Your Ultimate Guide to Sleeping on a Plane

Jetting off to a destination across the globe is at once exciting and stressful. There’s the upside of seeing somewhere new and the definite downside of being cooped up in a metal tube for six or more hours. Be it for business or pleasure, no one wants to arrive at their destination tired, cranky and need to catch up on sleep when they arrive. Read our ultimate guide to sleeping on a plane to find out how to arrive fresh and happy.

Plan Ahead

You’ve planned what to pack, visas and tickets so why not sleep? Moving your body clock closer to the time zone you’re heading for will help you sleep better when there and feel refreshed on arrival. Around three to five days before you fly, adjust your bedtime and wake time to be a little closer to your destination time zone.

Incremental changes work best and will combat jet lag. Try to build up to around an hour earlier or later than is normal for you before you take off.

To help with the adjustment of your body clock, use strategic light exposure. It can also help to include melatonin supplements to boost your ability to fall asleep outside of your usual sleeping times.

Ultimate guide to sleep on a plane

Tips to sleep on a plane

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

When it comes to the actual flight, consider the best time to sleep with regard to your destination time. Ultimately you want to get into sync with their day and night cycles. When you choose to sleep on your flight will help do this.

Traveling east is usually harder than traveling west. Eastward bound overnight flight passengers should avoid light exposure in the first half of the flight and try to sleep. This means no screens, pulling on the eye mask and resting even if you can’t nod off.

Westward bound flights require the reverse. Light exposure in the first half of the flight is fine, avoid it in the latter half though and try to sleep before you land. For both east and west long haul flights, you may wish to use a sleep aid.

Melatonin is highly recommended as it is a naturally occurring hormone that induces sleepiness. However, other sleep aids can be used as long as you have tried them before at home and know how you’ll feel upon waking.

Get Comfortable, It’s Going to be a Long Ride

One of the major difficulties when trying to rest on a plane is the level of comfort you can attain. Loud passengers, cramped seating and fluctuating temperatures can all contribute to difficulty sleeping. Along with an eye mask, neck pillow and sound canceling headphones, consider additional ways to increase your in-flight comfort.

Dress in layers. Sure, everyone knows to dress comfortably for a long flight, but dressing in layers will help you adjust your temperature for sleep when you want to get some shut-eye. The air-conditioning on a plane is not always ideal for sleeping.

Dress in light, comfortable clothing, with a number of layers – a sweater, cardigan or shawl can be easily removed if you’re too hot to sleep. Likewise, choose shoes that are easy to remove. Taking them off will indicate to your body that it’s time to relax and get ready for rest.

Get into position. This could mean asking for a window seat so you can rest your head on the side of the plane, or possibly opting for an aisle seat so you can stretch out long legs. Consider your comfort needs when checking in and ask for that seating position.

Sleep accessories can make all the difference to sleeping on a plane. Pack your noise-canceling headphones, sleep meditations or white noise MP3 files, sleep aids if you plan on using them and water.

Headphones are better than earplugs as they give a visual message to those around you that you don’t want to chat or be disturbed. Avoid drinking alcohol or eating a lot an hour before your scheduled shut-eye.

Finally, if you have a long flight in your near future, try not to worry about sleep too much. Worrying about sleeping is one of the best ways to ensure you stay awake. Now you’ve read our ultimate guide to sleeping on a plane, there’s no need to worry anyway. Enjoy your long and restful flight – bon voyage!

Written by Elise Morgan.

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