How to Sleep on a Plane

Don’t possess the admirable skill of being able to instantly fall asleep on planes? Neither do we! But there are ways to get some shut-eye on a plane. Here are 10 easy tips and strategies to use on your next flight so that you can emerge at your destination well-rested and refreshed.

Broadly, our aircraft sleeping strategy is two-pronged:

1) Isolate yourself as completely as possible from the experience

2) Simulate your natural sleeping conditions as closely as you can

Here’s how:

Recline the seat

Lean that seat all the way or just a little bit if you want to be nice. But face it, the person in front of you is going to do it, so you might as well.

Isolate sound

Foam earplugs are the cheapest option, Bose QuietComfort 35’s are at the top-end, but the in-between options are getting better and better. Silence, white noise, or a relaxing playlist are great choices. Try to emulate your natural sleep environment here. If you sleep in silence, then mimic that as closely as you can.

Get your temperature right

Aircraft tend to be cold, so dress in layers that you can adjust as needed for your own personal preferences and the inevitably fluctuating temperatures. Bring your own travel blanket too. The one you get from the airline may not necessarily be new or laundered. (Gross)

Reign in that floppy head

We’ve tried a dozen different travel pillows and haven’t found a silver bullet yet. But, having one is better than letting your head bob all over the place or having a sore neck at your destination. The standard yoke-style is okay, but we also like the TRTL brand.

Be judicious with alcohol

If a glass of wine reduces your anxiety enough to let you sleep, then go for it. But, keep in mind that alcohol does tend to disrupt sleep and what goes in your body must come out at some point. Water the best choice; caffeine or other stimulants aren’t going to help at all.

Control the light

Invest in a quality eye-mask. You’re looking for comfort and light blocking ability here. I’d recommend trying it out at home for a few nights prior to your trip to get accustomed to it and work out any comfort issues.

Upgrade your seat and choose wisely

If getting rest on the flight is going to make an impact on your experience at your destination, then it might be worth it to upgrade your seat. The longer the haul, the more impact this will make. Go for comfort plus (or the equivalent) or an exit row to get a little more room to stretch out. (Leverage to make sure that your exit row seat can recline.) If you like to lean against a window (and your bladder can take it) a window seat may be ideal. Otherwise, the aisle seat gives you the most freedom to come and go as you please. We would only choose a middle seat if we had a loved one to lean on and no other choice.

Hydrate and moisturize

Reduced air pressure and dry air will cause you to dehydrate quickly. Drink plenty of water and moisturize your skin and lips to make yourself as comfortable as possible.


(Disclaimer: We are not medical practitioners of any sort.) Use caution here! Melatonin is a reasonable choice. It won’t make you so drowsy that you’re unable to function on arrival, and can help you regulate your Circadian rhythms (particularly helpful if crossing multiple time zones).

Anything stronger than that, use at your own risk and discretion. But bear in mind how lucid you will need to be upon arrival at your destination. If you will need to navigate an unfamiliar airport, drive, or some other cognitively-challenging activity, some medications may cause more harm than good.

Adjust your attitude

One of the few remaining things you can control in the age of modern travel is your own attitude. So, let go of some of your self-consciousness and accept that you may snore a little or that you may drool on your travel pillow. Your companions on this flight probably are too and you’re likely never to see them again. Accept that you’re not going to have the best night’s sleep of your life, but that any rest you get has value. If you can’t sleep at all, then meditate, plan, or strategize what your next steps are upon landing.

You can do this!

Safe travels!



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