11 Tips for How to Sleep on a Plane

Get some shuteye during your next red eye.

Traveling to a faraway place can be exciting, but it may require a long-haul flight. To arrive feeling refreshed and ready to explore, you’ll want to sleep on the plane. This can be tricky – even for seasoned travelers. Distractions like noisy neighbors, turbulence, and crying babies are simply out of your control, so focus on what you can do to make your flight more comfortable. As a frequent flier who takes her sleep schedule very seriously, I’ve acquired some tips and tricks that I use on every long-haul flight. Here are my top tips for how to sleep on a plane.

Splurge on first class (or premium economy).

The lie-flat seats in first class provide ample space and privacy for an optimal mid-flight snooze, although you can still have comfort without going over budget. Compromise with a premium economy seat. You’ll get extra legroom, more space to recline, and (depending on the airline) even wider seats – all for less than the price of a business or first-class ticket

Choose a seat in the main cabin wisely.

If you’d rather save money and stick to the main cabin, choose your seat strategically. Some fliers prefer window seats so they have something to lean against while catching some shut-eye, while other fliers prefer seats located further from the galley or restrooms to avoid the commotion of people passing by throughout the flight. Bulkhead seats mean that nobody can recline their seat into your personal space, but they’re sometimes close to the restrooms and galley, which can be distracting.

Consider the flight’s timing.

If you’re planning for a long-haul flight that crosses multiple time zones, you’ll need to keep a few things in mind. Dedicated travelers might try to adjust their sleep schedules days ahead of the flight to better accommodate their destination’s time zone, but you don’t need to upend your daily life to get some shut-eye on your journey. When choosing a flight, consider the times that best fit your typical sleep schedule. For example, if you’re flying to Europe from the U.S. and have options for overnight flights departing at 7 p.m. or 11 p.m., pick the time closest to when you would normally fall asleep.

Fly direct whenever possible.

To maximize your sleep time, choose a direct flight if you can. Two four-hour flights might allow you to sleep for a few hours total, but one eight-hour flight will let you settle in and get cozy for several hours, feeling far more refreshed when you reach your destination. Plus, you won’t have to stress over making any connecting flights when you go direct.

Skip the coffee.

Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages just before the flight, and ask your doctor for advice if you’re thinking about taking any sleeping aids or supplements to help you fall asleep. If certain foods or alcohol make it difficult for you to sleep normally, you’ll want to pass on those before and during your flight, too. And don’t forget to stay hydrated.

Don’t skimp on accessories.

Sure, neck pillows, headphones, and eye masks might take up a little extra room in your carry-on, but you’ll be happy you packed them once the lights go down and you have hours to go before you reach your destination. Invest in a comfortable sleep mask that will block out light and a neck pillow that will support your head. While horseshoe-shaped neck rings are most common, there are tons of innovative options that cater to different needs. And high-quality, noise-canceling headphones will block out loud neighbors and the plane’s white noise.

Dress for the occasion.

We all want to look like glamorous jet-setters upon arriving at our final destination, but this is one time when you might want to put comfort over style. A comfortable travel outfit is a must, and be sure to wear layers for better sleep. Plane temperatures can range from toasty to downright freezing, so wear a cardigan or sweater to stay warm and cozy during your flight.

Buckle up.

The last thing you need interrupting your sleep? Plane protocol. Whether you use the plane’s blanket or bring your own, be sure to fasten your seatbelt over it, so flight attendants know you’re buckled up and won’t have to disturb you in case of turbulence.

Stick to your sleep routine.

When it’s finally time to wind down, stick to your usual sleep routine. This could include meditation, stretching, or avoiding excess blue light from the in-flight entertainment system or your cell phone. Keep your toothbrush easily accessible, and make one last trip to the lavatory to wash your face and get ready.

Don’t cross your legs.

It’s more than natural to get restless on a long flight, but keeping your legs crossed for an extended period of time can keep your blood from flowing properly and will be more uncomfortable in the long run. Extend both legs straight out in front of you and keep a slight bend in your knees. If you’ve got long legs, avoid keeping a large personal item under the seat if it will limit how much space you have.


Easier said than done, but you’ll need to relax if you hope to catch some Zs on your next flight. Don’t stress if you can’t fall asleep right away — just sit back and try to get as much rest as you can before you land.

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