Booking an overnight flight can save time and money when it comes to travelling to far-flung destinations. But sacrificing a good night’s sleep might not be worth it if you wind up starting your vacation exhausted and cranky.
While seat 42K isn’t ever going to feel as good as your own bed, there are a few little things you can do to make your airline seat feel more like home during an overnight flight. Here are seven tips to help you get through your next red-eye flight like a pro, and ensure you arrive at your destination revived and ready to hit the ground running.
Pick the right flight
If possible, try to book a continuous flight straight through to your final destination. Red-eye flights are hard enough on the body, but throwing in a connection part-way through is sure to seriously disrupt any sleep you’ll be getting on the journey. Sometimes connections are impossible to avoid – especially when travelling to destinations in Asia and Europe – but planning ahead and booking early can help eliminate the dreaded sleep-sabotaging stopovers.
Additionally, it’s always best to try and reserve the last red-eye flight of the night so that you’re extra tired when you take off. If its wheels up at 7:30 pm, your body won’t be ready to snooze until a few hours into the flight. But if you depart after 11 pm, you should be able to zonk out right away.
Be strategic about seat selection
Location, location, location. When booking an overnight flight, try to select your seat ahead of time to snag a spot that’s more conducive for a good night’s sleep.
Seats in the emergency exit row provide a generous amount of legroom that’ll allow you to stretch out, though these premium spots usually come with an extra charge. Window seats give you a place to lean your head and ensure you won’t be interrupted mid-slumber by a seat mate needing to squeeze by to use the restrooms.
And if you’re checking into your flight online ahead of time, check to see if there are more free seats towards the back of the aircraft. If you’re willing to sit at the rear of the plane, you may just luck into a row all to yourself where you can get horizontal with your seatbelt fastened for the duration of the flight.
It’s all about accessories
Airplane cabins are notoriously loud, cramped and cold, so investing in a few little luxuries can make a world of difference when it comes to creating a temporary sleep sanctuary. Make room in your carry-on bag for a supportive travel pillow, soft slippers and a blanket (or oversized scarf) that’ll help you get cozy as you settle in for a long-haul flight and prevent you from shivering throughout the night.
Planes are full of crying infants, carts banging up and down the aisles and the endless ‘ding’ of the seatbelt sign turning off and on, so pack an eye mask and a pair of earplugs to block the bright lights and background noise. If you’re a light sleeper, try downloading a white noise app like Noisli or White Noise Lite on your phone before take-off to drown out the whirring engines, passenger chatter and other ambient sounds of the plane cabin.
Recreate your nighttime routine onboard
Going through the motions of your regular nighttime routine ahead of your red-eye flight can help signal to your body that it’s time for sleep. Take out your contact lenses before boarding, brush your teeth, and pack a few travel-sized face cleansers, serums, moisturizers and all your skincare favourites. Your bedtime routine could be as simple as a quick splash of water or a full hydrating sheet mask, but anything you can do to ‘wash up’ before the flight (or within the first hour in the air) will help you feel fresh and ready to snooze. And don’t forget eye drops to prevent those pupils from drying out – it’s called the red-eye for a reason after all.
Dress for sleep success
When it comes to a red-eye flight, runways are for the planes, not the passengers; there’s no shame in sacrificing fashion for function while travelling. Opt for loose-fitting, breathable fabrics and plan an onboard outfit that’s comfortable and warm. No one is judging you at 35,000 feet so swap your stiff suit and skinny jeans for more casual sweats and you’ll have an easier time getting comfortable in a cramped seat. The athleisure trend is your best friend when it comes to flying and sweatshirts with a hood can help block out the sights and sounds of the cabin. If you prefer sandals over sneakers, be sure to bring along a pair of wooly socks to ensure your toes don’t freeze.
Skip the in-flight perks
If you’re serious about getting some shut-eye on your overnight flight, binging on the latest must-watch-TV series is sure to sabotage your plans to pass out. Screen time is the enemy of sleep so do your best to resist the temptation to browse through the blockbusters available on the in-flight entertainment system. Instead, crack open a book or try listening to a relaxing playlist to help you drift off.
Similarly, don’t feel pressured to stay up to take advantage of the in-flight meal. While many airlines include a complimentary evening meal as part of the red-eye service, you’re better off eating a healthy meal at home or in the airport earlier in the night (around your usual dinnertime) and focusing on sleep once you’re in the air.
Try a sleep aid
If you’re still feeling wide awake once you’ve reached cruising altitude, consider taking a natural supplement or sleep-aid to help your body unwind. Herbal sleepy time teas like Traditional Medicinal’s Nighty Night or David’s Tea’s Mother’s Little Helper contain medicinal ingredients like valerian root, chamomile and peppermint to help soothe and relax your body. If you’re worried about consuming too much liquid during the flight – and waking up for repeated bathroom breaks throughout – try a small dose of magnesium or melatonin to help prep your body for a snooze.
If you want to avoid feeling groggy the next morning, complement your caffeine intake with an essential oil like Saje’s Arrive Revived jet lag and travel remedy. With hints of eucalyptus, lemon and lavender, this travel sized roll-on essential oil can be applied to the temples, under the chin and the soles of your feet to reduce drowsiness and fatigue once you land so that you’re feeling refreshed and alert by the time you hit baggage claim.