10 questions with… Professor Peter Eastwood, Cathay Pacific sleep consultant

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LATTE chats with Professor Peter Eastwood from the University of Western Australia and Sleep Expert for Cathay Pacific, about his Ultimate Sleep Guide and how to get shut-eye on a red-eye flight aboard the Airbus A350 aircraft.

  1. How is the Airbus A350 geared to help passengers enjoy better sleep quality?
    Cathay Pacific’s A350 has been dubbed the ‘hush-liner’ as it has a number of features designed to improve sleep while flying. The aircraft has quieter cabins, intelligent mood lighting, and improved cabin pressure and humidity levels. These all help enhance the quality of sleep on board which reduces jetlag and travel fatigue.
  2. A350 features ‘intelligent mood lighting’. What influence does light have on sleep?
    The lighting on Cathay Pacific’s A350 is programmed to reflect day-time and night-time at your destination. This helps encourage and improve sleep during the ‘dark hours’ so you become better adapted to the sleep and wake cycles needed at your new location.
  3. How does humidity, hydration and altitude affect sleep?
    Dehydration can negatively impact sleep because your mouth and nose become dry, setting you up for snoring during sleep and a parched throat on waking. You can minimise these effects during flying by regularly drinking water, minimising alcohol consumption, and using eye drops and a face moisturiser. Coupled with the benefits of increased cabin humidity and pressure, you can optimise your chances of having good quality sleep, reduce fatigue and improve your well-being.
  4. Aside from drinking water, what are some of the best ways to stay hydrated? What are some of the best foods to promote sleep?
    A quick win to keep your hydration in check is to reduce intake of alcohol, coffee and tea, and carry a hydro-mist and/or eye drops to avoid feeling dehydrated. It’s also best to enjoy light meals that are low in fats and sugars, which promote sleep as the meal will be easier for digestion. The rule is try to eat light to sleep tight.
  5. What are your top tips to avoid jet lag?
    One top tip is to ‘move to sleep’, as inactivity can result in sore, aching muscles of the back, arms and legs. Simple stretches of the legs and ankles while seated will increase blood flow and deliver oxygen to the body, specifically the legs. The A350’s wider economy seats provide more room to support relaxation and comfort in flight, and also makes stretching easier to achieve.
  6. Watching videos is a popular way to pass the time while flying; how can this affect sleep quality?
    The light from any electronic screen prior to bedtime can be detrimental as it can affect the natural balance of the sleep hormone, melatonin. You need to be relaxed to fall asleep and it sometimes takes longer to relax after watching stimulating or exciting videos. It is best to try and avoid screens when and where you can, especially if you are planning to try to fall asleep.
  7. Is it better to sleep for your origin or your destination?
    Sleep for your destination because once you have lost sleep you lose it forever, you’re not getting it back, so plan forward. Set your watch to the time at your destination and eat and sleep at the appropriate times at your destination. This can be a big help to combat jet lag. These strategies, coupled with smart lighting on Cathay Pacific’s A350 helps passengers adapt to sleep and wake cycles needed at the new location.
  8. What do you recommend for people who struggle to sleep at all while flying?
    I would advise travellers to put my tips into practice the next time they fly. Eat well and avoid fats/sugars, stay hydrated, move to sleep, and sleep smart for your destination. I would also recommend investing in ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones. These, coupled with the innovative noise reduction design of the A350 cabins will optimise your potential to sleep, and sleep well.
  9. What are your top five carry-on essentials?
    My top five essentials are a good book, noise-cancelling headphones, neck-pillow, hydration mist and, depending on the length of the flight, a change of comfortable clothes.
  10. What is your favourite pre-sleep tea ritual?
    Most teas are caffeinated, even green tea. The best before bed is herbal tea such as peppermint or chamomile tea, which are usually caffeine-free. I would also always advise to read the information on the packet about the tea’s contents before drinking – just to double check!

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