3 Health Hacks for Airline Pilots

"Physical and mental health is of upmost importance for airline pilots. Here's a few tips and tricks I've found helpful..."

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After 10 years flying in the Airline Industry and feeling the impact it can have on both your mental & physical health, I took a deep dive into the topic of health, whilst breaking down my daily habits at work in order to try and optimize them for healthy living. I’ve discovered a few game changers that leave me with so much more energy at work & coming home feeling the same.

Nothing can substitute for an 8 hour sleep which in the Airline world is often hard to come by, but here are a few ways in which you can improve your energy levels, manage tiredness, and hopefully add a few years onto your life 😊

1. Kick that “last sector coffee” on late sectors!

Commercial airline pilots across the board are suitably plied with caffeine to keep us as fully alert as possible on our long, fatiguing days. It’s easy to get into the habit of accepting a coffee or tea on each sector but it might be worth stopping for a moment to really think about the impact this has on your health, sleep, and general lifestyle.


 Matthew Walker in his book “Why we sleep” explains that caffeine in fact has a very impressive half-life of 6 hours. This means that 10pm coffee on your last sector will certainly do a great job of keeping you alert during the flight home and landing a commercial airliner. Unfortunately, although you may feel the physical effects of caffeine wear off by the time you roll into bed in the early hours of the morning, your body and brain will still be experiencing ¾ of the effects of that caffeine.

It’s no secret that caffeine and good quality sleep aren’t very congruent, and in the world of commercial airline pilots and shift workers in general, good quality sleep is like gold dust. You may be the sort of pilot who is able to drift off to sleep immediately after a strong coffee, but the research in Mathew Walkers book shows that the quality of your sleep will be still massively compromised, leaving you feeling tired and not fully rested.

Although it may be hard at first – If you’re a commercial airline pilot working late shifts, replace that last coffee with a bottle of water. Try this for a month and see how much easier you’ll find it to fall asleep, and how much more refreshed you’ll feel in the mornings!

2. Try a cold shower before earlies

Talking of feeling refreshed in the mornings…..There is simply nothing more invigorating than a freezing cold shower to revitalize you and prepare you for the day ahead.

cold shower

This one takes a bit more time to get used to, but boy does it pay off. Wim Hoff suggests this in his book The Wim Hoff Method which explains the science behind how beneficial a cold shower is to both your physical and mental health.

As commercial airline pilots, especially short haul airline pilots, we do long days with very early starts (more in our article here). I can assure you that if you start forcing yourself to jump into a cold shower every morning, you’ll arrive at work feeling like your body’s been plied with 4 cups of coffee, when actually you’re buzzing off natural goodies!

You don’t need to read Wim Hoffs book to try this one out for yourself, so start from tomorrow!

3. Bring your own healthy breakfast!

Yet another game changer for short haul airline pilots around the world. Our job is very conducive to eating terribly. However, if you’ve followed the above steps and have cut out caffeine the night before, taken a cold shower to shock you into life this morning after your refreshing sleep, the icing on the cake will be to ensure you’re putting healthy, energizing food into your body.

healthy breakfast

One easy, healthy breakfast for commercial airline pilots is overnight oats. Plenty of overnight oats recipes can be found online and take minutes to prepare the night before. My advice would be to sprinkle frozen fruit/berries on the top for a punchier start to the morning.

If you’re a short haul (or long haul) commercial airline pilot looking to improve your lifestyle in simple but effective ways, try following some or ideally all the above for 30 days and see how many different aspects of your life start to improve.

The science shows that you’ll start to feel better in yourself. You’ll feel more energized and generally happier. You’ll become more resilient (Cold Showers) and your brain will be firing on all cylinders for longer. This should affect your working life but also improve your relationships and general well-being outside the world of the airlines.

If you try this, I’d love to know your thoughts! Please leave a comment below

For those interested in the topic of pilot mental & physical health, check out our in depth article here on pilot mental health.

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