leaning against the cabin door can appear too casual or off-putting, not the impression you want to be projecting. You also don’t want to be seen slouching or slumping as this does not look professional and makes you appear disengaged. You also want to avoid too many hand-gestures when you’re speaking because this can be interpreted as nervousness, similarly to fidgeting or constantly readjusting your hair or clothes.” 

When the passenger is speaking, lean forward to engage them and show your interest, nodding occasionally to show you’re paying attention and you understand what they’re saying, especially if there’s a language barrier. You should be turning your entire body to face them when they’re talking to you, and not just turn your head towards them. Under no circumstances should you be rolling your eyes or even frowning; try to keep a genuine smile on your face during your passenger interactions.  

Good communication, both verbal and non verbal, is at the base of every positive customer interaction, and it’s essential to master them to become a great cabin crew member. 

April Smith, a multimedia journalist at Academic Brits and PhD Kingdom, is dedicated to sharing her communication and interview tips with her readers. She has written her whole life and now she is using her skills as a writer to share helpful insights with her readers at Origin Writings.

Step six…the assessment day

By Chartered Occupational Psychologist Hannah Vallance, Cabin Crew Wings TeamFollowing on from our article from last month Step Five – The Psychometric Tests we look this month at the Cabin Crew Assessment Day.You’ll generally receive an invitation to an...

Mental health care for a happy flying career

Mental health care for a happy flying career

The freedom and excitement of travelling the world is a pleasure you want to keep and enjoy for as long as you fly. To do that, a little bit of housekeeping is in order to make sure you get the best out of your time in the air. Physical and mental health matter in this respect, so let’s look at how you can make sure the only blues you see are blue skies.

Mental health in the workplace often comes up in conversation nowadays, because it is costing the workplace a lot. More than just money, it costs workers their livelihood if not taken care of. To avoid the perils of bad mental health, you have to understand the signs, and be able to see them in your colleagues and those you hold dear, and more importantly, yourself.

The World Health Organisation W.H.O. has this to say about mental health:

  • Mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders.
  • Mental health is an integral part of health; indeed, there is no health without mental health.
  • Mental health is determined by a range of factors, including environmental ones.

 

 

What has that got to do with me you might ask? 

Just because you swap an office in the sky for an office on the ground doesn’t mean you escape the stresses of the regular workplace. Oftentimes juggling home life and travel-heavy work life can be equally taxing. It is about knowing how the lifestyle you now lead can get out of balance if you let it, what to do to bring balance back, and where to get help if you need it. Let’s begin with a common misconception about the flying lifestyle.

As glamorous as flying is from the outside, people tend to get the impression that things are 100 percent fantastic all the time for a glamorous crew! Scratch the surface and you find that cabin crew are normal people too, even if they have a ready smile and go beyond the normal customer service expectations. As such, people don’t always check in with their glamorous crew friend and family member because they are having the time of their life, right? Well, not every day. 

 

Speak up and to the right people

This is where communication is important. Communication is a two-way street and you need to be comfortable speaking up when you are not having a good day and when you need that little extra support from those around you. As a group of people, crew get into the habit of putting others before themselves. While this can be a valuable trait for teamwork, there is often nothing to give others if you don’t take care of your health first. 

 

Do you know what the starting signs are?

Mental health has an association with stress, anxiety, and depression, which in turn are reflected in hormonal health. The constant change in travel conditions, environments and circumstances beyond your control all feature in a flier’s lifestyle and can make some, more sensitive than most. Be mindful of how you do and don’t manage stresses that come with the job. One top tip besides sharing your feelings and being heard is to make sure you get regular exercise. This raises the feel-good factors your body produces known as endorphins. They literally change your biochemistry and help banish stress, anxiety and depression.

 

Good tips to stay balanced

What self-help steps can you take to keep everything ticking over? I briefly mentioned regular exercise, but it is worth repeating again for emphasis. Something as simple as going for a brisk walk has the ability to clear your head and lift your spirit, making it harder to be in the doldrums. Checking-in with yourself mentally is a good thing to do to every once in a while to create awareness of how you feel emotionally. One of the most valuable tools has to be the ability to turn to a fellow crew member who really understands the lifestyle you lead, so make friends easily so you can support them and be supported in return.

Another tip is to be mindful of the effect of the seasons on your hormonal health. Seasonal Affected Disorder otherwise known as SAD, is when you don’t get enough daylight in winter and the long winter months negatively influence your hormones, usually from autumn till the start of spring. If you are affected by SAD, recognising it, and nipping it in the bud can halt a spiral into unwanted mental health symptoms started by disrupted hormone patterns.

Having someone to call to talk to in any eventuality should always be an option, be it crew, friend, family or even a friendly ear from a professional organisation like the Samaritans. You may be pleased to know that some airlines have similar in-house services or arrangements with such organisations. If all else fails there is nothing like a wee galley chat in the small hours over a hot beverage to put the world to right and lift the spirits. Happy Landings!

About Christopher

Christopher Babayode is a former flight attendant of 20 years with British Airways, a specialist in Travel Wellness and healthy jet lag solutions for those who travel often. He is the author of Farewell Jet Lag, Cures from a Flight Attendant (on Amazon UK & US). Chris has been featured in the Sunday Telegraph and is a most -read author on Quora the questions and answers platform.

Christopher will also be guest speaking at our event later on this year, at the Aviation Job Expo!

Step six…the assessment day

By Chartered Occupational Psychologist Hannah Vallance, Cabin Crew Wings TeamFollowing on from our article from last month Step Five – The Psychometric Tests we look this month at the Cabin Crew Assessment Day.You’ll generally receive an invitation to an...

What is an airline video interview?

Kirsty is back with us again and this month she's focusing on video interviews and why you should know about them before you start applying for airline jobs! Take a look at Kirsty's recording below! I hate talking to a screen! That is the most common...