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How to Sleep on a Plane

You’re going on the trip of a lifetime – but to get there you have to survive a long flight in economy class, and you want to arrive feeling good and rested. But everyone knows you can’t sleep well on a plane, right? Actually, with a little preparation, you can sleep better than you might think.

10 Tips to Sleep Comfortably on a Plane

  1. Choose Your Seat Carefully
  2. Bring a Neck Pillow and Blanket
  3. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol
  4. Invest in Noise-Cancelling Headphones
  5. Ditch the Electronics
  6. Dress Comfortably
  7. Bring Your Sleep mask
  8. Meditate
  9. Bring a Seat Cushion
  10. Consider Natural Sleep Remedies

It’s hard to fall asleep on a plane. It’s cramped, often loud, and sometimes stuffy. But sometimes, you must endure a long flight to take the vacation of your dreams. Fortunately, you have some measure of control over how well you rest during a long-haul flight.

A nice long nap on your flight can help you arrive at your destination feeling well-rested and refreshed. Sleep will come easier once you have dealt with the light, noise, and temperature of the cabin. Whether you’re on an overnight flight or a shorter red-eye flight, you can still get some much-needed shuteye on the journey. Follow these key tips and tricks to help you snooze during your flight.

1. Choose Your Seat Carefully

Your seat choice might be the single most important factor in making sure you get good rest while flying. It’s all about the window seat. First, it gives you the power over the lighting: You can control the window shade, so if you want to sleep better, you can make sure the window coverings are closed. Second, the window seat gives you a solid place to lean against during the flight, which provides support and allows you to lean away from the other people in your row. And the final bonus is that once you’re soundly asleep, you don’t have to worry about your seatmates crawling all over you and waking you up when they need to leave their seat.

Some sleepers favor leaning either to the left or right as they fall asleep. If you have a preference, you can book a seat that allows you to lean comfortably against the window on the side that’s most natural and comfortable for you. Make sure to check out your headrest – if it’s a separate attachment, there’s a good chance it’s adjustable, which means you can position it to cradle your head. Some seats don’t recline back very far, but you may be able to put a pillow on your tray table and rest your head on it. This might not be ideal, but at least you’ll avoid the embarrassment of leaning on the stranger sitting next to you.

Avoid the Exit Row or Bulkhead

Many passengers go for a bulkhead or exit row seat because of the extra legroom. However, exit row seats don’t recline, and bulkhead seats may have armrests that can’t be raised. These seats are also typically reserved for families with young children, so you may have extra noise to deal with as you try to fall asleep. Also, steer clear of the very last row of seats on the airplane. That area is usually noisy because it’s right by the bathroom and the flight attendant galley.

2. Bring a Neck Pillow and Blanket

Yes, airlines often provide pillows and blankets for long haul flights, but they may not provide the right level of comfort. Some passengers find airline pillows and blankets to be scratchy and uncomfortable. Better to bring your own soft, comfy pillow and blanket so that you know you’ll be cozy and snug with something familiar.

Many travelers would never dream of flying without their U-shaped neck pillow or travel pillow. Just make sure you’re using one that fits your sleeping position. You might want to experiment before your trip to find one that works best in a sitting position. Above all, make sure you’re giving your neck proper support so that you wake up feeling rested rather than stiff and with a cramp in your neck. Also, remember to uncross your legs to help keep the blood flowing. Try to stretch them out as much as possible for maximum comfort and cover your legs with a light blanket.

3. Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol

It’s going to be harder to sleep if you take advantage of complimentary coffee or caffeine-filled soda when the drink cart comes around. Many people look forward to relaxing with a glass of wine or a cocktail before they nod off – but keep in mind that while alcohol may initially make you feel sleepy, those effects gradually wear off, making it hard to stay asleep. Plus, if you’re a known snorer, drinking alcohol can loosen the muscles of your throat, which can cause you to snore the whole flight and disturb everyone around you. Set yourself up for success by sticking to water, juice, or maybe green tea to keep from winding yourself back up. You can also check out the best foods to eat before bed so that you can pack a small meal in your carry-on luggage.

4. Invest in Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Noise-canceling headphones may be mankind’s greatest invention for sleeping on planes – at least you’ll think so if you’re on a noisy flight. They can be pricey but are worth every penny to help drown out the activity around you, especially if you fly a lot. Just be careful not to use your noise-canceling headphones to stream in-flight entertainment, since the stimulation will likely prevent you from sleeping before you land. Instead, try listening to some soothing music or white noise that can help lull you to sleep. You can also block out noise with ear plugs if you don’t want to listen to music.

5. Ditch the Electronics

Just like you would at home, make sure to put away the electronics when you’re ready to power down and get to sleep. The blue light from your phone, iPad, or other electronic device mimics sunlight, which suppresses melatonin production and keeps you wired instead of helping you relax and get sleepy.

6. Dress Comfortably

Choose comfortable travel clothing and be sure to dress in layers. Some planes are hot, others are cold, and the temperature is often very different from the conditions outside the plane. Make sure you’re able to add or subtract layers so you stay comfortable throughout the long haul.

Circulation is always a concern with long haul flights, so don’t wear anything too constricting unless you’ve been advised by your physician to wear compression socks. Think about your footwear, too. Some frequent flyers change out of their walking shoes into comfortable slippers while they’re in flight. Your best bet for making sure you stay cozy and comfy enough to get good sleep is to arrive in loose, lightweight layers of clothing.

7. Bring Your Sleep Mask

Sometimes your eyelids aren’t enough to completely block out the light and create the darkness your brain needs to signal that it’s time for shuteye. Consider all the cabin lights, overhead lights, lights from mobile phones, TV screens, and tablets and you’ll be happy you brought along a sleep mask. Some airlines offer disposable masks on long haul flights, but you can’t be sure, so it’s smart to just keep one in your carry-on bag.

8. Meditate

Many travelers find success by meditating right before they try to go to sleep. You can find hundreds of apps and resources for guided meditation that may help naturally calm your mind and help relax you enough to be able to fall asleep. Simply search using terms like “anxiety relief,” “relaxation” and “meditation” and you’ll be well on your way to calming your mind and preparing for a decent night’s sleep.

9. Bring a Seat Cushion

Sleeping during air travel is all about comfort. There’s no reason to settle for an airplane seat. You can bring on board a portable seat cushion, such as the Portable Purple® or Everywhere Purple®, that gives you added padding and support for your ultimate travel comfort and relaxation. With the same Purple Grid™ technology that makes Purple® mattresses so amazing, a Purple cushion can give that extra bit of comfort that pushes you right into Dreamland.

10. Consider Natural Sleep Remedies

Some passengers see good results by drinking chamomile tea or taking melatonin, which is a naturally occurring hormone that may help aid sleep and prevent jet lag. You should always talk to your doctor before using any sleep aids. You may want to try them out at home before your trip to see how they work and to make sure you don’t have an adverse reaction. This is especially important if you’ll be flying alone.

Tips to Sleep Comfortably on a Plane

It’s not the most fun experience to have to sleep on a long airplane flight, but you can make yourself more comfortable with a little preparation.

The key to sleeping on a plane is to replicate your normal sleep routine as much as possible. So, dress comfortably, brush your teeth, and make your area as dark as you can. It’s all about feeling comfortable and relaxed. Next time you gear up for air travel, you’ll discover sleep can be a piece of cake. By packing just a few essential items from home, you’ll be set for a good night’s sleep that lets you enjoy your destination as soon as you arrive.