Sleep On A Plane
15 Wonderful Tips To Sleep Tight

Hey everyone! I'm just back from vacation and would like to bring up something that's been troubling me for quite a long time - how to actually manage to sleep on a plane?

I bet you too have experienced the agony and discomfort of trying to get a good night’s sleep during a long flight... Most of us have. It can spoil a big part of your vacation if you don't manage to get any sleep during a long flight.

So during my latest vacation, which included 4 different trips, my set out goal was to master this skill :-)

And yes, I have made some great insight. This article therefore becomes my very own contribution to your next vacation =)

1. Grab The Window Seat

If you can, then get a window seat. It's without a doubt the best place if you want to sleep on a plane. I've noticed that the aisle seat is far too often subject to nudges from passing people.

And the middle one means having sharp elbows on both sides.

With the window seat comes the possibility to use the wall to lean against, the removal of anyone having to climb out and a minimized risk of nudges.

So if you can, get it! It's golden!

2. Lean All The Way Back

This is an obvious one :-) Basically, the closer you get to your normal sleeping position - lying down - the easier it will be to fall asleep.

3. Support Your Back

In most long-distance flights these days you'll get a pillow and a blanket. Unless you plan to use the blanket for cover, then put it as support behind your back.

If you do use it for keeping warm, then use the pillow instead. The reason why I recommend this is that modern airplane chairs are still far from your comfortable chair at home.

So by putting a pillow as extra support, you will create a much more natural sleeping position where your upper body gets to lean backwards. Try it!

4. Support Your Neck

This one's a must for all of you serious sleepers out there. Lack of sufficient neck support is by far the most common reason why you might feel like you've been through a blender when you wake up.

You know the feeling, right? As soon as you start to doze of, whoops, your neck falls to the side and you're awake again.

For this purpose, I strongly suggest to get one of those special neck support pillows. Even though they're a bit pricey it's worth the money. Personally, I find the "bean bag"-type more comfortable than the inflatable ones so if you have enough room to bring on, do it. 

5. Take Off Your Shoes

You know how comfortable it is to roll up in your bed at home with your dirty uncomfortable shoes right?

No, you don't! Because it doesn't happen.

Same applies to sleeping on a plane. In your quest to get as similar to your normal sleeping conditions, taking off your shoes is a must-do.

6. Use Your Most Comfortable Clothes

What's more important - being fashionable on the plane or getting a couple hours of awesome sleep?

I say "dress for success", which in this case means wearing as soft and comfortable clothes as possible. Try to avoid jeans and tight shirts.

If you really can't imagine walking around in the airport like this, then use the airplane toilet as your dressing room before and after sleeping. Then no one will know, almost :-)

7. Cover Your Eyes

It's true that they usually dim the lights for a couple of hours during long flights, but I don't think that's enough if you want to optimize your chances to sleep on a plane. I mean, what if you end up next to Readie McReaderson with the light on constantly?

Instead, be prepared by having something to get yourself to the dark. I'm not a big fan of those strap-on black cotton glasses. The best solution I have found, thanks to the lady sitting next to me a while back, was to use a dark buff over your head. This will create a much more complete dark environment and you'll avoid almost all annoying stitches.

8. Plug Your Ears (with music)

As with every time you go to sleep - if it's not quiet, then shut out the disturbances. And the use of some good music through your earphones is of course the easiest way.

Remember to set your playlist to repeat, or else you might be woken up by accident later...

If you prefer earplugs to make it quiet instead, then go for that. Whatever makes it easier for you to sleep on a plane.

9. Get The Temperature Right

You never know exactly what the temperature will be in the plane when you travel. A couple of times, I've actually been saved by the provided blanket when the temperature dropped considerably during the trip.

Use it to get that warm and cuddly feeling we all like ;-)

10. Eat And Drink Enough

Going to sleep on a plane hungry is the not the easiest thing, so be proactive. Don't wait around to get served something you might not even like. Instead, eat enough before you enter the plane and use the airplane food as additional supply if you need it.

Also, I always like to bring something with me as a snack for whenever I want it - e.g. fruits, nuts or sandwiches.

Another points I'd like to mention is of course to always have water. Get a bottle, before or in the plane, so you don't have to rely on being served a small plastic cup of water that tips over if you want to save it for later.

And last thing, no coffee, ok :-)

11. Visit The Bathroom First

Before attempting to sleep on a plane, do as home and empty your systems.

I know, it's not the most pleasant environment at the plane so you might try to postpone it a bit. Don't. Two negative things might happen. You can't fall asleep at all or you wake up in a short while having to go.

So get it right and do it first.

12. When Important, Upgrade!

If you simply have to be alert straight away when you arrive, then upgrading to first class might be a suitable option. Of course, it's a bit more expensive, but damn are those chairs comfortable :-)

If you are extra-large or easily get sore joints, then upgrading might be your only alternative as well. Just think about it to avoid having to suffer too much those times you really need to sleep on a plane.

13. Sleep Instantly

The fact is that the pressure inside the airplane when you board is usually slightly lower than outside. And this has the beneficial effect that most of us start to feel a bit drowsy. If that's a deliberate evil plan by the airlines I cannot say, but's let’s use it to our advantage nonetheless.

Basically, this means that you might want to get sleeping straight away you sit down on the plane.

14. Put Your Tray Down

One thing that always used to wake me up on a plane (and made me damn annoyed) was when it was time for food/drink delivery. The airplane staff always poked me and said "put down your tray Sir" so that they could place the food tray.

So I thought "why don't I just leave the tray down ALL the time" so they can place whatever they want there without disturbing me.

So I did.

And the rate of wake-up-by-poking has decreased dramatically :-)

15. Become Undisturbable!

If you manage to fall asleep on a plane instantly, it might be necessary to take a few actions to avoid being woken up right away. Heck, whenever you plan to fall asleep, you should:

  • Turn off your phone. It's a must and you don't want to be reminded.
  • Buckle up. Even if its mid-flight, the plane might suddenly "experience some turbulence" so always keep it on to avoid being told to do so.
  • Notify the flight attendant that you plan to sleep and wish to not be disturbed. Ask them if you can receive the potential food serving later instead. Or...
  • Ask your neighbor is she can put down your tray and receive the food when they serve it later. Or...
  • Place a paper sign on your shoulder saying: "Please don't wake me up". Of course also translate it to the local language of the airline. (Be aware that I haven't tried this last one myself, but it might just work...)

I hope you've received some new insights based on my list here. The final tip I have is to just to simply try it all at once!

However, there are no guarantees, just do your best to get as close to your normal sleeping position and conditions as possible. That's the key for success.

So enjoy your next flight =)

Early Riser > Sleep Problems > Sleep On A Plane

Thanks for reading! By Matthew M. McEwan

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