6 Tips to Help You Sleep on the Plane

By Chad Taylor on December 26, 2016

Are you old enough to remember? If not, can you even imagine it? There was a time when flying was considered a privilege. People dressed up to get on the plane. The stewards and stewardesses brought everything from pillows to free – yes, free – meals. Not so, now the seats are so close that you go to sleep closer to a stranger than you are to your partner in your own bed. It’s adjust and survive. Here are 6 tips that will help you actually sleep while you’re flying high.

1. Book a Window Seat. And, if you’re traveling with someone else, book one for each of you. A window seat lets you lean your head against the side of the plane. Be sure to cushion it with a pillow, a blanket or, if you forget to bring one and can’t get a stewardess to help you, fold up your coat or sweater. The window seat gives you both something to lean on and control of the light.

2. Get Headphones. Splurge on the noise-canceling ones. Try to put together a playlist on your smart phone or iPod that includes songs that are soft and sleepy sounding. One tip is to keep the playlist consistent from flight to flight so when your brain hears it, it will know it’s time to nod off.

3. You’ve Got Your Back. Your own back and it may not really like that cramped airplane seat. Go ahead; do it. Recline that seat. Reclining will take some of the pressure off your lower spine. Another trick, stack a backpack and pillows on your lap or a pillow on the drop-down tray and sleep leaning forward. Sounds uncomfortable but it actually relieves pressure on your tailbone.

4. Baby, It’s Cold Outside. Outside of that airplane, it’s freezing. If you’re in the window seat, it may get especially chilly. Be prepared. Men, bring a light jacket. For women, a soft shawl can wrap you up or do double duty as a blanket. Again, you can – with a little luck – get the stewardess to bring you an airplane blanket if you’re cold and didn’t bring a jacket or sweater.

5. Wear Comfortable Clothing. The days of dressing up just because you’re getting on a plane are gone. Falling asleep at 40,000 feet isn’t all that easy. Clothing that’s tight and binding isn’t going to help. You may want to forego the heavy fabric of jeans for something softer. Cushy socks aren’t just a plus when you take off your shoes to be screened; they’re great for letting you take off your shoes and wiggle your toes. Plus, they’ll keep your feet nice and warm.

6. Eat Light and Say No To The Cocktail. Spending the last half hour before the flight in the bar and ordering a cocktail on the plane when they offer you something to drink isn’t going to help you sleep. Alcohol may make you sleepy at first, but in the long run (or long flight) it keeps you from sleeping soundly. Plus, if you got that window seat, frequent bathroom trips are inconvenient for you and your seatmates. A heavy meal may make you feel uncomfortable and make it harder to go to sleep. Eat and drink lightly and bring some healthy snacks in case you do get hungry.

You’ve gotten more sleep than usual on the plane, but now comes the dreaded guestroom mattress. If you know it’s leftover from your childhood bed and you can talk to Mom, tell her about the affordable and amazingly supportive latex mattresses available on the Internet. Can’t bring the subject up? Have one shipped to her doorstep and time it to your arrival so you can set it up. Otherwise, it’s likely to end up on her bed because she knows a good thing when she sees it. Sleep on the plane; sleep well in the guestroom on a supportive, restful, new mattress. It’s going to be a great holiday!