It’s important to stay well-rested when you travel, especially if you’re drastically shifting time zones or taking a red eye through the night sky—when you get off an airplane to start a long day of exploration in a new city you want to be bright eyed and bushy tailed… but wait! As you buckle into your seat you hear the familiar sounds of a baby starting to cry, your row-mate coughing, people chattering, lights from movie screens flickering, the incessant rumbling of the engines—you can’t take it anymore! You’re never going to get shuteye at this rate! Now you’re really wondering how to sleep on a plane. Well, sleeping on a plane is never gonna be easy, but there are some steps you can take to nod off and stay fresh for your travels.
How to Sleep on a Plane: A Step-by-Step List
1. Pick The Window Seat
For a lot of travelers, this one’s a no brainer, but it’s important to note that if you’re able to pick the window seat, your chances of sleeping on a plane are going to skyrocket (yes, pun intended!). Not only will you get to lean your whole body up against the wall of the plane, but you’ll get two valuable other things: a) you won’t have people climbing over you to get to the bathroom, and b) you’ll be able to control whether or not the window shade is up or down. Trust us, nobody is going to ask you to open the window shade when you’re in the window seat clearly trying to sleep!
2. Comfortable Clothes
When you hop into your bed at home, do you sleep in your jeans and boots? Nope, I didn’t think you did—that’d be crazy. So why would you opt to do that on a red eye across the country while you’re trying to get some necessary shuteye? Dress for comfort—flying is basically an anti-comfort activity, so do whatever you can to fight against it. Wear sweatpants and a comfortable sweater. Unless you’re meeting somebody at the arrivals gate for an interview, you might as well get comfy! Because your feet are likely to swell up a bit, wear shoes that fit a little loosely if you can, and don’t be afraid to put on comfy, fluffy socks!
3. Protect Ya Neck
One of the biggest factors in how to sleep on a plane is choosing the right support. There are so many neck pillow options out there, from inflatable ones that look like a pool floaty to elegant memory foam choices for an elite plane sleeping experience to neck brace-style plastic-lined numbers. What is comfortable for you will be uncomfortable for somebody else so take advantage of stores that allow you to test before you buy or 30-day return policies so you can make the right choice ahead of time—don’t find yourself clamoring for the most expensive, least comfortable option once you’re already trapped in the terminal! Plus, a good neck pillow will keep you from tilting your head way back and snoring, which makes you the worst aisle partner!
4. Block out the Lights
In the same way that you keep your own bedroom dark at night so you can get decent shuteye, you’ve gotta take precautions for a long plane flight. “When you are ready to sleep, put on a sleep mask to ensure you have a dark personal space,” notes Dr. Roy Raymann of SleepScore Labs. “This will also help deter you from checking your phone, playing games, and watching TV.” The biggest trick for how to sleep on a plane is to get yourself a sleep mask—same advice as before: if you can test out your options, do it ahead of time.
5. Can You Hear Me Now?!
Airplanes can be noisy! In your quest to learn how to sleep on a plane, it is important to recognize that an investment in decent noise-canceling headphones, or even some cheap-o earplugs, can make or break your ability to sleep on a plane. Comfortable over-ear headphones will allow you to pump in the calming white noise or relaxing music that helps you sleep, while earplugs will help you drown it all out, from the engine rumbling to the drink cart rattling down the aisle. This’ll help you get some sleep so you can catch a couple of REM cycles on the plane flight.
6. Comfortable Position
Wondering how to sleep on a plane comfortably when you’ve got no leg room and barely fit in the ever-shrinking airplane seat? Dr. Rick Swartzburg, the inventor of the Snuggle-Pedic pillow has a few suggestions on getting into a comfortable position:
“Tilting the seat back a bit and using a pillow that will stay put behind your neck, which can also wedge your head and neck as you lean a bit towards the window frame. This gives you the best advantage in terms of pure support. If the pillow that wraps around your side is not thick enough, you can use a blanket or jacket to further add to the lateral support of your head and neck, but be sure that you give more support to your neck than your head.”
Another option? Drop down the tray in front of you, put your backpack on it, and use that as a pillow to lean on. Simple, yet effective!
7. Eat Right for a Plane Flight
Just like you should for any decent night of sleep, try to avoid eating soon before boarding—especially greasy or heavy foods. These will keep your metabolism working hard, which is not ideal for catching zzz’s. If you’re hungry before your flight, reach for something healthy like a protein bar, a cheese stick, or a handful of walnuts. Try to avoid sugars (for the insulin rush) and heavy carbs or alcohol (which convert into sugars).
Fly With Confidence, Arrive With Energy
So there you have it! Learning how to sleep on a plane is admittedly the easy part—now you’ve gotta do it! Think of this like a checklist and make sure you take care of each thing before you get onto the plane for your long flight. Now you know how to sleep on a plane and the good thing is, it’s pretty simple, all things considered. Sure, there’s a lot to consider when you’re getting ready for a trip, but making sure your sleep stats are in good standing should be near the top of your list. Don’t fret—you’ll be sleeping on a plane in no time, dreaming of your destination.