How to sleep on a plane: Tips to beat jet lag

Nothing can ruin the excitement of traveling quite like jet lag. Uncomfortable seats, limited legroom, noisy neighbors and turbulence can make falling asleep on a plane feel impossible.

If you often struggle to get a decent amount of shuteye while flying, you’re not alone. Plenty of travelers experience jet lag, but making some simple changes to your flying habits can help reduce the effects of sleep deprivation.

Consider these tips to land at your destination feeling well-rested and ready to make the most of your trip away.  

woman who knows how to sleep on a plane

Get comfortable

Boarding a flight with nothing but your passport and plane ticket makes you more vulnerable to jet lag. There’s no need to fill your entire carry-on case with sleep aides, but a few essential items can make a world of difference to your comfort levels.

Pack a neck pillow, some noise-canceling headphones, and an eye mask to make falling asleep easier. Distractions are inevitable on planes, but being able to block out the worst of the noise and bright lights can help put you in the right frame of mind for sleep.

A good book and relaxing music may also help you sleep on a plane.

flight attendants in plane

Choose your flight and seat carefully

Catching a long-haul flight first thing in the morning can add to that disoriented feeling associated with jet lag. You probably won’t feel like sleeping, and the bright sunshine streaming through the plane’s windows will make it more difficult to turn your brain off. Book a red-eye flight so you’ll be ready to fall asleep as soon as you take off.

Seat selection is another important consideration for beating jet lag. Sitting on the aisle offers some benefits, but beware of being the gatekeeper to the plane’s bathroom. Other passengers in your row will probably need to use the toilet eventually, especially on long-haul flights. Just imagine the frustration of finally falling asleep, only to be woken a few minutes later by a timid tap on the shoulder.

To enjoy hours of continuous shuteye, do your best to book a window seat. You won’t have to deal with as many interruptions, and you can use the wall of the plane for support while sleeping.

Booking a seat in the front row of the plane means you’ll have more legroom (although these seats often cost more).

on flight coffee

Avoid certain food and drinks

Caffeine is the nemesis of sleep, so try to avoid coffee and energy drinks before boarding a long-haul flight. Even if you need to get up at dawn to make your flight on time, try and resist the lure of a good latte. No matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to sleep with caffeine coursing through your veins.

Try herbal tea instead, or just stick with water. Flying can be very dehydrating, so it’s important to keep your fluids up. Avoiding alcohol can also help with your quality of sleep on a plane, as you won’t have to arrive at your destination with a hangover.

good night sleep

Get a good night’s sleep

Getting plenty of rest prior to flying overseas is key to beating jet lag. Try and contain your pre-holiday excitement and go to bed early the night before your flight departs. Don’t attempt to tire yourself out so you’ll sleep on the plane – this can backfire and make your jet lag even worse.

Get a good night’s sleep on an ultra-comfortable mattress from Sleepy’s.

No matter how much you manage to sleep during your flight, landing in a new time zone is bound to mess with your body clock. Jet lag is an integral part of international travel, so don’t feel bad if you arrive at your destination feeling a little worse for wear. Simply take a nap then get on with your travels!

About the author

Lily Madden is behind this free travel guest post, underlining the most important tips to follow if you want to get a good rest while flying and avoiding jet lag.

You too can become a guest blogger on The Travel Bunny.
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11 Thoughts to “How to sleep on a plane: Tips to beat jet lag”

  1. These are some really great and practical tips. I always fly at night so never really have a problem in falling sleepy. I really hate it though when the air hostess wakes me up for a meal – which I sleepily eat and go back to sleep!

  2. Jerry and Fiona

    Oh, I wish I could fall asleep on a plane, but I simply cannot get comfortable. Of course, I fear I will miss the meal, which is something I actually look forward to. Who says airplane food is bad?

    If it is a late/overnight flight I occasionally doze off for 10 minutes and usually wake up with a very stiff neck. I’m jealous of ANYONE who can grab some sleep for several hours.

  3. Some good advice here, though I must admit I never manage to sleep on the plane so I don’t even try now. I just plan time to catch up on arrival. The worst part of this is that my husband goes out like a light and arrives as fresh as a daisy!

  4. I have never had success sleeping on a plane and really don’t think I will until I can afford business class flights. My husband, however, follows all your advice and sleeps like a baby every time! My hack is to make sure my flight lands mid-afternoon so that I am able to go bed a few hours after I arrive.

  5. Oh the true battle of traveling!! How to get comfy on an airplane will remain and every lingering question! But your tips are great – caffeine truly is the enemy. Thanks for sharing.

  6. I love the points you listed here it is all so true and what an informative write up regarding jet lag. I love seating near the window as I can easily put my head in it. Caffeine is my best enemy I can’t really drink it it made me feel weak but I drink sometimes. Great post!

  7. These are all great suggestions. I recently invested in a new travel pillow for my long trip to Japan and it did wonders. I slept almost the entire duration of my flight. I still haven’t tried the eye mask. That will be next 🙂

  8. These are some really great tips. My favourite thing is to have a window seat and hunker into my little space and sleep! I have had some decent shut-eye on long haul flights. A couple of times I have fallen asleep before take off! Weird but true.

  9. Yukti

    Getting a perfect sleep in the plane is a big task and very necessary during long flight. Choosing the correct seat and avoiding certain food is very necessary for good sleep.

  10. Choosing the best seat is critical, and for that we use SeatGuru. As for window vs. aisle, both have advantages and disadvantages. There are times I will choose an aisle seat for a bit more feeling of space and elbow room depending on the plane and seat configuration and in that way sleep better. As a long-time traveler into time zones in all directions, jet lag does not have to be the downer everyone makes it out to be. You learn to adjust your sleep cycle a bit, starting before you leave for your trip, and then on the plane, don’t sleep a lot if your flight will arrive at night in your destination so you can go to sleep easily once to your hotel or hostel. Or, if your flight arrives during the day sleep on the plane and then DO NOT nap!!! Get out and go for a walk, and do you best to stay up and moving until it is time for bed.

  11. After many years of travelling and flying, I only recently discovered how to fall asleep and also realised that there are different levels of sleep. The type of food you eat and don’t eat has a huge impact and also preparing the right way for the long haul flight is key to sleeping on a plane. Great article!

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