One of the best aspects of flying ultra long-haul is the sleeping rest we get during the flight! On a flight of 12 to 13 hours that roughly makes two to three hours of sleeping rest per shift.
There are two sleeping shifts, basically in the middle of the flight, after the passengers have been served their first meal and all other duties have been performed. So half of the cabin crew remains on active duty during this time while the other half takes their rest.
This is, by the way, officially regulated by national and international aviation authorities. It is mandatory to have a certain period of rest during ultra long-haul flights. This regulation also applies for the cockpit crew. When they fly as an enlarged crew (three pilots), one of them is always off duty during the time the aircraft is at cruise level.
Speaking for myself, I love sleeping on airplanes. As a passenger I doze off immediately once the plane starts moving. As a working crew member I look forward to my two hours of sleep in the crew bunk, which on our Airbus A340 planes is situated in the cargo compartment under the passenger cabin and contains six beds with pillows and blankets. This compartment has its own oxygen supply, oxygen masks and firefighting equipment, in case of emergency. And while asleep we must wear the seat belt!
You can’t stand upright in this container because it has a very low ceiling of approximately 160 cm. I enjoy sleeping to the light swaying of the airplane! I simply adore this! And I sleep very well and when my colleagues come to wake me up I feel rested and refreshed for the rest of the journey. We discuss beforehand who gets to go in the first or second shift. It’s a democratic decision. Some colleagues have preferences, some don’t mind either way. I usually don’t mind which shift I get as I sleep very well anyway, but if I have something planned for the evening after arrival, like going to the theatre in San Francisco or dinner in Hong Kong, then I might prefer the second shift, so that I am awake longer that evening. And as colleagues we take care of each other, that’s still the greatest part of this job!