Study reveals a third of cabin crew use sleep medication each week and 90 per cent wake up at least once during the night

  • A total of 470 flight attendants were surveyed in a new trade union study
  • Staff get an average of 6.72 hours sleep, less than the advised amount
  • More than 80 per cent said they often don't get a meal break while working 

For cabin crew, jet lag and sleep pattern disruption comes with the job – but many have admitted that they need medication to help them cope.

A third of those interviewed for a new study admitted that they take sleeping pills at least once a week. What’s more, 90 per cent reported having trouble sleeping and said they wake up at least once during the night.

One expert described the results as ‘concerning’ as sleep medication can ‘impair performance’, while jet lag itself can lead to loss of concentration and appetite.

For cabin crew, jet lag and sleep pattern disruption comes with the job – but many have admitted that they need medication to help them cope 

For cabin crew, jet lag and sleep pattern disruption comes with the job – but many have admitted that they need medication to help them cope 

A total of 470 Aer Lingus flight attendants were used in the study, which was commissioned by the airline's trade union, Impact. 

The research also found that when the cabin crew do get a night's sleep, it lasts for an average of 6.72 hours, less than the recommended amount by the National Sleep Foundation. 

The organisation says that adults between 25 and 64 years old should be aiming to get between seven to nine hours. 

Dr. Neil Kline, a sleep physician and director of the American Sleep Association told Huffington Post: 'This is a concerning statistic, but not surprising. 

'Humans are creatures of habit when it comes to time. Our internal timer is set to an (almost) 24-hour clock.' 

He said that exposure to bright lights and constant changing sleep patterns disrupts the body's internal clock, leading to feeling jet lag. 

A third of cabin crew interviewed for a new study admitted that they take sleeping pills at least once a week 

A third of cabin crew interviewed for a new study admitted that they take sleeping pills at least once a week 

THE WORRYING EFFECT OF JET LAG 

Medically referred to as 'desynchronosis' and classified as a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, jet lag is part and parcel of long haul flights.

Short-term problems from jet lag include fatigue, loss of concentration, irritability and loss of appetite.

More worryingly, a study published in The Lancet in 2007 found that consistent disruption of body rhythms could lead to cognitive decline, psychotic and mood disorders and possibly heart disease and cancer. 

Medically referred to as 'desynchronosis' and classified as a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, jet lag is part and parcel of long haul flights.

Short-term problems from jet lag include fatigue, loss of concentration, irritability and loss of appetite.

More worryingly, a study published in The Lancet in 2007 found that consistent disruption of body rhythms could lead to cognitive decline, psychotic and mood disorders and possibly heart disease and cancer.

Kline also stressed the importance of recognising that sleep medication, both prescription or over the counter, will have side effects. 

'Many of the medications and OTC products used for insomnia and jet lag can cause daytime sleepiness and lead to impaired daytime performance,' he said to the news site. 

Kline recommended that flight crew members use light therapy if they cannot avoid their changing shift pattern. 

This method includes staying away from bright lights in the evening and using a light box or sunlight in the morning. 

He advised avoiding caffeine in the afternoon, not watching TV in bed, doing frequent exercise and taking a warm bath or shower or mediating before drifting off.

One expert recommended that flight crew members use light therapy if they cannot avoid their changing shift pattern

One expert recommended that flight crew members use light therapy if they cannot avoid their changing shift pattern

Aside from the worrying sleep statistics, the study found that almost half of those involved said they had worked at least one day while sick. 

A major reason was to avoid the company's disciplinary process (39.4 per cent) and 28.6 per cent said that they felt their illness wasn't serious enough to warrant a day off work.

And more than 80 per cent said they hadn't had the opportunity for a meal break while working, and said this had happened, on average, more than four times during the 28 days that the survey was conducted.

Impact assistant general secretary Michael Landers said on the union's blog: 'During the survey period a large majority worked flight duty periods of more than nine hours, while almost a third had worked at least one flight duty period of more than 13 hours. 

'Most experienced flight delays, difficulties in taking meal breaks and duty swaps were also difficult to achieve.

'Most cabin crew reported obtaining the minimum rest period (12 hours off between shifts under flight time limitation rules) at least once in the period.'  

The union say the study will be used to help ensure the airline is complying with health and safety aviation laws. 

Aer Lingus told independent.ie that it 'gives particular care and attention to ensure the health and well-being of our employees'.

It added that it complies with all relevant industry codes and standards.

MailOnline Travel has contacted Aer Lingus for additional comment.  

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