Planes are only getting more and more cramped, but fear not!
Obviously, if you can swing it, the best way to sleep on a plane is to score a lie-flat bed. More and more airlines are offering first-class and business passengers lie-flat seats and spacious suites — I mean, that’s why we’re all about the credit card rewards, right? But, even if you’re new to the wonderful world of points, or simply couldn’t score an ultra-luxe business class seat, there are ways you can plan ahead to get at least some sleep and arrive at your destination without feeling like all you want to do is check in at your hotel and sleep for two days.
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Work With your Body Clock
If possible, try to get a flight that departs at night so that you can stick to your natural sleeping pattern. The only caveat to this is that if you know you absolutely will not sleep on the plane, pick a flight that arrives at night instead. That way you can settle into your hotel on arrival and at least get to bed at night in your new time zone, even if it isn’t your usual bedtime. Flying to Asia? EVA seems to love late night departures, and these are my personal favorite.
Choose a Window Seat
Choose a window seat so that you won’t be disturbed by people trying to get past you while you’re sleeping. Other advantages to a window seat are that you can rest your pillow against the window wall and control the window shade.
Tire Yourself Out
To increase your chances of sleeping on the plane, try to get a little less sleep the night before, perhaps by waking up earlier than usual to exercise or pack. Also, getting an intense workout in on the day of departure will help tire you out even more; my personal departure-day favorite is Orange Theory.
Pack Travel Essentials
No airlines really hand out amenity kits in economy, and truly most amenity kits aren’t that great, anyway, so pack a carry-on that includes sleep essentials such as a neck pillow, an eye mask, earplugs, noise-canceling headphones, thick socks (smartwool socks rule), travel slippers, and a light blanket or shawl. Also, try downloading a white noise app on you phone to help drown out any noises from the galley or inconsiderate seatmates.
Don’t forget a reusable water bottle of some kind to stay hydrated during your flight, just make sure it’s empty before going through security!
Dress in comfortable, soft clothing. You don’t have to wear pajamas, full workout wear, or grungy sweats to be comfortable. These days, even blazers and dress pants come in soft stretchable material. The most important thing is to dress in soft, breathable layers so that you can adjust for the fluctuations in temperature, or, you know, sprinting through the terminal to catch your connection…
Before heading to the airport do some gentle stretching exercises to relax your muscles. Limbering up will help avoid stiffness that could keep you awake. People say yoga is amazing, but I’m impossible inflexible, so I just do my usual post-workout casual stretch routine and it seems to help.
At the Airport
- Once through security, purchase a bottle of water and healthy snacks to bring on the plane.
- If there’s time, eat a light meal but take it easy on the alcohol. Too much food or more than 1 glass of wine or beer could disrupt your sleep. By eating before your flight, you’ll be able to avoid the mid-flight interruptions of meal service and get some zzz’s.
- Check at the boarding gate for available upgrades. Sometimes you can get lucky and upgrade to more comfortable seating for just a little extra cash or points.
- Be sure to visit the restroom before boarding the plane to minimize the need for using the in-flight facilities.
On The Plane
- If you’re tall, store carry-on items above your seat so that you can stretch your feet out as much as possible in front of you. If you’re not so tall, use your carry-on luggage as a footrest to help you stretch out while you sleep.
- Set your watch to the local time at your destination.
- Remove your shoes to improve your circulation and put on clean thick socks.
- Power down your screens, but feel free to listen to soothing music, white noise or an audiobook.
- Turn off the overhead lights, close the window screen and put on your eye mask. All of these will be clear signals to others that you don’t want to be disturbed.
- Buckle your seatbelt over your blanket so that if there is turbulence the flight attendants don’t need to wake you up to fasten it.
And Finally…Find a Comfortable Sleeping Position
- If there are extra seats around you, congratulations! Feel free to stretch out with your blanket and pillow.
- If you’re traveling with a companion, rest your head on their shoulder (but avoid doing this with strangers).
- Drop your seat tray and rest your arms and head on the tray.
- If you have a window seat: use your pillow to rest against the window wall.
- If all else fails, simply recline your seat, lean back and relax!
Have any tips of your own?
Share them in the comments below!