There are those lucky few fliers out there who can easily fall sleep at 30,000 feet, arriving at their destination bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Then, there’s the rest of us. If you count yourself among this latter group, try some, or all, of these plane travel tips. Many of them have been proven to help travellers catch more z’s on a plane, whether they’re in business class or the back row.

1. Respect the sleep trifecta

No matter where or when you try to sleep, light, temperature and noise are the 3 most important factors to keep in mind. A long, restful sleep hinges on how well you manage these variables, adjusting them to your comfort as best you can, as you apply the other tips below.


2. Come prepared

Your quality of in-flight sleep is impacted by choices made hours or days before your trip, when you’re packing your carry-on. Many travellers have found the following items to be essential to a good night’s sleep midair:

  • Noise-cancelling headphones, or powerful earplugs, can prevent you from being woken by the toddler crying next to you, or the sound of your neighbour pressing the flight attendant call button.
  • An eye mask can be an amazing tool for blocking out the light of your neighbour’s TV screen, or movement of passengers and flight attendants walking down the aisle.
  • Lavender oil dotted on temples and wrists has been found to have sleep-inducing effects.
  • Cozy slippers, pyjamas and a throw blanket can keep you warm and comfortable on a chilly plane.
  • A neck pillow can be a gamechanger. Not all neck pillows are created equal, so selecting the right one can require some trial and error. Once you’ve found the one for you, never let it go.

3. Select the right seat

If getting sleep is of the utmost importance (say you’re heading straight to a big meeting, or an interview upon arrival), it may make sense for you to pay extra for a seat in Business or First Class, which on some planes can be as comfortable as your bed at home. If that’s not an option, choose a seat in a low-traffic area, away from lavatories and airplane galleys. Sitting in a window seat can also increase your chances of a good rest, as the plane’s wall provides something for you to lean against. Plus, you won’t have your neighbours waking you and asking you to get up every time they go to the washroom.


4. Nix caffeine

It takes caffeine 5 to 6 hours to leave your body, so stay away from coffee, soda, caffeinated tea and other such beverages for at least that many hours before your flight. Instead, opt for lemon water or herbal tea, which can promote calming feelings.

5. Imbibe at your own risk

Some travellers swear by a couple glasses of wine to help them snooze but drinking alcohol mid-air can leave you dehydrated and tired upon landing. Cabin air is already drier than air on the ground; when you couple that with the dehydrating effects of booze, it can leave you feeling haggard when you arrive at your destination. Also, keep in mind that, in moderation, alcohol can promote sleep, but too many drinks can impair it. So, if you do decide to drink to help you nod off, exercise moderation and have a glass or two of water to counteract any dehydration.

6. Get to know your seat

Airplane engineers put a lot of thought into designing seats that help promote shut-eye (yes, even in economy). Once seated, try playing around with your headrest and backrest to determine how it can adjust to your comfort needs. If in doubt, ask a flight attendant for assistance.

7. Communicate that sleep is your goal

Let the flight attendant know that you don’t want to be disrupted for meal and drink service (unless there’s an emergency, of course). And if you recline your seat, check with your neighbours behind you to ensure they can comfortably move in and out of their own row.

8. Create optimal conditions for sleep

What does your regular evening routine look like? Do you slip on your favourite cashmere pyjamas, drink mint tea and read a couple chapters of the latest Michael Ondaatje novel before turning out the lights? Recreating this ritual mid-air can help you drift off just as easily as if you were on the ground.


9. Try these sleep positions

Experiment with the following sleep styles and see what works for you:

  • The Fold Over: Lower your tray table and place on it your personal item, such as a purse, backpack or, best of all, a pillow. Lean over and start counting sheep.
  • The Window Lover: While in the window seat, close the shade, place your pillow on it and rest your head there. Sitting next to the window gives you the advantage of controlling whether the shade is open or closed, so you can power nap to your heart’s content.
  • The Cuddle: If you know your neighbour and they’re willing, use their shoulder as a pillow. Their body heat might even aid your sleep cause.
  • The Princess: If you’re lucky enough to have an entire row to yourself, take advantage and use that row as a bed. Depending on the width of the seats, most travellers will be able to lie down completely when they curl their legs up.
  • The Cocoon: From a seated position, draw your knees in, placing your feet on the seat and curling up into as small and comfortable a ball as humanly possible. Wrap a blanket around yourself and drift away.

10. Take a sleep aid

This is recommended only for travellers who have experience taking sleep sedatives and are aware which ones work for them. Many sleep aids have side effects and can cause drowsiness upon waking. Also, being under the influence of a sedative in the rare case of an emergency evacuation is not ideal. Keep this in mind before deciding whether or not to pop a pill.

Applying the tips above effectively will likely require some trial and error. It may take you a few flights to find out what the magic formula is, but once you’ve got it, you’ll be sure to arrive at your destination well-rested!

Happy Travels,

Chloe Bennington

What are your favourite hacks for getting sleep on a plane? Share them with the TuGo Blog community in the comments below!

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