How To Sleep On A Plane

Rest in the air with ease.
How To Sleep On A Plane
Tom Greenspan
December 21, 2022

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Sure, flights may be the most convenient mode of transport nowadays, but when it comes to sleep, it’s definitely not so convenient.

Between the little wiggle room and the constant noise from your fellow passengers, trying to sleep on a plane can be a nightmare (pun fully intended)! Of course, this problem can be mitigated to some extent if you are traveling in business or first class. 

But let’s be honest, only a few can afford such a ticket, which means that most of us are stuck in economy class, unfortunately.

However, this does not mean that you should give up all hope of ever getting sleep on a plane. There are some strategies that you can use to get some decent shut-eye on those long flights. And that is what we will be discussing in this guide today.

So, if you are curious, then dive right in!

Nine Tips For Falling Asleep (And Staying Asleep) On A Plane

1. Try To Choose A Direct Flight

If you are planning to travel across multiple time zones, then you should try to pick a direct, long-haul flight instead of picking several connecting flights with layovers. The logic for this is fairly simple - you can get more sleep on the former option than on the latter.

For example, let’s say that you will be flying for 10 hours. If you pick a direct flight, you don’t have to worry about disembarking at any point on your journey. This means that you can comfortably settle for a long nap once the plane takes off.

However, if you pick two five-hour flights, you’ll have to get off the first plane halfway to catch the next one. In that situation, you can only manage a couple of hours of sleep on each flight, which is not very convenient. Also, you’ll have the layover duration to worry about, which can make it even more difficult to get some quality sleep.

2. Pick Your Seat Position Wisely

Another important tip to get some sound sleep on a plane is to choose the seat carefully. Do note that this is mostly applicable for economy-class flyers since the business class and first-class seats are usually isolated enough to sleep in.

Ideally, we recommend picking a window seat for this purpose, as they give you something to lean your head on. And you get to enjoy the view outside, which is a bonus!

Naturally, window seats are in high demand, so they may not always be available. In that case, we recommend going for the aisle seat since that gives you some extra wiggle room on the side. Try to avoid picking the middle seat at all costs unless you love being sandwiched between two passengers with little room to move around.

As for the position inside the cabin, we suggest selecting a central location. That way, you won’t have to worry about the commotion of passengers and flight attendants passing by. You can also pick a bulkhead seat since that will give you a bit more legroom. But these seats are often close to the galleys or restrooms, which is a disadvantage.

3. Avoid Alcohol And Caffeine

If you plan to go on a long international flight, then it is a good idea to stay away from alcohol. While alcoholic beverages may help lull you into sleep initially, they can affect the quality of sleep you get on your flight. Besides, it can amplify the effects of jet lag, which can ruin your entire day after getting off the plane.

Similarly, you should avoid drinking coffee before or during the flight. It is a well-known fact that caffeine disrupts sleep patterns and keeps you awake. So, if you want to fall asleep and stay asleep during a long flight, then caffeinated beverages are strictly a no-go.

4. Stay Hydrated

Just because you should not drink coffee or alcohol during a flight does not mean that you should stay away from all types of fluids. Believe us - if you try to do that, it will do you more harm than good. A lack of proper hydration will not only impact your sleep patterns but will also disrupt other physiological functions of the body.

For technical reasons, the humidity level inside an airplane cabin is maintained below 20%. However, the body needs around 30% to 50% humidity to be comfortable. Thus, if you spend the entire flight without drinking water or any other fluid, your nasal passages will dry up, which will make it extremely difficult to sleep.

That said, you should not drink excessive amounts of water either. If you do that, you’ll have to go on frequent bathroom trips, which will disrupt your sleep.

5. Dress Comfortably

In order to get decent sleep on the plane, you need to prioritize function over fashion. Yeah, we admit that the temptation to wear flashy, fabulous attire is hard to ignore in this regard. But trust us - it feels a lot better to be well-rested than it does to be well-dressed when getting off the plane after several hours.

The only way to achieve that is to wear clothes that make you comfortable. Try to wear more than one layer of clothing to keep yourself warm on the flight. If you are headed somewhere cold, you can wear an extra sweater, cardigan, or jacket too. 

However, do not wear multiple layers, as that will make you feel heavy. In fact, if you are going to a place with a warm and tropical climate, you will find yourself at a disadvantage in that scenario.

6. Turn Off Your Electronic Devices

Let’s be honest - electronic devices like cell phones, tablets, and laptops can be quite distracting when you are trying to get some sleep. Besides, the screens of these devices emit a blue light wavelength that disrupts the production of serotonin, which is otherwise known as the sleep hormone. That, in turn, can seriously mess up your circadian rhythm and sleep cycles.

On that note, when you travel on long international flights, your circadian rhythm is bound to become disoriented anyway. That’s because your body takes some time to adjust to the destination’s time zone. Thus, it is a terrible idea to mess it up even more by using electronics while on a flight. So, we would strongly suggest that you turn off all your gadgets while on the plane.

7. Wear A Mask On Your Face And Eyes

If you intend to travel overnight on a plane, then using a mask is an absolute must! However, you can’t use any regular mask for this purpose - you have to use a sleep mask that covers the eyes and most of your face. After all, you wouldn’t want the cabin light to fall right on your face, right?

There are different types of masks available today that are specifically meant for fliers. These are designed to be soft and lightweight so that they do not weigh your face down or make you uncomfortable while you are sleeping. What’s more, they can block out all ambient light completely, which makes them even more convenient for overnight fliers.

8. Use Earplugs Or Noise-Canceling Headphones

Now that you’ve got your face and eyes covered, it’s time to turn your attention toward the ears. As you are already aware, the noise generated by an airplane can get pretty loud.

Plus, you need to consider the noise inside the cabin from your fellow passengers and flight attendants as well. All of this can make it incredibly difficult to sleep, which is why you need to protect your ears with earplugs or good noise-canceling headphones.

If you want our opinion, we suggest going with the latter since they are a lot more comfortable than regular earplugs. Besides, if you can play some white, brown, or pink noise at a low volume on these headphones, it will get even better. Such noises have been observed to have a calming effect on the brain, which can help you fall asleep faster.

9. Get A Back And Neck Pillow

You need to make yourself comfortable using soft travel pillows if you want to get a deep sleep on the flight. In that context, most airlines provide comfortable pillows and sheets to passengers on long-haul flights. So, we’d suggest that you make use of them to support your neck and back.

If you need extra pillows, you can ask the flight attendant, and they will fulfill your request. However, such amenities are not available on every airline, which means that you’ll need to check these aspects before booking the ticket.

Final Words

That brings us to the end of this guide about how you can sleep on a plane. 

Of course, there are many more tips and strategies that you can follow, such as taking sleep aids, wearing compression socks, or practicing meditation before or during the flight. But the ones we have mentioned above are possibly the most effective strategies to combat sleeplessness on a plane.

The main idea is to keep the sleep schedule intact so that you can combat jet lag and feel refreshed when you reach your final destination. And we can assure you that if you follow these tips properly, your sleep quality on a plane will improve considerably.