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20 Tips and Tricks for Sleeping on a Plane

2019-08-02

For some people, sleep comes easy!  For others, however, it is difficult to fall asleep at night in our own beds… let alone sitting, unreclined, inside a giant metal tube shuttling at high speeds through the sky.  Luckily, there are some ways we can trick our brains into believing we are at home, lying comfortably in our beds.  It’s never going to be perfect, and you’ll likely still struggle; follow these 20 tips and tricks to give yourself the best chance for success - and dreamland!

Booking

  • Consider how you usually lie in your bed at home.  If you usually lie on the left side of the bed, book a seat on the left side of the aisle. 
  • When booking your ticket, try for a window seat - you won’t have to worry about people trying to get around you.  You’ll also have control over the window shade if you are on this side of the plane.
  • If you have the luxury to do so, try to get an upgrade to first class.  First class seats usually lie flat, and you’ll find it far easier to sleep in a familiar position.
  • If you cannot upgrade, try to book on an airline that has more foot room than others.  The more space per person, the more recline you’ll be able to get without bothering those behind you.

Packing

  • Bring your favorite travel or regular-sized pillow, depending on how much space you have.  It’s amazing how something as simple as a familiar pillow can help you drift off more easily.
  • Dress warmly, with layers that are easy to remove.  You can use any extra layers as blankets or a pillow if you were unable to pack one.  Wear warm socks so that your feet will not be cold as you take your shoes off.
  • Bring a sleep mask if you are used to sleeping in complete darkness.  Make sure the one you bring is comfortable and won’t be too tight - this could give you a headache.
  • Pack earplugs or earbuds to help drown out cabin noise.

Before You Board

  • Take a look at what your usual routine is before you go to bed at night.  If you usually brush your teeth and wash your face, try to replicate that before you board your flight. 
  • Start to wind down by either putting your electronic devices away or turning on the blue-light filter.  If you usually read a book before you sleep, pull one out while you are waiting to board your plane.
  • Make sure all of your sleep items are in your carry-on or on your person.  If you need to pick up any last-minute items, now’s the time.
  • If you will be using any sleep aids*, take/apply them right before your call for boarding.  Most medicines and natural remedies need time to start working.  Be sure to get the most out of your flight by timing this properly.

Preparing for Sleep

  • Reading on a plane can help relax your mind and prepare you to sleep.
  • Let everyone around you know you’ll be reclining and to wake you up if there’s an emergency.  Set an alarm for 30 minutes before your flight lands so that you can gather your things.
  • Listening to your favorite music - any music that usually relaxes you - can be a great way to help you fall asleep.
  • Listen to a guided meditation for sleep - they’ll usually start off with body scans to help you relax each muscle in your body.

Things to Avoid

  • *DO NOT take sleep aids unless it is part of your normal routine and you have talked to your doctor about how high altitude may cause side effects.  Clotting risk is increased at higher altitudes, and some sleep medications can increase the risk of clots, too.  Sleep aids can also be difficult to arouse from in the event of a mild or severe emergency.
  • Avoid caffeinated and other stimulating drinks with B-vitamins.
  • While alcoholic drinks may help you fall asleep, they can make it difficult to rouse from sleep, should something happen that needs your attention. 
  • You should also try to avoid eating anything that may give you indigestion prior to boarding your plane.  It will be nearly impossible to fall asleep on an upset stomach.

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