10 ways to sleep better on a plane

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Later this week I’m flying to Chile, a trip I’m immensely looking forward to – apart from the overnight plane journey there and back. However hard I try I never seem to manage to sleep for more than a couple of hours which is infuriating when my fellow passengers seem to crash out from the moment the meal is over until the time they get woken for breakfast.

I’ve tried eye masks, earplugs and neck pillows none of which seem to make a blind bit of difference. The only thing that works is a sleeping tablet and you’re not supposed to take those in case you get DVT or are too dozy to take decisive action i an emergency,

So I thought I’d research the accumulated wisdom online to see if I could pick up a few tips:

1. Pick the right seat for you. If you’re tall get as much leg-room as possible. That’s not easy in economy obviously but you can get a little bit extra in an aisle seat. On the other hand you’re less likely to be disturbed in a window seat. Apparently you should try and sit the side of the plan you normally sleep according to this article – so on the right hand side if you sleep the right hand side of the bed. seatguru.com is a useful site that highlights the best seats on different planes. Avoid busy areas around the toilets.

2. Fly midweek rather than at the weekend – there’s more likely to be extra space next to you. If you spot a free row ask the flight attendant if you can move. (Everyone else will of course have the same idea so stake your claim as soon as you can.)

3. Don’t overdo the booze – a glass or even two is relaxing. Anything more and it’s more likely to disturb your sleep. As of course is coffee . . .

4. Take your own headphones. They’re likely to be more comfortable and block out the noise more effectively than the ones they provide on board. If you tend to find the noise of the plane engines distracting invest in some noise-cancelling headphones, which are also invaluable if there’s a howling baby in the row in front of you.

5. Prepare some soothing playlists of favourite music or relaxing sounds like breaking waves. I might try this specially composed Night School Sleep music. Even an audiobook may be more soporific than watching a film.

6. Try and resist the temptation to spend the flight glued to your electronic reader. Just as at home the bright light will make it harder for you to sleep

7. Acquire or upgrade your travel pillow. Clearly my rather basic foam one doesn’t offer me the support and comfort that more sophisticated pillows do. I must say I like the look of this cashmere one and the J pillow looks intriguing. There are other suggestions here.

8. Take your own travel blanket. OK, it adds to your carry-on luggage but it’s so much nicer – let alone more hygienic – than the synthetic blankets they hand out for free. If you haven’t got the budget for one these wildly expensive cashmere travel wraps (me neither) you can buy one for about £12. Remember to buckle up over your blanket so the flight attendant doesn’t wake to check you’ve got your seatbelt on.

9. Take a cosy pair of socks. Same principle. It’s all about comfort.

10. Sniff a calming essential oil. Having got used to the Neal’s Yard Body Butter I might try their aromatherapy nighttime blend. This Body Shop spritz also looks good. Obviously you don’t want to asphyxiate your neighbour so don’t overdo it …

So, the overall message is make yourself as relaxed as possible and do what you feel comfortable with. I’ve left out the advice to change into your PJs because I’d feel such a wally. I will however get a new travel pillow and travel blanket and report back how I get on!

Do you have any top tips for sleeping on planes?

This entry was posted in insomnia, Sleep remedies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 10 ways to sleep better on a plane

  1. Catherine M. says:

    Such timely advice. Anticipating a cross country flight this month…with a baby. Any tips for better sleep for the family on the plane?? Thanks again!

  2. In my experience kids sleep raher better than their parents. So long as they’ve got their favourite toy/blanket. Good luck with the flight – we’ll have to compare notes

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