Woman Sleeping on a Plane - How To Sleep On A Plane

How to Sleep On A Plane: The Ultimate Guide

I just returned from my first trip to Europe in over two years. The trip was fantastic. The flights to and from? Not so much. It’s tough for me to sleep on a plane. It’s not just the plane’s noise but the uncomfortable seat you are sitting on and the lights in the cabin.

A long plane flight can be really exhausting. The time difference, the jetlag, the dry cabin air, and trying to sleep in seats with little support can make sleeping on a plane seem impossible. But it is possible!

Fortunately, these tips will help you get some rest. The key is to be prepared when you sit down and close your eyes. This article will share with you my ultimate guide on how to sleep on a plane.  

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How To Sleep On A Plane? Prepare Before You Even Reach The Airport

Being prepared for your trip is key to lowering your stress. And as we all know, lower stress = better sleep. Here are some things to do before boarding the plane that will make your journey smoother.

When booking a long flight, say from LA to Paris, book a non-stop flight. There is nothing worse than having to change planes right when you manage to fall asleep. Then try to choose a flight that leaves near your normal bedtime. It’s much easier to sleep on a plane when you are already tired.

Arrive early at the airport: Don’t wait until the last minute. If you are worried you may miss your flight; your adrenaline will spike. 

Ensure that you arrive at least two hours before departure for international flights and one hour for domestic ones. If you happen to be flying during a peak time (like holidays or school breaks) or with kids, give yourself more time before departure.

When checking in, make sure to ask if there’s an opportunity for priority security screening or expedited check-in; this will help speed up your process and avoid any lines. I take full advantage of TSA’s PreCheck which for me is the fastest way through security.

What Is The Best Seat In Coach If You Hope To Sleep On A Plane

Which seat you get on your flight will impact your experience significantly. If you are lucky enough to be in business or first class you stand a much better chance of getting some good sleep.

Flying in coach can be a more stressful experience. This article will focus on how to sleep on a plane in economy class.

To start, choose your seat wisely. There are many things to look for when choosing a seat location other than “aisle” or “window.”

How To Find The Seat Layout For Your Flight

You can check a plane’s seat layout on SeatGuru. SeatGuru is available on the web from your desktop or laptop and has apps for iOS and Android, so you can use it anywhere!

You put in your flight information, and SeatGuru gives you the seating arrangement along with information about each seat. With this information at hand, you can make a much better seat choice.

Plane Seat Map how-to-sleep-on-a plane
Chart of an airplane seat plan. Aircraft seats plan top view.
Business and economy classes airplane indoor information map.

What Are The Best Areas To Sit In The Economy Section Of The Plane?

I love “bulkhead” seats. You know the ones at the beginning of any particular plane section. This way, I know no one will be reclining their seat into my space. The negative to this row is that you have no under-seat stowage. Also, as you can imagine, these seats are hard to come by since nearly everyone wants this row.

Another popular place to sit in economy is the exit row. This row’s seats have a greater “pitch.” What is “pitch,” you may ask? This is the airline term for the distance between your seat and the seat in front of you. More pitch is always good.

Also, being as far as possible from the galley and bathrooms is something I look for. The closer you are to these areas, the more foot traffic you are subject to. This leads to noise and disturbance. In addition, more distance between you and these areas = fewer smells, if you know what I mean.

Is A Window Or An Aisle Seat Best For You?

For me, window seats are best if you are hoping to sleep on a plane. There is some extra elbow room, and you can rest your head on the window. (Make sure to bring your “wipes” and wipe down that window. There was probably someone else sleeping there before you!)

Being in the window seat is one of the best ways to sleep on a plane in economy class.

But another advantage of a window seat is the opportunity to enjoy the scenery you are flying over. These are the best seats for watching takeoffs and landings.

Empty Airplane Seats - Window or Aisle Which Do You Prefer?
Empty airplane seats

On the other hand, if you have long legs or find that you frequently need to get up while in flight, an aisle seat may be for you. You will have more legroom in this seat.

