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We Spent 30 Hours Researching the Best Hacks for Sleeping on Planes - Here are the Findings
Whether you are embarking on the adventure of a lifetime, or closing that business deal across the world, your journey probably starts with a flight.
Even though flying is a common part of our modern lives, sleeping well (or at all) is a struggle and challenge for many. It’s frustrating to see the person next to you sleeping soundly while you can’t even get a nap!
Even though there are hundreds of articles giving tips on how to sleep better when traveling, they either only touch the surface of the problem, or are written by people who rarely travel at all.
So we decided to do something about it.
We spent almost 30 hours researching the best ways to fall and stay asleep on flights of any length, and combined it with our own experience as frequent travelers.
We’re pumped to share our findings with you.
You’ll want to book a flight just to try them out!
Are You Ready to Upgrade Your Sleep?
Read on to find out.
Avoid Back and Neck Pain With a Travel Pillow
You’re probably among the 87% of passengers who say they suffer from serious back and neck pain after a flight.
That same survey also revealed that 75% of flyers would be happy to pay up to $50 more for a special seat to prevent neck pain.
It’s just not possible to get any rest on a flight when your back or neck is aching.
Fortunately, the right travel pillow can go a long way to help you.
Look for a travel pillow that:
- You can adjust to fit your unique sleeping position
- Has great neck support
- Is lightweight and inflatable (so you can save space in your luggage and get the right amount of firmness)
- Is machine washable (to prevent those annoying travel breakouts)
- Is made from a comfortable material
Know Where to Sit
Before you can sleep, you have to sit.
Book with airlines that let you pre-select your seats. This way, you can avoid any last-minute seating disasters.
Check out sites like:
These sites will let you get updates when better seats become available.
To ensure you’ll be as comfortable as possible, upgrade to premium economy class. They are only marginally more expensive, and you’ll get extra legroom.
Stay away from the seats closest to the toilets.
In addition to the inevitable smell, you’ll also be exposed to lots of distractions.
Also, avoid seats near the back of the plane. This is where the cabin crew will frequently enter and exit from.
Don't Fall Asleep Right Away
We know it’s tough, but resist the temptation to fall asleep a few minutes after takeoff.
Because even if you’ve done your best to block out external sounds, you’re likely to wake up once the food starts being served.
Then, it’ll be even tougher to fall asleep.
Wait until everyone is settled, and the lights are switched off, before you start dozing.
Watch What You Eat and Drink
We know that airplane food isn’t always appetizing, and you might want to snack before getting on a flight.
However, it’s crucial that you avoid overeating before a flight. Don’t get trapped by the idea that you need to “store” food in your system for the journey ahead.
Same goes for drinking alcohol or anything else to “calm down.”
First, this will make for frequent trips to the bathroom, which will certainly make it tough to sleep.
Additionally, over-indulging can also impact your hormone production and circadian rhythms. This is a recipe for disaster.
“Try to adapt your “feeding” clock and avoid jet lag with a period of fasting,” Dr. Clifford B. Saper of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston says.
Don’t Take Prescription Sleeping Pills
Thinking of popping some pills to make sleeping easier?
Not a good idea.
You’ll likely only feel all the more exhausted when you land. You may even sleep through your layover, or forget carry-on luggage in your disorientation.
Plus, we’ve all seen what happened to Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in The Wolf Of Wall Street when he mixed medication with flying.
Don’t be that guy.
Focus On Your Posture
Posture is as important as comfort in inducing sleep. A bad posture could make it difficult for you to fall asleep quickly. Worse, you’ll wake up groggy and ache all over.
“A large percentage of the population will experience back problems at some point in their lives. It is oftentimes caused or aggravated by how a person sleeps.” Dr. Hooman Melamed, an orthopedic spine surgeon at the DISC Sports & Spine Center in Los Angeles, Calif. says.
To ensure correct spine alignment and proper circulation, sit with:
- Your legs uncrossed
- Your knees slightly bent
- A straight back (without over-correcting your posture)
Block Out Noise...
Invest in some earplugs to block out the screaming baby three aisles up.
Or, you could simply pipe in some white noise from an app on your phone.
Michael Breus, Ph.D. sleep expert says, “Reputable studies find that music with a rhythm of about 60 beats a minute helps people to fall asleep. As you are falling asleep, your heart rate begins to slow, and starts to move toward that 60-beats-per-minute range.”
- Relaxio for Android or Airsleep /for iPhone
- Binaural Meditation & Sleep music, a youtube channel with hours and hours of free music. Available for download ($9.99) at iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon
When you’re flying, it can be tempting to plug into all those movie choices. However, this can make it challenging to actually get some sleep on your flight. Those movies will be there after your vacation.
Get some shut-eye instead.
And Eliminate Light
Even when the cabin lights are dimmed, small lights from television screens and even power buttons can also throw off your sleep cycle.
Want to ensure you don’t arrive at your destination feeling groggy and wishing you’d stayed home? If so, throw a sleep mask in your carry-on.
You’ll land at your final destination feeling rested and ready to go!
Why It Matters
So, why should you care about being able to sleep on a plane? (Hint: it’s not just so you can hit the ground running once you land.)
Aside from jet lag, a study found that frequent air travel can:
- Lead to an increased likelihood of mood disorders
- Cause cognitive problems
- Cause heart disease or cancer
- Increase the likelihood of stroke
- Weaken your immune system
- Make you 100 times more likely to catch a cold from another passenger
- Cause dehydration
Thanks to these tips, you’ll stay healthy and land at your final destination feeling fresh -- and up for anything.
Wondering why some people look fresh and well-rested after a long flight? Here are the best hacks for sleeping on planes!
Disclaimer: The information contained in this website or provided through our blog, e-mails, or programs is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment that can be provided by your healthcare professionals.