How to sleep on a plane

Unless you’ve broken the bank with a sleep-pod seat or some other lie-flat solution, an extended airline flight is not an easy place to get some rest. But, if you could just sleep through that eight or ten or sixteen hours (or even for a part of it!) then just think how much faster it would go.

Look, there’s no way it’s going to be as good as your bed at home, but you can still do a few things to give yourself a chance to get some rest on a long flight. Here are a few tips, including some you may not have thought of:

The basics:
Lay off the caffeine. That’s a no brainer. But caffeine will not just keep you up and make your brain race. Caffeine will also contribute to dehydration. This effect worsens the already bone-dry air on a plane in flight. Also, caffeine makes you have to use the toilet. That’s part of how you get dehydrated. Instead of increasing the chances that you will have to climb over sleeping neighbors or endure terrible discomfort, just skip the coffee. 

Despite the help it may provide in promoting sleepiness, alcohol is also not indicated. Just as with caffeine, beer, wine and spirits are diuretics that will dehydrate you. 

Noise cancelling headphones, a blanket and eye shades are all important. You want to try to tune out everything around you as much as possible. With these tools you can at least remove touch, sound and hearing in your quest for sensory deprivation.

Try to stay in your routine:
Your body is a creature of habit and you have trained it over the years to know when and for how long it needs sleep. If you can stick to that routine while flying, you will have a better chance to get some proper rest. This may mean booking a red-eye.

With long flights, it may be impossible to stay in a normal routine because of time change. The best strategy here is to plan ahead. By starting to adjust your internal clock before you travel, then you can more easily slide into the timezone of your destination. This may not directly relate to sleeping on the plane, but it’s still an important part of long voyages.

Take care of your body:
I know this is a bit vague, but think about the essential problem of sleeping on an airplane – you don’t have enough room. Since your body is folded into a seated position for hours, and you can’t engage in the normal movements that occur during sleep, there is a need to compensate. That means stretching before and during the flight. Be serious about this and get advice from a professional. It can make the journey easier to endure and avoid soreness felt after you get off the plane.

Follow a couple rules and plan ahead and you can start (and conclude) your next long distance trip rested and ready to take on whatever comes next.