Sleep schedule

As we know that a pilot has erratic schedules, then how do you manage the sleep? Yes you’ll have a few hours off but how does the body adjust to sleeping in morning for once and next day sleep in the afternoon. Like how do you keep up? Does it affect personal health in a bad way?


First off not all pilots have erratic schedules, at least as it pertains to their circadian rhythms but obviously some do. Different people have different strategies that work for them. I’ve been doing a lot of Asia trips which always bring you back during the evening. What works best for me is to try and stay on my normal clock as much as possible. When we land in Asia it’s usually late on my home clock but early local time. I’ll lay down as soon as we get in despite this fact again to stay on my normal clock. Problem is that has you waking up at 3-4am but to me that’s fine. I’ll usually get up, go to the gym and have breakfast after then start my wandering. By 1-2pm it’s late again on my home clock so I can lay down again and get another solid rest period before that late night departure. That way when it’s time to launch, while it may be 10-11pm local it’s early am back home so that overnight flight isn’t so bad.

Again there are many techniques people use. Most important is to grab rest whenever you have the opportunity and if you’re really behind and are feeling fatigued to not fly.



Here at SkyWest we obviously don’t do all that much night flying (as in redeye/backside of the clock), but the planes are in the air generally from as early as 4:45am until midnight. FAA regulations (and common sense) do not allow pilots to fly more than a certain amount of hours per day dependent on a few factors (there is a whole part in the book of federal aviation regulations, part 117 if you are interested) so usually trips are built with either am flying or pm flying. This allows cadence and the crew can get enough rest in between duty periods.


Thank you @Yarden @Adam

Let’s say a crew lands the last flight of the day into a city at 11 or 12 am, at what time next morning would their trip resume with a flight out from the city? Like how much duty rest time do pilots get when working late at night.


The minimum rest allowed is ten hours, but many times the overnights are much longer as the crews also have to fit into the airline’s needs. That can mean a day, or even a few days in a particular city. Generally speaking though, domestic overnights are twenty hours or less.

So would it be typical for a crew who gets in late one night around 11 or 12 to not have to report to work until the next afternoon at 3 pm for example?

Yes, that would be typical.

At Horizon, and I’m assuming at most regionals, it’s not uncommon to have a
12 hour layover. For example, say we land in St Louis at 6pm. Our report
time for our next flight would be 6am the next day. Since I’m Seattle
based, 6am St Louis time is actually 4am Seattle time, which means waking
up around 2:30-3am :grimacing:


Chris is fortunate as it sounds like United may have some contractual restriction making your 12am arrival/3pm departure scenario “typical”. In my experience FAA rules govern. As Chris said the FAA requires a minimum of 10hrs rest. That means get in at midnight and you can (and often will) be out by 10am.


Have you or do you know any pilots who have napped in the airport in between flights? Is there possibly something similar to a breakroom with a couch for this? haha


Absolutely. Every airline hub I know has a crewroom that will contain a dark/rest area with recliners and often a kitchen with fridge, micro etc. Not exactly home but most are pretty comfy.


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At our hub airports we have crew rooms with comfortable chairs, couches and even sleep rooms with small beds.