12 Steps to a Good Sleep on a Flight

Learning how to sleep on a flight is a 12-step process. Don’t let the number overwhelm you, some steps take just seconds. 

After thousands and thousands of miles of air travel, and many hours, sleeping on a flight now just comes with the job for me. 

I’m proud to say I’ve kinda mastered the art of sleeping on planes. It’s the best way to pass a long flight, along with a glass of red wine to give you that push over the edge to sleep. 

how to sleep on a flight

– Yes, I’m in my lounge. BUT, imagine the plane window there and the head supports.

On the way back from Australia I slept for 7 hours straight, and was very happy with myself. 

Trying to fall asleep on a flight can be super frustrating, so here’s my guide to help you get as much sleep on an aeroplane as possible. 

1. Check in right on time, online 

Set yourself an alarm for 24 hours before your flight to make sure you check in ASAP. Be there ready, finger on the check in button and reservation code copied to your clipboard. As soon as the minute flicks over, get in there!.

I did this for my Air Canada flight to Vancouver a few weeks ago and I even managed to score myself an exit seat, dream leg room!

2. Choose a good seat 

Young families tend to sit at the front of the plane, so avoid sitting there if you want the best sleep. Their plan is to get on and off the plane as easily as possible, so if you’re travelling without children then do the opposite and head for the back of the flight. 

Don’t choose a seat near a toilet. The going in and out, and the people standing around the door, are not conducive to a good night’s sleep. That blummin toilet door slamming all the time is just far too annoying. 

Go for one nearer to the back, by the window, for the best sleep possible. Seats automatically allocate from the front so you’ll be most likely to have some spare seats around you at the back too. 

3. Bring a pillow 

I absolutely cannot get on with the neck pillows you see people trawling around the airports. I’ve recently worked out that it’s because I have a long neck, so they don’t offer the support I need. Like a giraffe. 

This pillow, from TEMPUR, is a revelation in plane pillows. 

sleeping on a plane

– Do keep an ear out for when they come round with the ice cream

The TEMPUR comfort travel pillow is made from visco-elastic cells that actively mould and adapt to your body. It feels quite thick, so offers a whole spectrum of support. Also, it’s shaped like a rectangle, but has the space to contort to fit where it’s needed. 

The fabric is super soft and feels nice on your face, and can also be taken off to wash. 

The pillow comes in a handy plastic packet so it’s easy to travel with too. 

Tempur pillow

TEMPUR® was first created by NASA in the 1970s to cushion astronauts during lift-off as they journeyed into space. A lot of research and development has gone into ensuring they help your weight and pressure to be distributed evenly both in the cushions, and in their mattresses.

The pillow relieves pressure and I really like the fact its not already shaped, so you can mould it to the space you have, and your neck and head’s contours. Definitely an upgrade from those empty pillows they give you on the flight!

4. Good playlist, and good headphones

I’m still a bit torn as to whether I prefer headphones or earphones. Headphones are great for their noise cancelling skills, but then they’re not very comfy to lie against. Earphones are the opposite. Go for the inner ear bud variety for the best. 

how to sleep on a plane

Either way, you need to have a good sleepy playlist to cancel out all the vacant white noise of the plane. It’ll help you transform from a different place, from the craziness of the plane to one of peace. 

A meditation app like Calm might help too, although I prefer music. 

5. Bring an eye mask

I have a great silky eye mask which feels nice on my face, and comes in a little silky bag too. This is an essential for me. It helps to cut off the visual sense to help you relax and sleep.

I like to wear the eye mask, and then put a scarf over my head too. I’m fully aware I look stupid but it really helps to filter out the rest of the plane and the 150 other passengers. It kinda creates a safe space away from the whimpering children and trolley service, where I can sleep and I’m free to pull whatever sleeping face I like. 

6. Dress for sleep

I have a friend who actually takes pyjamas on her flight, and will get changed before the flight takes off to get her in the sleep mood. 

I don’t quite go that far, but I do have a uniform for flights now. I’ll wear yoga trousers, full length, comfy socks and trainers. On top I’ll wear a long tshirt and a hoody. I also like to bring that scarf I mentioned. Make sure you have enough layers to keep warm. You never know when there’ll be an overzealous air con person on the button. 

Planes can get chilly. 

I absolutely do not understand these people who dress up for the flight, or wear shorts or dresses. Not me. Casual as casual can be is the way to go if you want to sleep on your flight. 

7. Perform your sleep routine

Bring some face wipes, your cleanser and moisturiser and do whatever bedtime routine you do at home. Also, bring your toothbrush and toothpaste too. The goal is to trick your body into thinking it’s bedtime. 

How to find the cheapest flights

A lavender product might help too – proven to assist with your sleep. I have a roll on thing that I can rub on my blanket to really help me nod off. 

8. Go to the toilet 

If you’re on a day flight I’d totally recommend drinking as much water as possible, but on a night flight, where you want to sleep, keep the water to a low. You don’t want to have to keep getting up and going to the toilet, especially if you’re on a window seat.

Go to the toilet as soon as the seatbelts light goes out, and then again after the food comes round, and then settle in for the night. Being by the window and needed the toilet when the middle and the aisle are asleep is the worst. 

9. Get in position

This is the most important aspect of getting some sleep on a flight. A good position is vital. 

I’m 5 ft 9, size 14 and of reasonable flexibility – my favourite position is to put my feet up just balancing on the seat in front. Then I’ll recline the seat, put my headphones in, eye mask on, blanket over my head, and I’m done. I’m gone. 

This is where you need point number 2, the pillow, so your head has something to rest on and isn’t just left lolling around. You need to support your head and neck otherwise the jolt of the lolling will wake you up. You can usually pull out the wings of your headrest to give yourself even more support around your head. 

Another position is just to flex my legs out and spread under the seat in front. Only trouble with this one is if the person in front decides to put their feet back – who owns the seat in front?

If, by amazing chance, you get the whole row, then use all the blankets to cushion uncomfortable lumps and bumps and use the third one over you. Then lie down, use your pillow, and enjoy all that space. 

10. Do your buckle over your blanket

Oh it’s so sad when you see a fellow passenger finally get to sleep and then they get woken by the cabin crew as you’ve hit turbulence and they need to check your belt. 

Make sure to do it up over your blanket to avoid being woken up just as you’ve dropped off. 

11. Avoid late night meals

how to sleep on a plane

It’s tempting to just accept and eat everything you’re given, but think about it first – do you really need to eat another dinner? Is it lunch time when you land? It really helps me to sleep if I eat at normal times. So even if I have to buy food at the airport, if I know it’s going to help me adjust better at the other side, then I’ll do it. 

I also hate being trapped in by my food, like I’m in a high chair, so if I can, I say no. 

12. Turn off that TV

Work out what time it is where you land and adjust your TV viewing accordingly. You really don’t need to watch that whole series, or every film ever. They’re better at home and you’ll be better off going to sleep anyways. 

How to sleep on a flight 

Basically, have the right tools, dress well, get comfy and avoid any distractions. You can do it. Good luck!

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