The Trans-Pacific Red Eye
It can be a daunting idea to the novice trans-Pacific traveler to leave at night and arrive at the destination early in the morning. No one can sleep on planes… and that isn’t going to change unfortunately taking a flight from the USA to Asia or Australia. So why would you want to do that?
Due to flying with the earth’s rotation, leaving the USA late in the evening will supply you with a really long night. If you are traveling for 12-16 hours (after starting the trans-Pacific portion of your itinerary), it is likely that night will last 4-6 hours longer.
This can be a benefit to you getting at least some sleep on the plane and a benefit to being awake in the day at your destination. Whether it is the adrenaline or the fact that my body hasn’t yet had a chance to figure out what I did to it, I normally only need a few hours of sleep on the plane. That sleep will usually come a few hours later than I would have normally went to bed and of course will be broken sleep.
What about sleeping pills?
Some travelers take sleeping pills to sleep on the flight. I find this counterproductive. The worst thing that can happen to someone in a new destination is to have a head full of drugs. Not to mention that the drug may not work like you would expect. You may get a walking dead miserable flight without much more sleep than you would have gotten normally. Alcohol can have a similar affect.
Instead, I try to make sure the day before my flight is full of activities and that I wake up nice and early. On the flight, I try to give myself busy work if possible or plan a nice TV or book binge. Something that will relax me and allow me to go to sleep. Something should be planned for the flight. Sitting there stressing out about whether you are going to sleep or not is a sure way to not sleep and have a miserable flight.
The first day at the destination
If you are free of mood-altering chemicals and you manage to arrive at your destination early in the morning with 2-4 hours of sleep, you may find yourself with enough energy for a full day. I’m usually able to do my traveling and any business I have along with a nice workout and keep myself awake until late that evening at which time I’m thoroughly exhausted and sleep like a baby waking up nice and peacefully at 6am or so.