How to Sleep on a Plane

I just got back from London and Paris for the Thanksgiving holiday (more on that later). I flew Virgin Atlantic, and I highly recommend it. Despite all the plush amenities this airline offers, I, yet again, was unable to sleep on the plane – either on the red eye to London or on the midday return flight to the States.

Must be nice! (Healthy Living Blog)

Must be nice! (Photo Credit: Healthy Living Blog)

Whether it’s excitement about arriving at my destination or a skewed body clock, I can never settle in and get some shut eye. So I turned to the Internet – where else? – to pull together the best tips for using your meaningless hours on an airplane meaningfully – getting some rest.

Here are 8 ways to fall (and stay) asleep on an airplane:

  1. Pick the right itinerary. Multiple travel resources say the surest way to nod off is to select an itinerary that will have you flying when you normally would be asleep. If you depart at 7 p.m., you’ll have a few hours to read or watch a movie before easing into your slumber. Then, you can awake at a somewhat reasonable time (this is most true with transatlantic flights), allowing your rested body to adjust to your new time zone and environs.
  2. Make sure you’re sitting in a sensible spot. Most people (I am one of them) prefer to sit at the front of the plane. It makes for easier disembarkation when you’re ready to get off the vessel. But the front of the plane is typically the nosiest – it’s close to bathrooms, the cockpit and staff moving about. Sitting toward the middle of the aircraft means you’re less likely to be distracted by others on the plane. Real Simple suggests opting for the window seat of an exit row, but those spots are often hard to come by. The magazine says that in order to maximize your seat (and sleep) opportunities, fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
  3. Properly accessorize. If it’s bright outside, noisy on the plane or you just can’t manage to “turn your brain off,” a sleep mask and earplugs are a great option. They will simulate (as best as possible) a more normal sleeping environment. Frequent travelers may want to invest in Bose headphones.

    Keep your seat reclined at a 135 degree angle for maximum comfort.

  4. Adjust your seat. The indelible Daily Telegraph has discovered the proper way to align your seat for maximum rest. According to the British Chiropractors Association, the magic number is 135 (degrees, that is).
  5. Drink lots of water – before you get on the plane. Hydration is a critical component to restful sleep. Because you don’t want to scoot through the aisles every hour or two to pop into the loo, try to hydrate 12-24 hours prior to your flight. You’ll feel a lot better when you arrive at your destination, too.
  6. Avoid sugar. Food gives your body energy and thus, makes you antsy on board. Skip the snack or meal and snooze through your flight.
  7. Dress well. Then change. Well-dressed single passengers are the most likely to get bumped up to first class, upper class or business class. I try to dress professionally on planes. But once we take off, I’ll change into yoga pants, a sweatshirt and flip-flops. It’s harder to sleep in a suit for me, so packing a quick change is a good way to relax.
  8. Secure your seatbelt. Make sure you are wearing your seatbelt above your blanket or anything else you might be using while you sleep. This means you’re less likely to be disturbed by flight attendants who periodically check the cabin for safety purposes.

These tips should help you get to snoozing in no time. Now, if only I’d follow them!