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Ten Tips for Sleeping on Planes


Some air travelers have an almost magical ability to conk out as soon the plane engine revs and then stay asleep until landing. If you’re not one of the blessed few, here are 10 tips for making it easier to catch some zzz’s on your next flight.

  1. Book a window seat. Not only can you prop your head against the cabin wall or window, you won’t have seatmates waking you up every time they have to go to the bathroom.
  2. Dress comfortably. Leave your tight pants and stilettos in your suitcase and opt for loose-fitting, breathable clothing and comfortable shoes. Wear layers, as airplane cabins have an amazing ability to change from hot and stuffy to cold and breezy and back again over the course of a flight.
  3. Avoid caffeine. It might be tempting to whittle away your time with a latte while waiting to board, but you’ll pay for it later. Also skip the tea and coffee service onboard the plane.
  4. Drink water. While you don’t want to drink so much that you’ll have to keep getting up to use the toilet, staying hydrated will make it easier for your body to rest. As water may not be readily available to you throughout a flight, bring your own bottle.
  5. Bring pillows and blankets. Nowadays with some airlines charging for pillows and blankets or removing them from the plane to save money, it’s best to bring your own. That way you can also be sure to have a product that works for you, whether it be a neck pillow, an inflatable cushion, or fleece blanket. If you forget yours at home, most airports have shops that sell them.
  6. Bring an eye cover. Some airlines may give you eye covers for international flights, but you can’t count on it, so bring your own. You’ll look silly, but it’s amazing how blocking out light can make it easier to nod off.
  7. Bring ear plugs. If you plan to use ear plugs, try out a few different brands before you fly. Everyone’s ear canals are shaped differently and not all brands may work for you.
  8. Bring noise-canceling headphones. A good pair of earplugs is usually enough to help me fall asleep, but on some particularly noisy planes I’ve found it helpful to also wear headphones (with or without soft music playing) that cover my ears.
  9. Fasten your seat belt over your blanket. The flight attendants will wake you up if they can’t see it.
  10. Consider sleep aids, but be careful. Before you take any sleep medication, talk to your doctor about which might work for you. Melatonin is a mild, natural sleep aid many travelers find helpful, although it may not be enough for some. If you’re going to take anything stronger, make sure the flight is long enough (eight or more hours) so the product can work through your system. The last thing you want to do is wake up in another country feeling like you just chugged a bottle of whiskey.

Do you have any other ideas for how to sleep well on planes? Share your tips below.

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