A long flight is a great chance to catch up on some sleep – especially if it’s a really long flight. Who wouldn’t want to arrive at their destination bright eyed and bushy tailed? Not everyone finds it easy to sleep 30,000 feet in the air, but there are some things you can do to aid slipping into the land of nod, and to make the sleep time worth it.
1. Avoid Booze- and Drug-induced Sleep
The question is not "how to sleep on a plane," but how to sleep well on a plane. Without perhaps being aware of it, you do nod off now and again, but without proper REM cycle sleep, our brains cannot refuel properly, leaving us feeling shattered when we awake. Some people take tranquilizers prior to take-off, others sip several strong drinks. Nightcaps, however, won't help you sleep better. Rather, the reverse. There are dozens of studies confirming that alcohol consumption helps to dehydrate us, creating an even worse feeling of exhaustion and jetlag. Perhaps the worst side effect of booze is that it disrupts our natural sleep pattern; we need to pee more, so get up more often during the night. Instead of reaching for the old G&T, do relaxing things, like taking your shoes off and wiggling your toes or taking three deep breaths. Try meditation or a few yoga exercises before boarding.
2. Pack a Sleep Kit
Young children tend to take their snuggle blanket with them wherever they go – which is why the little blighters can snore their little heads off, no matter how loud their surroundings. They've got it sussed! Supporting your neck with a pillow during the flight will make you feel more comfortable – and the smell of the fabric conditioner of your own pillow will remind you of home, which will relax you. This should help to calm you and eventually, you'll drift off into sleep. Use a mask if you think it will help.
3. Don't Drink Coffee
Resist the temptation of asking the flight attendants for coffee, no matter how irresistible the scent of freshly brewed java might be. Coffee dehydrates your body and keeps you awake. That's its job – it's a stimulant, as is any type of black tea, chocolate, coke and anything with sugar in it. Ask for a room-temperature glass of water, warm milk or herbal tea (chamomile or comfrey).
4. Pick the Right Seat
Avoid sitting in the middle of two strangers, if you want to experience how to sleep on a plane rather than find out how to lose your temper on a plane. A window seat is usually the safest place, as aisle seats come with the risk of flight attendants knocking their trolleys into you or people on their way to the toilet bumping into you. Blow up your inflatable pillow and adjust your mask so light is eliminated. Adjust your seat to the most horizontal position possible. Now count sheep or dreamy flight attendants or your blessings. Websites like SeatGuru allow you to choose the best seat for snoozing purposes prior to check-in. You can also book a window seat when you make your ticket reservation.
5. Prepare for Your Flight While Still at the Airport
A few yoga or breathing exercises in the VIP lounge or terminal waiting area, followed by a visit to the bathroom can work wonders. If there's free WiFi, download relaxing songs, birds' dawn chorus, forests in a breeze or singing whales that you can listen to when the flight takes off, so you can relax more. Don't have a huge meal before the flight and don't booze. Be sure to leave home in plenty of time to catch your flight – panic will raise your blood pressure and stress you. Bring a crossword puzzle or Sudoku or download a game app to lull you to sleep.
6. Make Yourself Comfortable
Dress comfortably – loose-fitting sweaters, leggings and skirts are better than tight jeans and t-shirts. Be sure to check there's enough leg room, take your shoes off and slip into your comfy socks. Strap the inflatable pillow around your neck, adjust the little curtain or blind, if you have secured a window seat – you don't want sunlight glaring at you. Prop up your feet on the leg or footrest or adjust your seat into sleeping position, if you're a first class passenger. Have a little blanket to hand, in case the air conditioning is working overtime, blasting out arctic temperatures.
7. Don't Stare at a Screen
It may be tempting to work on your laptop or catch up with social media sites via your tablet or Smartphone. However, bluish light from screens is known to mess up our natural sleep hormone production. Instead, opt for a printed book to lull you to sleep with a good old-fashioned romance. Stay clear of thrillers, murder mysteries or other types of page turners that will get your heart pounding! The hormone melatonin makes us sleepy but requires darkness to get going. Unfortunately blue light decreases melatonin even more than full-spectrum white light.
I’m one of those people who are always too excited about her trip to sleep – no matter how long the flight – but I have tried some of these tips on occasion. Do you sleep or stay awake?