Travel tips

How to sleep on a plane

airplane wing

If it’s a quick two-hour flight, I fall asleep as soon as my butt is in my seat but when it comes to overnight flights or the longer hauls where I should be able to get some good sleep my eyes are wide open and my mind refuses to enter dreamland.

It’s supremely annoying and something I continue to struggle with no matter how many flights I’ve taken over the years. But with that struggle has come lessons learned on how to sleep on a plane even though not all of them are foolproof. 

You might have to mix and match to find the right recipe for getting some quality ZZZs during your flight time but these five tips are good starting points if you’re looking for just the basics when it comes to falling asleep on a plane.

5 tips for sleeping on long flights

1. Time your flight with bedtime

It’s a lot easier to fall asleep on the plane when departure is close to your bedtime. Your body will already be getting ready for sleep naturally instead of trying to force it at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Booking a direct flight will also help as you won’t have to wake up, change planes, and then try to get back to sleep after being alert to collect all your personal belongings and haul them with you on the next leg of your journey.

2. Create the best sleep environment possible

Book a window seat, put on loose, comfy clothing, put some eyeshades or a sleep mask on, put earplugs in your ears or cover them with noise-canceling headphones, and tilt your seat back as far as it can go. You may also want a neck pillow to avoid neck pain when you wake, but I’ve also found being able to lean against the window helps if you don’t have space to pack a pillow. Creating a dark, quiet environment can help your body and mind relax and allow you to sleep – even if you’re stuck in a sitting position.

3. Count down to departure

As you approach your departure time, start being cautious of what you’re eating as rich, carb-heavy food can settle in your stomach and make you uncomfortable; and be careful with what you’re drinking and how much. Avoid caffeine and alcohol, even if it’s free on the flight, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated while you fly. Just make sure to lower your water intake directly before your flight or you might find yourself waking those around you to get to the lavatory a few hours into your overnight adventure instead of sleeping as peacefully as possible.

4. Stretch

Not only should you wear stretchy clothing and loose fabrics, but you’ll also want to make sure your muscles are nice and relaxed before sitting for the next six to nine hours. Do some light stretching or walk around the terminal before your flight to get blood flowing your body limber.

5. Stop looking at screens

The blue light coming from our phones and tablets throw off our circadian rhythms and makes it even harder for our bodies to adjust to the idea that it’s time to sleep. Once you’ve scanned your boarding pass, text your loved ones and then put that phone in airplane mode and put it away.

What’s your best tip for falling asleep on long flights? Share your advice in the comments below!

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Hey, I'm Stephanie! I'm a copywriter living in beautiful Denver with my husband Rick, and our dog Rocco. I love traveling, writing, reading, and being outside as much as possible - unless I'm on the couch binge watching Stranger Things with a glass of wine! Thanks for reading and being a part of the adventure with Back to the Passport! ❤️

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