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How to sleep on a plane and get some quality rest

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How to sleep on a plane well enough to get some quality rest is a matter of some debate. What works for you might not work for someone else but there are some tried and tested methods that seem to work for almost everyone.

For many travelers, sleeping on a plane as well as they do in their own bed is a near impossibility. However, with a little foresight and planning, it can be made more comfortable.

Here are some tips for how to sleep on a plane and get some quality rest.

Choose your seat

If you’re flying First Class or Club Class you will probably choose your seat at your leisure. Even if you don’t and you leave it to chance, you’re guaranteed plenty of space in which to keep your legs straight in these seats.

For those flying in Premium Economy or Economy class, things are a little different. If your booking allows it and you’re prepared to pay the fee (or if you’re already able to choose your seat through your points in your frequent flier airline loyalty program) then you can increase your chances of getting some rest by choosing the right seat.

A window seat is a good choice because they are away from the aisle. If you’re sitting in an aisle seat trying to get some shut eye then you might find it difficult due to the number of people walking by, other passengers and flight attendants, and the occasional brush of your arm that often occurs in such situations.

As well as the sensation of a brush as a flight attendant passes by, there is also the risk of being knocked by a trolley or any passenger who might be unsteady on their feet.

On the other hand, one disadvantage of window seats is that you have to ask the other person next to you to move if you need to use the toilet.

Bulkhead seats are another option as they often have extra legroom. However, they may also be the location set aside for parents traveling with babies, particularly on long flights.

How To Sleep On A Plane And Get Some Quality Rest - Not Like This
How not to do it
Photo by Zachary Kadolph on Unsplash

What to bring on a plane to help you sleep

There are a few key things you can pack into your carry on that may help you to rest comfortably and get to sleep.

A comfortable pillow and blanket may help, though of course you will be provided with both. However, having your own travel pillow and perhaps blanket too can create that extra layer of comfort.

An eye mask and earplugs can also help block out light and noise. A neck pillow can help support your head and neck, and finally, consider bringing along some warm socks to wear if your compression socks don’t do the job.

Seasoned travelers end the wear layers of comfortable clothing so that they take off or add a layer as required. They also bring noise canceling headphones, not just for sleep time but also for using the entertainment system. However, some airlines have greatly improved their own headsets over recent years.

How to get comfortable on a plane

To get comfortable in an airplane seat, start by adjusting the seat to your ideal position. If you can recline, do so, though be courteous to the passenger in the seat behind you. There’s an unwritten etiquette for a long flight and that is to wait until after the meal has been served and cleared away before fully reclining a seat.

If you can’t wait until then recline your seat a little so that you can at least get comfortable. Use a small pillow to support your lower back. Place another pillow behind your head or neck, if needed.

Use a blanket to keep warm, but avoid putting it over your head as this can make you feel claustrophobic. Make sure the seat belt is fastened over the blanket so that the flight attendant doesn’t need to wake you to check that you have it fastened.

Put the tray table into the upright position so that you don’t knock against it while you’re getting comfortable.

How to fall asleep on a plane

There are a few different techniques you can use that will soon have you falling asleep aboard the aircraft. One is to relax your whole body by tensing and releasing each muscle group, starting with your toes and working up to your head.

Another is to focus on your breath and count each inhale and exhale. Use a rhythmic pattern such as four counts in, pause, for counts out, pause. Abdominal breathing like this is proven to reduce the heart rate and is often used by people to settle their nerves before public speaking or some other stressful activity.

You can also try to distract yourself from any thoughts that are keeping you awake by focusing on a mantra or positive affirmation, or by listening to relaxing music through headphones. On an overnight flight or other long flights, the entertainment system may have such music available.

Tips for sleeping in a noisy environment

Noise can be a major distraction when trying to sleep. Here are a few tips for how to block it out:

  • Use earplugs or noise canceling headphones, or both.
  • Using a sleeping mask seems to help. It blocks out the blue light during an overnight flight or the cabin lights in the daytime. It also blocks the glare from the screens of people watching films.
  • Focus on relaxation techniques to calm your mind and drift off
Blue Light Of Aircraft Interior
Use a sleeping mask to stop the blue light, cabin lights, or screen lights
Photo by Wenhao Ryan on Unsplash

Air travel earplugs also help to alleviate earache experienced by some passengers during climb and descent.

How to adjust to the time difference when traveling

When traveling to a different time zone, it can be difficult to adjust your body’s natural rhythm. Here are four tips for how to quickly and easily adapt to the new time zone.

What to do when you first arrive

When you first arrive in a new time zone, try to get as much rest as possible. This will help your body adjust more quickly. If it’s daytime, try to stay awake and active. Exposure to natural light will help regulate your body’s internal clock. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can disrupt your sleep.

Start adjusting a few days before

If you know you’re going to be traveling to a different time zone, start adjusting a few days before your trip. Start by slowly shifting your bedtime earlier or later by 15-30 minutes each day. This will help your body get used to the new schedule.

Try to stick to a routine

When you’re in a new time zone, try to stick to a routine as much as possible. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Eat meals at regular intervals. Get exposure to natural light during the day. And avoid napping, as this can make it harder to fall asleep at night.

Give yourself some time

It can take a few days or even a week for your body to fully adjust to a new time zone. Be patient and give yourself some time to adjust. If you’re finding sleeping elusive, try using some of the tips in this article.

How to deal with the dreaded jet lag

Jet lag can be a real pain when traveling. Here are four tips for how to deal with it and get back on track.

First, try to adjust your sleep schedule before you leave. Start going to bed and waking up at the time you’ll be on vacation. This will help your body get used to the new schedule.

Second, cut down the alcohol consumption and drink less caffeine before and during your flight. These can make it worse. Too much booze means you’ll have a hangover too.

Third, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Start before the journey so that your full bladder doesn’t wake you from your deep slumber.

And finally, get some exercise. A light walk or jog can help improve your circulation and energy levels.


It is possible to catch some sleep using air travel, whether it’s on a short hop or long haul flight. Check through this article and gather together a few sleep aids before your next flight. Review the neck pillows that are currently available as some are better than others.

Choose your seat wisely, get a window seat, and gain more space if you can. Pull down the window shade and make yourself comfortable With a little planning and practice, you can sleep peacefully imagining that you are tucked up in First Class and arriving at your final destination refreshed and with no trace of the red eye.

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