If you need to move around the cabin, go to the toilet, or talk to someone, you have an easier time getting in and out from an aisle seat

The biggest downside to an aisle seat? Flight attendants serve snacks, dinner, or drinks, and other passengers move about.

The aisle is the roadway of the plan, and it is a narrow one. You stand the chance of being bumped in an aisle seat and perhaps even sat upon if there is turbulence.

Interior of the economy section of a plane

Best Outfit Options For A Long Plane Flight

You want to be stylish but comfortable when you fly. Some people just wear sweatpants when they travel long distances. But suppose you hate landing in London or Paris looking like you just rolled out of bed.

There are fantastic options for clothing to look for when trying to figure out how to sleep on a plane.

Layering is the key. The temperature on the plane can go from hot and stuffy to downright freezing in a very short amount of time.

If you want to know how to sleep better on a plane, comfort is paramount. Being able to add or remove items easily is key to comfort.

Choose natural fabrics like cotton or silk and materials that don’t readily wrinkle. These are your best bets for a good sleep and arrival.

Your Comfortable Flight “Uniform” Could Look Like This

Wear a lightweight jacket. This is a quick way to pull your look together.

A pullover sweater adds warmth, but you can easily take it off.

Choose a t-shirt or jersey as your base layer top

6 Panel Photo Collage Landscape

Pants with some stretch in the fabric especially in the waist. (Jeans are always in style but not great for sleeping in.)

Socks, not just any socks, but compression socks. You don’t want swollen feet if you can avoid it.

Lastly, loose-fitting, slip-on shoes. If your feet do end up a bit swollen, you still need to put on your shoes to go to the bathroom and leave the plane.

The Best Travel Pillows For Sleeping On A Plane

If you have ever fallen asleep on a plane, chances are you’ve done the “head bob.” As soon as you start to drift off, your head jerks back! Or, you get nudged awake by your seatmate whose shoulder you seem to have rested on (embarrassing).

Sleeping in a mostly upright position is not natural. Your neck has a tough time holding up your heavy head. This is why most experts suggest a good travel pillow. The best travel pillows support your entire neck and keep your head from nodding, bobbing, or resting on your neighbor. 

The oft-seen u-shaped pillow is a good choice. But lately, there have been some more unique pillows to choose from. Take a look at the Ostrich Pillow and the Trtl Travel Pillow. Memory foam is a good choice of materials for your travel pillow as it will contour to your body. But, if you are making this trip with a carry-on only, you may want an inflatable pillow to save space.

3 Photo Collage 1

An over-the-ear style of wireless noise-canceling earphones is my go-to. But if you don’t want to splurge or the cost of earphones is more than you can afford, get some simple earplugs. It’s much easier to sleep when you hear less of the plane or the cranky passengers on the plane.

Invest in a good sleep mask. Being able to block out the light is imperative when you are trying to sleep.

Some Final Tips To Help You Sleep On Your Flight

To ensure you get some rest, here are a few other things you should consider.

Avoid drinking a lot of alcohol. One drink may relax you and help you sleep. However, alcohol is a stimulant and will interfere with sleep in the long run. Also, alcohol leads to dehydration. 

Stay hydrated. I know this goes against common sense for sleep. More liquids in your system usually make for more trips to the bathroom. But it’s very easy to get dehydrated on a plane, which will lead to headaches and jetlag.

Natural Sleep Aids To Help You Relax

Sleep aids come in many forms, from over-the-counter pills to herbal supplements and even teas. These natural supplements are meant to encourage relaxation and help you fall asleep.

Some of the most popular supplements are Chamomile tea, Valerian root, Lemon balm teas, and Melatonin. Different people react differently to all sleep aids, whether natural or chemical. You may want to try a few items out before you fly to see what works best for you.

Generally, it is not recommended that you use things like Ambien or other prescribed sleeping pills. These sleep aids may cause you to be foggy-headed upon arrival just when you need your wits about you most.

Sleeping On A Plane Is Possible

I hope this guide on how to sleep on a plane helps you sleep the next time you are winging your way to your vacation paradise—the benefits of getting a good nap while on the plane are many. Most of us have far too little time for vacations as it is. Spending two or more days half-awake is a waste of this precious resource.

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