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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wednesday Wellness with Dr. Karlene

Due to technical difficulties with Dr. Larry burning his candle at both ends we'll see him back here next week! For those of you, like myself, who do this same candle burning technique... we all understand.

But not to worry... Wednesday Wellness is alive with Dr. Karlene
Dr. Larry will return next week.

Dr. Karlene... Ph.D. in life.

Actually, a little bit of information about myself and health. I started my Ph.D. in Holistic nutrition with plans of becoming a Doctor of Natural Health. Unfortunately this turned out not to be a good time to embrace such an undertaking ... NWA was filing bankruptcy, two daughters in college with the third getting ready to go, and we were in the process of selling our home... I put that degree on hold and ended up earning a Ph.D. in Life instead. But I've never stopped studying and learning about good health via the natural way.

Yesterday I set my alarm for 5:30 and awoke to be part of Round Table discussion on shift work and the ramifications that crazy sleep schedules has our health. is a new site discussing sleep issues. You can click to the link above and Sign up for a free Shift Work Disorder (SWD) Self-Assessment Tool that you can share with your doctor. The Wake-up Squad will also send you some helpful information about SWD. Not until I joined this discussion did I realize that pilots are shift workers. Not only pilots, but authors and students are shift workers too!


International flying has a unique dilemma all its own. We lose days of sleep every month. For those of us who need "more" days in your life, this becomes a challenge. I was assigned an 11-day trip for next month. From the time I depart to the day I return I will be in a hotel "7" nights. The last day, I'll be able to sleep in my own bed. However, that still leaves me sleeping 8 out of 11 days. I'm losing "3" nights of sleep! How can that be? It's a reality.

This is a dilemma of the airline industry. How do we fix it? Since de-regulation it's infeasible for the airlines to schedule flights with crew fatigue in mind. They make an effort by teaching us how to nap on the planes during our required crew rest. But how many of you can nap 4 hours after you've awoken for your day in a noisy environment?


Sleep problems are not uncommon to writers either. I have many writer friends who are working a regular job, and/or raising a family. Their writing time occurs during the middle of the night when their family sleeps or they're not working their real jobs.


What about students who stay up all night to cram for an exam or study flying on the side while their life is going on full speed ahead face sleep issues? Normally you have youth on your side, but the impact is the same.

Flying, Writing, Driving, Living... Drunk?

Studies show that being awake for 17 hours is equivalent to a .05% alcohol level. I wonder what the equivalence is for being awake 34 hours. Does anyone know?

Last week Dr. Larry addressed SLEEP issues with medical interventions. I wrote a few things that work for me in Flying Drunk and now the Wake Up Squad is on the team.

Sleep is a challenge to everyone and the Wake Up Squad is on it.
  • Please leave me a message with what the Wake Up Squad can do for you! I'll pass the information on during our next meeting.
  • If you have the sleep thing mastered, we would love to hear from you.
  • If you have any ideas on how the airline industry can solve their unique dilemma, please share them here.
We all know that we need sleep. We all make excuses of why tomorrow we'll get it. The real question is how do we make ourselves sleep when we have so many balls in the air and we fear they will fall if we take time to get that must needed rest. Knowing is one thing. Doing another. I am as guilty as everyone.

There will be more to come on this serious issue.

For now... check out a great shift work video by clicking Here They forgot to mention all our careers... but we are part of the 24/7 workforce.

Now... on the lighter side... the photo above is what I'm considering of putting on my book, Flight For Control. What do you think?

Enjoy the Journey!

XOX Karlene


  1. This is a huge problem in the airline industry, one that I'm shocked the union hasn't stepped in to fix. The industry is running our pilots into the ground and if things don't change, that could be literal. :(

  2. Heather, fatigue is a killer for sure. You're right... there are many things that the Union needs to look at. Not sure of the fix, but with so many minds working on the problem... we might brainstorm an idea. But first I need some sleep to figure it out. :)

  3. If I fall asleep at my desk here at work does that count? Bonus points if I snore myself awake as my coworkers point and laugh. Yes, this has happened.

  4. Oh, it gives me sleep-deprivation headaches just to think about this. My body actually has a built-in mechanism that protects me from a lot of these problems: it just won't let me go without sleep. I was never even able to pull an all-nighter in college, no matter how much coffee I drank. The only time I can't get any decent sleep at all is . . . when I'm flying (as a passenger!). I'd never make it as a pilot! This is such a huge problem for so many people, though, and professions like commercial aviation and medicine have to be suffering for it. I can't wait to see if you find some truly helpful info.
    p.s. do you mean the picture of the Concorde? whoa--is that crash in your book now? incredible picture.

  5. Dear Karlene:

    Are you considering the photo of the ambi-flammable candle, the photo of the attractive professional aviator, or the photo of the flaming Concorde?

    I vote no on #1 & #3, and yes! on #2.



  6. Tom, I'm thinking napping at the desk in your office is a "good" thing. As long as your desk isn't on short final after a long night. So... tell those co-workers if they take a picture for me, we'll give them a free flight next March. :)

  7. Hi Linda... that's just a little fire out its tail. I had a couple crash photos... but they were too graphic.

    You're so lucky to have a body that makes you sleep. And... thus the reason you have incredible youth. I'm thinking about how to do better with this myself. Maybe when I'm home...set an alarm and just go to bed. When I'm there I can sleep.
    The problem is I'm usually playing catch up when I get home.

    Thanks for the comment!!

  8. Ah Frank... you old charmer! Thank you! That would be the one. :)

  9. Karlene,
    You mention that you are trained on how to nap while taking your required crew rest. Getting ready to start flying trips with crew rest myself, do you have any suggestions for how to actually sleep during that time (particularly if you get the first break)? If it is difficult to sleep, what do you normally do instead?

  10. Daniel, All the nap training in the world doesn't get you ready for first break. And, if you try to show up to work exhausted so you sleep... I've tried that, still didn't get good sleep and just felt wiped out.

    I think the best thing you can do during first break is meditate. Okay... don't get nervous on this. No chanting. There is a type of meditation where you just turn off the brain.

    Lay there, and close your eyes and only think of your breath going in an out. Nothing else. Visualize the breath. You'll either fall asleep doing that, or if you don't sleep, and you can maintain that focus with a quiet brain... the result is feeling rested.

    Still nothing is like a good sleep. Also where earplugs and an eye mask if it's not completely black. Keep the room cool too.

    I hope this helps.

  11. Thanks Karlene! I'll keep you posted on how it goes! As for now the challenge is staying awake during 1970s FAA videos in class!

  12. Daniel, that is painful. But have you seen the frozen chickens propelled through the windshield yet? Remember, when you can sleep... do it. Perhaps that means during the 1970 films. :)


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