Being able to sleep on a plane can be the best way to pass the time on a long flight. I often travel with two of my sisters. Both of them have trouble sleeping on planes. Everything disturbs them. They suffer through long flights, cramped quarters, loud passengers and noise from movies, crying babies, sunlight from the window, people climbing over them to go to the lavatory: it all disturbs them. That can lead to exhaustion and several nights of playing catch-up when we arrive at our final destination. Over the years they have developed ways to cope. After all, not everyone can sleep like a baby on a plane.
But beyond the tips you might already know—invest in earplugs, an eye mask, and a pillow, and wear comfy clothing, here are some of their tips for more ways you can rest like a baby en route and arrive ready to vacation.
Tip #1 Visit the health food store before you go
Natural supplements like melatonin and Sleepytime tea can help you relax, and it’s also worth a shot to try aromatherapy. Lavender essential oil (either dabbed on pulse points or used as a pillow spray) can help you mellow out.
Tip #2 Skip the caffeine and alcohol
Stay away from caffeine and alcohol—especially alcohol. Combining alcohol and the dry cabin air is a surefire mix to leave you dehydrated and hung over, which will make waking up at your destination even harder. Avoid the temptation to have a cup of caffeinated coffee or a soda before boarding and stick to water or juice when the drink cart comes around. You’ll find it much harder to sleep if you have caffeine coursing through your veins.
Tip #3 Bring some comfort items from home
Falling asleep when you’re in the midst of 200 people and 35,000 feet in the air is all about making yourself feel as at-home as possible. If you are aiming to sleep, travel in comfortable, non-constricting clothing. Wearing loose clothing will help you drift off and also prevent against deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which occurs when your blood flow is restricted.
Tip #4 Read something boring
Bring a book—specifically, a challenging paperback book, not an e-book or a compelling page-turner. Screens of any kind can be stimulating, so save the e-reader for the destination. And a book that is too compelling, one that you can’t put down, is not only stimulating, but also you may find yourself so caught up in the story that you read for hours. Bring a book with subject matter that you find challenging. About a half-hour of this more focused effort to concentrate on what you’re reading, and your eyes should start feeling heavy.
Tip #5 Bring your own water and snacks
Bring some appetizing, packable, and healthy snacks from home and splurge on the $7 bottle of water at the airport. Having your own food and water will allow you to sleep soundly without having to wake up when the snack cart rolls around. Plus, staying hydrated will help with jet lag.
Tip #6 Don’t Forget Your Rituals
Once the plane has hit cruising altitude, prepare as through you’re getting ready for bed (brush your teeth, wash your face, slip into something…a little more comfortable, And avoid looking at screens (here’s where the eye mask comes in handy.)
Tip # 7 Choose Your Seat Wisely
A good choice us the window seat of an exit row. You won’t be disturbed when your seatmates get up, you can rest your head on the window, and with the extra legroom you can use your carry-on as a footrest. The worst place for sleeping is near the galleys, bathrooms or flight attendant stations since people tend to hang out there. Pick a quiet part of the plane. Go online the day of the flight to see if you can change your seat to an empty row. You have a better chance if you’re flying at an unpopular time—say, on a Tuesday or Wednesday night. Those seeking peace and quiet may wish to avoid the front, however, as this is where parents with babies will often travel, and where flight attendants will be clattering around with drinks trolleys. So consider the back of the aircraft. Window seats obviously reduce the chance of being disturbed and also give you somewhere to rest your head.
Tip #8 Set your watch to your new time zone
As soon as you leave your starting city, act as if you’re already in the time zone of your destination. The sooner you can start acclimating to your new destination, the better off you’ll be once you actually arrive. A few days before a red-eye, start going to bed and waking up earlier than usual. And if working out helps you sleep, make an effort to exercise while you’re on vacation. It may help you enjoy a restful trip home.
Tip #9 Recline your seat — but be courteous
Ideally, everyone has the same idea and seats will tip backward soon into your flight. However, you should always look behind you to make sure the coast is clear before pushing the button to put your seat back. It gives the person behind you a heads up if they have coffee in front of them or have their head down on the tray table.
My sisters swear by these tips. Me? I’m one of those lucky people who can sleep like a baby on a plane…or anywhere.