I know as well as anyone that flying can be stressful no matter what time of day you take off, but when it comes to surviving overnight flights, there are always extra frustrations that also need to be taken into account. Tired of cramped seats and noisy neighbors keeping you awake all night long? While flying throughout the night may never be an incredibly enjoyable experience, here are seven tips for surviving overnight flights that have helped make my own travels a little less stressful.
1. Prevent Hunger and Thirst
During my very first overnight flight 10 years ago, I remember sitting awake the entire time because my stomach was growling and I’d failed to pack enough snacks. While bringing snacks and water on board is always wise no matter what the length of your flight, I learned the hard way that it’s especially important for surviving overnight flights. Since it’s impossible to get a good night’s rest when you’re incredibly hungry or thirsty, try to eat a healthy meal before you board, pick up a bottle of water after passing through security and throw plenty of extra snacks, like fruit, granola bars and crackers, into your carry-on. When eating beforehand, just be sure to avoid fatty and greasy meals, as they may leave you feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
2. Focus on Comfort
Just as it’s difficult to rest and feel comfortable when you’re overly hungry or thirsty, it’s also hard to do so when dressed in clothing that’s tight and restricting. While you may not be able to wear pajamas as comfortable as those you would at home, overnight flights are the perfect opportunity to throw on a cozy pair of sweatpants and slip into your favorite socks. Because temperatures on planes can be unpredictable, I also make sure to wear layers on top, like a T-shirt and cardigan.
3. Pack a Pillow
Unless you’re flying first class, chances are good that your seat’s headrest will leave much to be desired. That's why it’s always a great idea to pack a travel pillow you’ve tested out and know you like. My favorite, Total Pillow, can easily be twisted and rearranged to help support the neck and back as needed.
4. Bring an Eyeshade and Earplugs
Since you never know when you’ll be seated close to a crying infant or a night owl who wants to stay up working or reading, it's smart to bring along an eyeshade and set of earplugs. Even if you don’t end up using them, they take up so little space in your carry-on that you might as well be safe rather than sorry.
5. Get up to Stretch
Getting up to stretch, whether by visiting the lavatory or walking up and down the aisle, will help prevent blood clots caused by sitting for long periods of time, along with helping you avoid restlessness and sore muscles. Since it’s very rare that I sleep all the way through an overnight flight, I take an opportunity each time I wake up to get out of my seat for a short while, which in turn helps make it easier to rest again once I sit back down.
6. Listen to Soothing Music
When I can’t sleep during an overnight flight, listening to soothing music always helps put my mind at ease and block out excess noise. Also, as much as you can, avoid looking at bright lights from electronics like your iPad or smartphone, which may keep you awake.
7. Go Easy on the Alcohol
As tempting as it can be to use alcohol to help you sleep, it’s also incredibly dehydrating and will leave you feeling groggy and disoriented when it’s time to wake up. Instead of relying on alcohol, you’re by far better off sticking with water, which will help you stay hydrated and healthy no matter where your travels take you.
What are some of your best tips for surviving overnight flights? Have any of those listed here helped you out in the past?