How To Sleep On A Plane

11th March 2019

Slumber Centre

For some of us, flying to our dream destination can be the most stressful part of the whole holiday. After an early morning of rushing around to get to the airport, all you want to do is relax and get some shut-eye on long flight that lies ahead of you. But the stress of flying alone can make this difficult. Throw in the cramped seats and loud engines, and getting to sleep on your flight becomes almost impossible. Luckily, we’ve put together a full, detailed guide on all the things you should do to ensure you get some well-deserved rest when you’re next jetting off around the world.

Before you fly

Don't underestimate the importance of preparation when it comes getting to sleep on a plane. There's plenty of things you can do in advance to make sure you're in the best position possible to get some rest.

Booking your seat

It can be an easily overlooked aspect of booking a flight, but choosing the right seat can make all the difference in whether or not you manage to get to sleep. Landing a bad seat can make it a nightmare, but scoring a good one can make falling asleep so much easier.

The prime piece of real estate on a plane is the window seat. You’ll have something to rest up against which is crucial, not only for getting into a comfortable position to sleep, but for supporting your neck and head preventing waking up with aches and pains. You will also be without the disruption of those moving through the plane to serve refreshments or use the bathroom.

Alternatively, the exit row seat is always an option if you know you’re intending to sleep on the flight. Whilst these may have extra leg room, they can cost a little more and don’t always have a head rest.

As always, the earlier you book, the better chance you have of getting your chosen seat so bear that in mind when you’re planning your next trip away.

Packing the essentials

Trying to fit all your bits and pieces in one small hand luggage bag can be notoriously difficult. But there are some essentials you should pack to help you get to sleep whilst you’re flying.

A blow up travel pillow can be very helpful, particularly if you don’t have a window seat to rest up against. Not only does it deflate and fold up to save luggage space, but it also gives you something support your head and neck which will help stop aches and pains building up as you sleep.

Other essentials include a sleep mask, ear plugs and potentially even a blanket if you have the space. These can help block out light and sound whilst allowing you to get more comfortable in your seat which should help you drift off that little bit more easily.


Adjusting your body clock

Preparing your body to sleep is important in your daily routine, so why not do it ready for your mid-flight snooze?

It’s a good idea to try and get your body used to a new sleep routine in advance. Try adjusting your routine to fit the time zones of your new country a few days before your trip. If you’re heading east in the world, going to bed 30-60 minutes earlier will adjust your whole sleep window so you wake up earlier as well. Alternatively, if you’re travelling west, try shifting your bedtime to slightly later than usual. This should help you avoid jet leg which will make sleeping on both your outbound and inbound journey that little bit easier.

Once you board your flight, reset your watch to the time zone of your destination. Again, this will help adjust your body clock so that jet leg takes less of a toll on your sleep pattern.

During your flight

Sit back and relax

There’s plenty of ways to make a stressful flight more relaxing.

First off, your body position is crucial. Always try and recline your seat as much as possible as it can be very difficult to sleep upright, especially if you don’t have the window seat to lean on. Luckily, most plane seats do recline and sleeping in this more relaxed position will help to reduce pressure on your neck and lower back.

The worst position to sleep in is leaning forward, without any support for your neck or back. This will cause aches and pains to build up which can be painful and also lead to regular disruption as you try to sleep on your flight. Try to avoid crossing your legs also, as this can limit blood circulation to your legs which will only cause you to wake up when it gets too uncomfortable.

Once you’ve made yourself physically comfortable, try whatever works to keep you relaxed and sleepy. Whether this is reading a magazine before you doze off, or blocking out the noise of a full cabin with some headphones, getting to sleep on a plane is all about being relaxed as possible. Listening to some soothing, relaxing music on a low volume can help distract yourself from the noises around you and feel sleepy enough to drift off. Ultimately, you’re aiming to feel as at home as you possibly can so it really is a case of whatever works best for you.


Dress for bed

If you have the room to take some spare clothing in your hand luggage, make sure to pack something loose and comfortable that you can change into on the plane. This can help mentally prepare you to sleep as well as making you feel more physically more comfortable which should make getting to sleep easier.

Avoid alcohol

It’s a common misconception that consuming alcohol will help you fall asleep, so it may be tempting to grab a drink at the bar when you’re waiting around for your gate to be called or even to have a drink on the plane. But alcohol, whilst it can help us feel drowsier, actually has a negative impact on our quality of sleep. Rather than helping you drift off into a deep sleep, alcohol will most likely leave you waking up regularly as it prohibits the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep we get.

If you get thirsty on your flight, try a chamomile or peppermint tea. These contains the essential vitamins and minerals for sleep and crucially, have little to no caffeine.

Choose you mid-flight snack carefully

It can always be tempting to grab a quick sugary or salty snack when the food trolley comes around, but this can be detrimental to your plans for a mid-air nap. Overeating on fatty foods can make our stomachs feel uncomfortable as they try to digest the food. Equally, sugary snacks or drinks can perk us up making sleep harder to achieve.

If you fancy a quick bite to eat, try eating foods high in melatonin which naturally help us sleep. Bananas, oats and cherries are all good alternatives to chocolate or crisps.


When you land

Stay up and avoid naps!

It can be easy to let your body clock take over and, after you land, you may find yourself wanting to sleep at odd times. Try and resist this urge as much as possible as it will only continue to mess with your sleep pattern.

If you feel like you desperately need a quick nap, try keeping these as short as possible; 20-30 minutes is normally long enough to make you feel replenished and awake. Any longer and you risk oversleeping or not feeling tired enough when bed time actually comes around.

Keeping your sleeping pattern as regular as possible will also help when it’s time to do it all over again and fly home!