Top tips for sleeping well on a plane

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Planning a trip to a faraway place is exciting, but you might have to take a long-haul flight to get to your dream destination. To arrive feeling refreshed and ready to explore, you’ll want to sleep (at least a few hours) on the plane, but that can be tricky for even seasoned travelers. Noisy neighbors, rocky turbulence, crying babies — although distracting, these things 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 on every long-haul flight. Here are the secrets of sleeping well on a plane. Read on for the top tips for sleeping well on a plane.

Choose Your Seat 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. In contrast, seats located further away from the galley or restrooms are ideal if you want to avoid any commotion of people passing by throughout the flight. Bulkhead seats have extra room to stretch your legs since there’s no one directly in front of you, but they’re sometimes close to the restrooms and galleys, which can be distracting.

right seat in plane
Image Source: Million Mile Secrets

Stay At The Right Temperature

Science suggests that the temperature for optimal sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. While cabins are generally kept between 71 and 75 degrees, temperatures fluctuate in different cabin zones and when a plane takes off, is in flight, and lands.

sleeping well
Image Source: Bright Side

Wear Bed Socks

A pair of socks. Studies show that wearing warm socks can increase sleep efficiency by 7.6% and lower awakenings by 7.5 times.

In addition to a blanket, you may also want to kick off your shoes and wear some bed or flight socks.

Socks for air journey
Image Source: Reflex Wear

Power Down Your Devices

A device with a low battery. Blue light from phones can suppress melatonin and disrupt your sleep-wake cycle. So here’s the deal: if you’re hoping to catch some sleep, you’ll need to unplug from your phones, tablets, and mobile devices.

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Image Source: 9to5Google

Wear A Light-Blocking Eye Mask

Natural light can also delay your sleep. Dim the lights as much as possible and wear a heated eye mask to block light.

Eye Mask
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Listen To Pink Noise

An ear with sound waves moving toward it. Listening to pink noise can decrease the time it takes to fall to sleep by 38%. Instead of your favorite playlist, you may want to consider pink noise or music for sound sleep. Unlike white noise, which plays evenly at the same frequency, pink noise intensity decreases as the frequency increases. Think beach waves, steady rainfall, and rustling leaves, the sound that makes you sleep.

Wear Noise-Canceling Headphones Or Earplugs

A pair of headphones with soundwaves is coming out. Wear noise-canceling headphones to combat the sound of a plane cruising, which is equivalent to a running vacuum. You might not realize it, but airplane noise is loud. A pair of noise-canceling headphones or earplugs as a sleep therapy sound machine can help block out the noise.

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Image Source: USA Today

Uncross Legs And Use Footrests

When you cross your legs, you apply pressure to one side of your body. While it may help get you into a more relaxed position, crossing your legs can restrict blood flow and increase your chances of a blood clot on long flights.

Lean Backward With Proper Support

Reclining at 135 degrees is considered the safest, most comfortable angle for sleeping on a plane. Don’t take armrests lightly. Armrests can alleviate back pressure, which often prevents sleep. Rest your forearms on top of the rests to support your upper body and take some of the work off your spine.

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Image Source: Matador Network

Add A Pillow To The Lower Seat Back

A person is touching their aching back. Having lumbar support on a plane can reduce back pain and discomfort, making it easier to fall asleep.

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Embrace A Neck Pilow

A u-shaped neck pillow that provides chin support can decrease your head movements during sleep. A big reason why we can’t sleep on planes is that our heads aren’t adequately supported. We know neck pillows look a little awkward. A U-shaped pillow wrapped around the head supporting the chin provided the least head movements, leading to less discomfort during sleep.

neck pillow
Image Source: Club Thrifty

Avoid Alcohol And Caffeine

A warm cup of coffee next to a bottle of dark liquor. Avoid drinking caffeine as it can stay in your body for up to 14 hours and prevent you from falling asleep. Alcohol can also prevent deep sleep.

Alcohol can lead to more awakenings, worse sleep quality, and less deep sleep. Plus, you will feel dehydrated and dizzy, amplifying the dreaded jet lag. Caffeine can remain in your body for up to 14 hours, delaying your circadian clock and preventing you from getting some needed shuteye.

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Image Source: Wonder Wardrobes

Try Lavender Aromatherapy

Two lavender flowers. Illustration. Studies show that the scent of lavender can slow your heartbeat and relax your muscles, increasing deep sleep.

lavender aromatherapy
Image Source: The Sourcery

Don’t want to take sleeping pills? Try whiffing some lavender instead. Lavender increased slow-wave sleep among participants. Slow-wave sleep is deep sleep where the heartbeat slows and muscles relax — exactly the sleep you need on a plane!

Munch On Potassium-High Snacks

A half-eaten banana. Bananas have been shown to induce sleep due to the magnesium and potassium content.

The magnesium and potassium present in bananas can help regulate blood pressure and induce some fruitful sleep.

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Image Source: Forbes

Stay Humid And Hydrated

A large water bottle with droplets around it. Inhale a cup of hot water and drink water every hour to combat low airplane humidity. Although keeping your home around 30 to 50 percent humidity, airplane cabins usually have less than 20 percent humidity.

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Image Source: The Independent

Practice Mindfulness Meditation

During all that traveling stress, we often forget to unwind. One way to relieve stress is through mindfulness meditation, a practice where you focus on heavy breathing and being aware of the present moment. Mindfulness breathing leads the participants to have less insomnia, less fatigue, and overall better sleep.

Take It Easy On Your Arrival Day

Even frequent fliers have trouble falling asleep on planes — between the noise, uncomfortable seats, and excitement about reaching your destination, it can be hard to get quality rest. However, most experts agree that it’s best to stay up and acclimate to the local time zone when you arrive, so try not to fall asleep as soon as you get to your hotel. Also, take it easy and avoid packing too much into your arrival day, so you’re not too sleepy for the rest of your vacation.


So why can’t we get some sleep in the air? Simply put, it’s a mix of the seat structure, less-than-ideal cabin conditions, and our sleep cycles. A plane is not the best place to sleep. But it’s not impossible. If you can maximize your sleep environment, you’ll have some quality plane sleep and arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to go.

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