Pilot Sleep in Long-Range and Ultra-Long-Range Commercial Flights

Despite the clear need for understanding how pilot sleep affects performance during long-range (LR; 12-16h) and ultra-long-range (ULR; 16+h) flights, the scientific literature on the effects of sleep loss and circadian desynchronization on pilots’ sleep in commercial aviation is sparse. The authors assessed pilots’ sleep timing, duration, and post-trip recovery on two LR and two ULR nonstop California to Australasia routes. Pilot’s sleep/wake history was measured with actigraphy and verified by logbook across 8–9 d. Pilots averaged 8.210 ± 1.687 SD hours of sleep per 24 h across the study period. A logistic model of the circadian timing of sleep indicated that time of day and phase of trip are significant predictors of pilots being asleep. Significant two- and three-way interactions were found between time of day, phase of trip, and route. A significant difference in average sleep time was observed between baseline and recovery day 1 for one route. All other recovery days and routes were not significantly different from baseline. For the four routes, the average amount of sleep per 24-h period during the study period was within the normal range with the circadian rhythm aligned to home-base time pre- and post-trip. Flight segments and layover conditions were associated with a misalignment of sleep relative to circadian rhythm, with layover sleep appearing to shift toward the local night. Full post-trip sleep duration recovery appears to occur for all routes within 1–2 d.


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  • Accession Number: 01700631
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jan 28 2019 2:19PM