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*This post was originally published in 2013 but has been updated.
Pre-pandemic, I used to fly over 150,000 miles a year and I’ve seen all kinds of methods and contraptions that passengers use to try and sleep better on airplanes. Everyone is different but flying as much as I do, I know what works. Here are 10 ways to help you sleep better on a plane.
1. An eye mask
Eye masks help you create an ideal sleeping environment by blocking out all the light. Instead of using the cheap, scratchy eye masks that the airlines sometimes pass out on long flights, I bring my own fluffy one. I might look silly in it but it feels so good and does the trick. My favorite is this sleep mask by Lewis & Clark but if you’re looking for something that’s 100% blackout, check out the Manta sleep mask on Amazon (you can read more about it here.)
Bringing earplugs is self-explanatory and is essential for a good night’s sleep.
3. Noise-cancelation headphones and soft music
If there’s a screaming baby near you, earplugs aren’t going to do the trick. In that case, pop on your noise-cancelation earbuds or headphones and play soft music, an audio book or meditation music to drown out the noise and put you to sleep.
4. Wear comfortable clothes
The temperature on planes always varies. One minute it can be freezing cold and the next, hot as hell. Be sure to dress in layers and wear comfortable clothes. On long flights, smart business travelers usually wear their suits when boarding and deplaning but in between, they change out of their restrictive clothing and into pajamas or sweats. Don’t forget to wear cozy socks, too.
5. Buckle up
If you don’t want to be disturbed by the flight attendants, wear your seatbelt over the outer garment of your clothing or blanket so they don’t have to wake you when they do their safety checks if the seatbelt sign goes on. If your seatbelt is visibly fastened, they won’t disturb you.
6. Pack food and water
If you don’t want to be restricted to the flight crew’s schedule, bring your own food and drink. At some major U.S. airports (ahem, LGA) taxi time can be up to an hour and once you are in the air, it’s usually 40 minutes before the crew brings out the food and drinks.
7. Get a window seat
If you want to sleep on a plane, the best seat is usually next to a window so you have something to lean against and you don’t have to worry about your seatmates waking you so they can use the loo. Consult SeatGuru.com for your best options.
When boarding, be sure to let the flight attendant know not to wake you for food or drink if you don’t want any, and kindly tell your seatmate when sitting down that you plan on sleeping and not to let the flight attendants wake you.
9. Bring a pillow or blanket
There are tons of different neck pillows on the market. Find out which one works for you and go with it. Also, not all airlines provide blankets so you might want to bring your own … or at least a cozy sweater.
10. Sleeping pills
I personally don’t take any kind of pills (including melatonin) and I don’t recommend them since I think everyone should be fully aware in case of an emergency. But I know many people who swear by them. Usually, the drug of choice is Ambien but always consult your doctor first and don’t try a medicine for the first time on a plane.
These are my tips. Am I leaving anything out? What works for you? Do you have a favorite travel gadget? If so leave your comment/suggestion below.
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.