One of the things that I have struggled with for years is figuring out how to sleep on a plane. I don’t know why, but I can never seem to get comfortable while flying. I feel cramped and sweaty. No matter how hard I try, and I can never seem to get as much sleep as I would like. In fact, I’m always envious of people who can just fall asleep during the entire flight. For me, red-eye flights are torture since I’m never able to get the rest I need unless I’m able to get a lie-flat seat, which is not often since I can’t justify the cost.
I always thought I was in the minority when it came to this struggle. But I seem to have met a lot of folks recently who share the same experience as me. In this video and post, I want to run through some tips and tricks that help me to relax and rest while flying. I can’t guarantee that they’ll work for you, but they seem to help me.
1. Reduce lights:
This not only applies to windows, but also overhead lights and screens. The blue light from screens has been known to affect our biological clocks, so you might want to give yourself a break from your electronics. Or, if you really want to use your device, I suggest reducing the brightness of the screen to minimize the amount of light or investing in a dedicated e-reading device like a Kindle.
2. Wear comfortable clothes:
This might seem like a no-brainer, but I’ve been guilty of wearing clothes that aren’t the most comfortable when flying. This also applies to footwear. I often wear the bulkiest shoes when traveling to save space in my suitcase, but I feel like I am so much more likely to fall asleep when I take them off. If you struggle to get comfortable while flying, considering wearing more loose or stretchy clothes. I usually wear one of my prAna Brion pants. They look like normal pants, but they’re actually made of nylon and spandex, which makes them super comfortable. These are actually my go-to pants when traveling since they are easy to wash and dry, and can work for all sorts of situations and environments, whether it’s hiking in a tropical location or exploring a new town.
3. Consider your dining and beverage choices and timing:
It’s generally recommended that you eat prior to your flight in order to maximize your chances of sleeping. That usually an unrealistic expectation, since I am often rushed at the airport. I recommend being careful of what you are eating and drinking. Depending on how sensitive your stomach is, you might want to avoid spicy foods, which might be more likely to upset your stomach. Also, if you’re prone to snoring, you may want to avoid drinking alcohol. Alcohol can relax muscles in your throat which makes you likely to start snoring. This will not only disrupt your sleep, but potentially disturb your seatmates.
4. Bring a pillow and eye mask:
I know a lot of people swear by neck pillows. To be honest, I can’t seem to get comfortable with them. However, I will say that a nice pillow and eye mask seems to be a lot more effective for me. If you’re looking for a specific one, I’ve been very impressed with the ones from HappyLuxe. Their Escape Eye Mask and Odyssey Pillow are extremely high quality, and are made from a super soft micromodal fabric. The pillow is bigger than most airline pillows, but it can be compressed into a small suitcase pocket with any problems and still retains its shape. The pillow cover can be washed as well, which is great after being used in a dirty plane.
HappyLuxe also has an interesting backstory. The founder of the company served as both a commercial and air national guard pilot, and she decided to create products that she felt would help her sleep while sitting in a plane. I definitely have a soft spot for veteran-owned businesses, but I honestly feel like their products are a great value for the money.
5. Buckle your seat belt over your blanket or sweater:
Flight attendants are required to verify whether your seatbelt is secured when necessary. To avoid having a flight attendant interrupting your sleep, I suggest buckling your seatbelt on top of your layers.
6. Pick your seat wisely:
Window seats toward the center of the plane are generally the quietest seats. You definitely want to avoid the front and last row too, as you’ll get the most noise and smells from the galley and bathrooms. The last row of seats usually don’t recline either, which makes it more difficult to relax. Having a line of people waiting to use the bathroom during the flight isn’t helpful either.
7. Block sounds:
I know a lot of folks swear by noise canceling headphones. I don’t know if I just have not had a good pair, or if I’m just too sensitive, but the pressure on my ears makes me feel uncomfortable. Instead, I usually rely on some cheap earplugs or earphones that are able to block out sounds. I’m sure a quality set of noise-canceling headphones would probably be a lot more effective, but this seems to work well for me.
8. Consider taking melatonin:
Melatonin is a natural hormone that helps trigger sleep in your body. Some people swear by it, while others say it’s all psychological. I have taken it a few times on long flights, and it did seem to help me relax. I also use it to help me sleep through the night when I am trying to recover from jet lag. It could be completely psychosomatic, but either way, I seem to get good results from it.
I know some folks use alcohol or sleep medication to get them through a flight. I’m not recommending it because it doesn’t seem to work for me, and I just don’t like the idea of using a medication to help me get through a flight. Though if a glass of wine can help you catch some sleep, then it’s definitely worth considering.
Do you have any tips or tricks to help you rest on a plane? Also, do you have devices that help? I’m still searching for that magical neck pillow.
- “You’ve Been Sleeping on Planes All Wrong” (Travel & Leisure)
- “Secrets of Getting Good Sleep on a Plane” (BBC)
- “How to Sleep on a Plane” (The Points Guy)
- “How to Sleep on a Plane” (Real Simple)