Sleeping on a plane can sometimes feel impossible. There are people moving back and forth. There are bright screens flashing with in-flight entertainment. Someone is crunching on potato chips. Children are screaming. Oh, and when you’re just about to – somehow – finally fall asleep, your neighbor decides that it’s time for their trip to the restroom and asks you if you could please move to let them out.
We’ve all been there. But fear not – even with all of the distractions of air travel, there are things you can do to ensure that you’ll catch some z’s in the air and arrive at your destination well-rested. Here are some travel-tested tips on how to sleep on a plane.
We hope you sleep well on your next flight!
1. Consider red-eye flights before you book your ticket
A red-eye flight is a flight that departs at night and lands in the morning. It is presumably named after the redness of your eyes after you spend a night on a plane.
When it comes to sleeping on the plane, overnight flights have one major advantage: your body is ready to sleep during the flight hours, and your metabolism can help you fall asleep easier and faster. After all, you are flying at night. The lights in the cabin will also be dimmed, the sun won’t be shining through your neighbor’s window and there should be less ambient noise as your fellow passengers will be trying to get some shuteye, too.
Other pros of a red-eye flight often include cheaper prices, not paying for accommodation for one night, getting a full day at the location you land at, less traffic on your way to the airport and shorter queues at the airport. The flight itself may be less crowded, too.
2. Select the right seat
People will argue endlessly about the merits of choosing one seat over the other. The truth is that your seat location could be the deciding factor in how well you sleep on a plane.
The back row is an area to avoid. The seats may not recline there, and lavatories are usually located at the back of the plane, and they typically attract movement, queues, sounds and odors. The flight crew opening and closing compartments will add to the bustle, too – and you might feel the turbulence a little more at the back of the plane.
Exit rows might seem appealing due to the extra legroom, but the seats there might have limited recline to ensure access to the exits in case of an emergency. This area of the plane may also tend to be colder. Bulkhead seats are often popular with families that have young children, so they may be noisier.
If possible, get a window seat. It will give not only give you access to a great view but also get you out of the way of the other passengers in your row, so you won’t be bothered each time they need to go to the bathroom. You will also have something to lean against – and have some control over the window shade.
3. Invest in noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs
You can minimize the noise around you by selecting the right seat, but the truth is, you may not be able to escape it completely. Which is why many frequent flyers recommend investing in noise-cancelling headphones. This way you will be able to block out most – if not all – ambient noise and be able to fall asleep faster. If you like, you can even listen to soft music, nature sounds or anything else that helps you fall asleep.
Noise-cancelling headphones may be pricey, so if you’re not flying frequently, earplugs can be a good alternative (even if they are less effective at cancelling out noise).
4. Bring your own blanket and pillow
Temperature is one of the most important factors that will determine how well you sleep on a plane – and a blanket is your key to staying warm.
Depending on the airline and the length of your flight, there may or may not be available blankets and pillows on board. Even when they are available, there is usually not enough of them for every passenger – and airlines don’t always wash their sleeping gear in between flights. So, for the most comfortable (and hygienic) experience, bring your own blanket and travel pillow. Once you’ve reached your seat on the plane, wrap yourself in the blanket and put your seatbelt on top, so that the crew can see you’re strapped in and don’t wake you up during the flight.
5. Dress for comfort
With all of the distractions and discomforts that accompany air travel, let your clothing be something that actually feels comfortable.
The essentials are:
- Breathable fabrics
- Loose-fitting clothing
- Comfortable shoes
The key advice we can offer is wearing layers. This will help you easily adjust to the various micro-climates associated with flying – as well as save you some space in your carry on. Scarves, soft hoodies or cardigans are not only helpful when the temperature drops in the cabin, but can also be rolled up and used as a pillow.
Loose-fitting clothing made from breathable fabrics should be your go-to items when dressing for sleeping on a plane, as these are perfect for circulation as well as allow your body to regulate its temperature and feel fresher throughout your trip in the skies. Natural materials like cotton, linen or silk are the perfect choices, though some synthetic fabrics might work too.
When it comes to your feet, you want to wear your most comfortable shoes. They should be easy to take off as you are passing through airport security – or if you want to remove them during the flight. Think about wearing compression socks too – especially if you want to promote blood circulation or prevent leg swelling during your flight.
6. Eat the right food before your flight
To make it easier for your body to fall asleep during your flight, try to eat light before your trip. If you can, avoid eating red meat, anything deep-fried, say no to cured meats and cheeses, and avoid anything spicy, as these all are harder on your digestion and may make it more difficult to fall asleep and feel fresh when you wake up.
You should also avoid drinking coffee, tea or soda that has caffeine, so try to swap those for a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea. However, consider not drinking too much, as consuming too much fluid may wake you up during the flight. We wouldn’t recommend drinking alcohol before your flight – it may make you very sleepy, but it will actually interfere with the quality of your sleep.
7. Reduce your screen time and stay away from the lights
Once you’re on the plane, switch your devices to flight mode and put them down. The blue light emitted by screens can affect your sleep and may make it more difficult for you to fall asleep. You may feel tempted to watch a movie or your favorite show just for a little while, but you will sleep better if you resist. Read a book or flip through a magazine if you feel in need of entertainment, and then drift off to sleep peacefully.
An eye mask will help block out any light from the cabin or other passenger’s screens, so make sure you bring one.
8. Set an alarm
To make sure you reach your destination fresh and well-rested, set an alarm. We’d suggest setting your phone or watch alarm for at least 30 minutes before your scheduled departure. This way you will have time to drink some water, use the restroom, gather your things and snack before you land. You will also catch the view of your destination as you descend.
This way you will be fresh and fully alert when you walk off the plane.
Sleep well even if your flight is delayed
Of course, nothing interferes with your sleeping plans quite as much as flight disruptions. Delayed flights, cancelled flights, overbooking – all of these can happen to you. But you shouldn’t lose sleep over them – just claim flight compensation via Skycop! It’s very easy – simply fill our compensation claim form and you can get back up to €600 for your disrupted flight.