How To Sleep On A Plane: 8 Tips For Flying Travelers

Traveling can be stressful—between the loud children, the plane noise, and the flight attendant’s constant reminders over the intercoms to buckle up. There are so many external stimuli going on around you that it is so much easier to just fall asleep, especially on a long-haul flight. However, the overwhelming environment can make this nearly impossible during air travel. 

There are plenty of ways to increase your chances of successfully getting some shuteye on your flight, even if you're not seated in first class or even business class. Choosing the right airplane seat, bringing the right travel essentials, and dressing for the occasion can make your trip as painless as possible, so stay tuned for some travel tips. 

Biggest Factors That Affect Sleep

Let’s start with the basics: there are three environmental factors that will determine the quality of sleep that you get. These are noise, light, and temperature. If you make sure that these three things are comfortable for you, you will be able to sleep. Of course, other factors contribute to sleep quality too.

Less Baggage

The first tip is about how much stuff you bring. Think about this first tip before you leave on your trip. If you have a lot of carry-ons, you will likely be storing them under your feet. This can decrease the legroom that you have, making you more uncomfortable in your seat. And when you are uncomfortable, it is impossible to get better sleep. 

young man at the airport

Only pack the things that you absolutely need, and if possible, take advantage of checked baggage. If you do take a small carry-on, only bring a few things you’ll need on the plane, such as a book, a snack, and a pillow for your neck. Grab the things out of your bag that you need and then store the bag in the overhead compartment. This way, you will have as much space as possible for your legs to stretch out. 

Don’t Drink Coffee

This tip can be tough, especially if you have a busy itinerary. If possible, opt for tea instead of coffee on the day of your trip. Overdoing caffeine will make it difficult to fall asleep and cause you to feel jittery and wide awake. Stay away from soda too, which usually has massive amounts of sugar. Try drinking some water or juice instead to keep your mind at ease and your body calm. 

Be Careful Eating

It isn’t just liquids that you need to worry about keeping you up during a flight. Eating a lot of carbs or eating something spicy can lead to stomach troubles and indigestion. There is nothing worse than trying to fall asleep while you are in pain.

You are the only one who knows what your body can handle, so on the day of your flight, play it as safe as possible. Eat food such as organic dates that will make you feel comfortable even while sitting in the same position for multiple hours. 

Choose Your Seat

One of the biggest factors when it comes to sleeping on planes is the location. Sitting in the wrong spot could make your plans of getting some sleep out of the question, not to mention give you problems with what armrests you can use. Sitting in the middle seat between two people makes it difficult to rest your head on something, which is the easiest way to fall asleep for most people. 

If possible, try to get a window seat. This will give you something sturdy to lean on and will be out of the way from other passengers passing by. Sitting in the aisle means that people will be brushing up against you when they use the lavatory, which can startle you awake. 

Before you agree to sit in an exit row, you should consider the disadvantages. Even though you get extra legroom, these seats often do not recline at all. You should also avoid a seat near the back of the plane or near the bathroom. 

Bring A Neck Pillow

neck pillow

Neck pillows on planes can be a lifesaver. They allow your neck to get the support it needs to feel relaxed and fall asleep. This eliminates the need to find the perfect position on a plane to rest your head. The Everlasting Comfort Memory Foam Travel Pillow makes it easy to find instant comfort on a plane and contours to your neck perfectly. It’s made from 100% memory foam and features an ergonomic design. 

This travel neck pillow also comes with a cell phone pocket. This way, when you fall asleep, your phone doesn’t end up under your seat. It also comes with earplugs, an eye mask, and a travel bag, making it incredibly easy to carry around. 

Dress Comfortably

Another factor that is important to consider is what you wear for your flight. It is hard to know whether the plane will be extremely cold or hot, so you should wear a lot of layers. This means you’ll be prepared no matter the temperature of your plane. 

Wear clothing that allows you to breathe and move easily. Don’t wear anything that could restrict your blood circulation. If you are on a really long flight, you can bring some comfortable clothes to change into for the nighttime. Clothes that allow you to bend your legs easily and tuck them underneath you are the best. Leggings or sweatpants are probably your safest bet. 

Sleep Aid

If you are feeling really desperate for a few hours of sleep, you can always try using an over-the-counter sleep aid. Of course, before taking anything, you should check in with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you. 

Melatonin can be helpful with falling asleep, and so can any antihistamine. There is also medicine that is for insomnia like ZZzQuil or Unisom. 

If you want a more natural option, you can try a calming herbal tea before you board the plane. 

Before you take anything for a red-eye flight, make sure you try medication out a few nights beforehand. Your doctor can also prescribe you medications for a sleep aid, but these often have many side effects. 

Put Away Electronics

If your flight has Wifi, it may be tempting to check work emails and look at social media. But looking at screens can throw off your circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin from being released in your body. 

This is because of the blue light in cell phones, tablets, and laptops. So do yourself a favor and put these devices away while on your overnight flight. Make sure you put them somewhere that is easy to access after your plane lands. 

Instead, before dozing off, try reading a book or a magazine. 

Blanket Placement

Wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket can help recreate your bed at home, but it can also cause the flight attendants to have to wake you up. If the seatbelt light comes on and they cannot see that you are buckled, they will have to wake you up to make sure you are being safe.

To avoid this, buckle your seatbelt over the blanket. This way, if you are asleep, there will be no question of whether or not you have your seatbelt on. 

Listen To Music With Headphones

Bringing noise-canceling headphones on your flight can be useful for blocking out distracting noises that surround you. Listening to soothing music can help you get some peaceful sleep. White noise can be great, too, if you find you get distracted by music.

If you plan on leaning on something while you sleep, whether it's the headrest or something else, you should avoid headphones with big earpads, as this can prevent you from being able to rest your head comfortably on the window or seat. Try using smaller headphones with ear pods that rest in your ear.

If you just want to block out noise, you can also try using earplugs. Be careful using these because the plane has a pressurized cabin, and it can cause your ears to pop. 

Block Out Light

One of the most distracting things on a plane is the sunlight and the lights on the plane. This can make it difficult to block out by just closing your eyes. Pack a sleeping mask to make it extra dark. Sometimes planes provide these, but you should bring your own just in case. You can't count on just pulling down the window shade, because sometimes they're required to be open.

 People sleep the best in total darkness, and you want to avoid jet lag at all costs. 

In Summary

Now that you know what to bring on your flight and how you should prepare, you’ll be able to get the best possible snooze. If you want to be alert when you exit the plane, you should wake up about a half-hour before you land. 

This will give you time to wake up, use the restroom, and gather your things. Even if you are flying economy, sleeping on a plane is possible with the right steps.

Being able to arrive at your destination rested will help the quality of your trip, no matter where you are going.


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