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.  

sleep on a plane
How to sleep on a plane: Get comfortable

1. 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
How to sleep on a plane: Choose your seat carefully

2. 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
How to sleep on a plane: Avoid certain foods & drinks

3. 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 if you want to sleep on a plane easily. 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.

sleep before getting on a plane
How to sleep on a plane: Sleep well in advance

4. 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 guest post writer on the travel bunny

Lily Madden has many years of experience in all areas of flight attendant life, from domestic flights for an American-based airline to foreign long-haul flights for a European air company, as well as flying as a private cabin attendant. Lily’s curiosity, zeal, work ethic, and honesty are what make her remarkable.

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