Tips For Sleeping Well On An Airplane

October 2, 2017
Katie Uniacke

A few people getting some sleep on a plane is shown here

You know those (infuriating) people, who can seem to fall asleep anywhere?

The ones that get on a plane and are asleep before it’s even left the gate?

I’m sure I’m not the only one that silently curses them, wondering how on earth they can fall asleep in such uncomfortable positions.

For those of us that don’t have that gift, drifting off on a plane is no mean feat. But there’s no need to let a sleepless flight spoil the start of your adventure.

There are a few fairly obvious things you can do, like bringing along an eye-mask, ear plugs, and a pillow and dress in comfy clothes.

Booking a business class ticket or one of those first class cabins wouldn’t hurt too if you’ve got the budget for it.

For those of us with slightly less disposable income, however, there are still a few things we can do to get some good shut-eye whilst up in the sky.


1. Get a window or aisle seat

Depending on your priorities, one or the other might suit you better. Having a window seat means you have a headrest, but having an aisle seat might be best for those with long legs to stretch out a bit.

Grab the best seats by checking-in online as soon as it opens, and if you travel a lot try and stick to the one airline and sign up for any rewards schemes, which might include access to better seats.

Many airlines also let you pay a little extra for the best seats in economy class, and if you’re on a long flight then it may well be worth paying up, as an emergency exit seat can make a whole world of difference.

If you want to know which seat is your best bet, try the amazing Seat Guru, which gives you all the details about every seat out there.


2. Recline your chair

Yes, I know there’s a bit of controversy surrounding this one, but as long as you don’t recline during mealtimes, no one should complain if you do it when the cabin lights are dimmed.

It helps to take some pressure off your lower back.

Related: 19 ways to survive not just enjoy a long flight


3. Turn off your devices.

You know how we’re all told not to check our phones before we go to bed? The same’s true on a flight.

If you’ve been watching something on your in-flight entertainment or tablet, you’ve been exposing yourself to stimulating light that will keep you awake, so you can’t expect to turn off a film and fall asleep straight away.

Put your electronics back into your carry-on luggage and try reading for a while to send yourself off to sleep.


4. Skip the alcohol

We all seem to labour under the misapprehension that alcohol is good at making us fall asleep.

Whilst it can knock you out initially, that effect will only last for a few hours, and before long you’ll be wide awake again, probably with a bit of a hangover.

You’re then likely to overcompensate with water, and a full bladder never makes it easy to sleep.


5. Take steps to beat jet lag

Think about the time zone of your destination and try and go to bed a little earlier or later in the days leading up to your flight to prepare your body.

Change your watch or the time on your phone as soon as you board, and only sleep when it’s night time wherever you’re going.


6. Choose somewhere quiet

The front of the plane is the most popular, as people think that it’ll be quicker to get off. Although that’s true, families often choose to be near the front, and you’ll have the stewards rattling around.

The back of the plane will normally be a bit emptier if the flight isn’t full, although you should avoid the aisle of the very back rows, as you’ll have people hovering in the queue for the loo.

If the flight is relatively empty and you spot an empty row, ask one of the flight attendants if it’s alright for you to move.


7. Put your buckle on display

If the seatbelt sign goes on, the flight attendants need to see that your belt’s done up, even if that involves waking you as your belt is hidden under your blanket.

Keep it visible so they don’t have to prod you awake!


8. Bring comfort enabling items

On the subject of comfort, the blankets that they give you is properly better used as lower back support than to cover you.

A sleeping bag liner, your own travel blanket, or even a sarong are a better bet, and you’ll feel much more comfortable if you have something to snuggle under.

Other than these as we mentioned earlier, bring an eye mask & an ear plug. Sometimes if you are stuck next to the engine the noise can be disturbing. Also, don’t underestimate the role a good eye mask plays since when it comes to sleep darkness is your ally!

It can get quite cold on an aeroplane and compression socks are another thing that can keep you warm & comfy, if your blanket doesn’t cover your legs completely.


9. Don’t encourage chatter

If you don’t want to risk your neighbour keeping you awake with small talk, get out a book or your headphones as soon as you sit down to politely signal that you’re not up for anything more than a few pleasantries.


10. Eat and drink well

Salty snacks or anything too sugary could make you feel bloated or leave you buzzing. Make sure you stay hydrated and consider bringing along a chamomile tea bag if that helps you get in the right frame of mind for a good night’s sleep.


11. Adjust your expectations

Last but not least, the most important tip of all is having realistic expectations. If you’re convinced that you’re going to sleep like a baby the whole flight through and arrive fresh as a daisy, you’re kidding yourself.

Expect to have the worst night’s sleep of your life, and plan accordingly for your activities for the following day, and you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised.



Telegraph, Is-7F-the-perfect-plane-seat

Greatist, The expert-approved guide to sleeping on a plane


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