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The Ultimate Tips for Sleeping on a Plane

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From bagging a window seat to avoiding booze and a heavy meal to making a nest for yourself, here are some top tips for sleeping on a plane.

Tips for Sleeping on a Plane

If I already had a travelling super power it’d be the ability to sleep on any mode of transport anywhere around the world.

It doesn’t matter if I’m on a long 17-hour flight, a cramped sleeper train or on a road trip with the tunes blaring, I have this frustrating ability to nod off almost immediately only to wake up with about half an hour to go. You can imagine just how my girlfriend feels when I wake up  and she’s struggled to sleep!

Of all the ways of getting around my specialty has to be sleeping on a plane though. I once clocked off for a full 12 and a half hours on a 13-hour flight back from Malaysia sleeping through two meals and drinks service.

Over the years I’ve picked up a few habits that I do on every flight. Considering I always seem to sleep, I guess I must be doing something right, so hopefully these top tips for sleeping on a plane will help you out too!

Looking for some more sleep advice? Then check out my guides on how to sleep in an airport and sleeping in a dorm room too.

Try and get a window seat

Whenever I’m booking a flight, I’ll do everything I can to get a window seat, even if it means paying for it. With a window seat I can make a bit of a nest for myself, and by resting my head by the window I know my head isn’t going to be bobbing all over the place (or worse, find its way on my neighbour’s shoulder!)

Do the opposite of what everyone else is doing

When it comes to choosing a seat on a flight, most people (especially families) want to be as far forward as possible so they’re the first ones off the plane. If you want to avoid the screaming kids and guaranteed groups of people, do the opposite of what everyone else is doing and choose a window seat towards the back of the plane. You’ve also got more chance of scoring a free row to yourself that way too.

Don’t sit on the back row or near the toilets

Saying that, you don’t want to be on the very back row or near the toilets. If you’ve got people constantly walking past you and the background soundtrack of a flushing toilet then you’re never going to get any rest.

Avoid heavy meals and booze booze booze

This one’s pretty obvious, but try not to have a really big meal just before you go to sleep, and avoid knocking back those red wines and bloody Marys. Keep the food as light as possible, and try and limit yourself to one alcoholic drink too. People think lots of alcohol will knock them out but alcohol is a stimulant and will actually have the opposite effect.

Also, don’t watch TV or a film!

When it comes to sleeping on a plane, it’s all about tricking your brain that it’s bed time, so don’t get yourself all worked up by watching TV or an action film. If I know I want to sleep for a whole flight, as soon as I step foot on that plane I’m listening to Air, Moby, Morcheeba, Zero 7 – music that I find really calming and relaxing. Then my brain already knows it’s getting towards sleepy time!

Talk to the air stewards

Don’t want to be disturbed throughout your flight? Then make sure you tell the air stewards that you’re trying to get some shuteye and that you don’t want to be disturbed with any of the in-flight service. Also, on long-haul flights, make sure it’s obvious that you’re buckled up. If not, then you really will be disturbed!

Get ready for bed

I probably draw the line at a onesie but I really don’t have a problem with people wearing their pjs on a plane; it’s all about getting completely comfortable on a flight, and if pjs are the way to do that then I’m all for it. Also, make sure you get ready for bed by going through your nightly routine of brushing your teeth and washing your face – then your body knows it’s bedtime.

Wrap up warm, wear an eye-mask and bring a travel pillow

Check to see if the airline you’re flying with provides blankets before you fly. If they don’t, bring your own one and wrap up warm (I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been in an ice-box before and it’s neigh on impossible sleeping on a plane when it’s too cold). Also, invest in a quality eye-mark and travel pillow. I adore my Tempur eye-mask and travel pillow as they’re the comfiest I’ve come across and perfect for flying, so I’d recommend checking these ones out.Tempur Pillow

What’s your favourite position?

For me, I sleep on my back a lot of the time, so when it comes to sleeping on a plane I’m like a vampire – straight as an arrow and I barely move. If your favourite position is on your side though try and choose a window seat so you turn into the window. If you don’t, well, things can get a little weird with the person next to you. Also, don’t feel bad about putting your seat back at the earliest opportunity. You’ve paid for that seat, you’ve paid for the right to have your seat back as far as possible. If the person behind you doesn’t like it, that’s their problem.

And if all else fails, pop a pill

This isn’t bad advice but natural sleeping pills like melatonin and ramelton have been medically proven to help you sleep. I always carry around melatonin in my hand luggage to help me fall asleep when I’m really struggling but I only ever use these as a last resort. Sometimes melatonin can make you feel drowsy and I like to be as fresh as a daisy when I arrive somewhere new.

Hopefully after reading these tips on how to sleep on a plane you won’t have to worry about those long flights and feeling like a zombie again!

Do you have any rituals for getting to sleep on a plane, or do you have any top tips at all? If you do, I’d love to hear what they are in the comment box below!

Bit of a controversial one, but this article is all about why the aisle seat is actually the best seat on the plane!

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About the Author

  • Macca Sherifi

    Macca Sherifi is the founder of the multiple award-winning blogs An Adventurous World and the Great British Bucket List. Every month he inspires over 200,000 avid readers to travel the world.

1 thought on “The Ultimate Tips for Sleeping on a Plane”

  1. I can never sleep in an airplane (in economy).
    The ‘do not watch a movie’ tip might be a good one…. I have to try it the next time I take a long flight.


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