How To Sleep On A Plane

We think everyone can agree, trying to sleep on a plane is less than ideal. With the constant noise, restless neighbors, and little leg room—getting some solid, undisturbed sleep is no easy feat.

Whether you’re in economy or business class, the game plan is the same. The three key factors to getting decent shut eye on a flight comes down to temperature, light, and noise. Doing your best to create your ideal sleep environment with these three conditions in mind is how you can go from short naps to serious ZZZs.

Choose An Evening Flight

For flights that are extensive, be strategic in choosing a flight time. A flight that falls right under your typical bedtime can utilize the strength of your circadian rhythm. Other people will most likely be trying to sleep for a red-eye too, which means (hopefully) a quieter flight.

Pick Your Seat Carefully

Some might swear by it, but you don’t necessarily need to shell out cash for bulkhead seats, or the exit row. Even though your boss swears the extra few inches “make all the difference,” exit row seats don’t always recline. Not to mention bulkhead seats are often reserved for families, and can have armrests that won’t budge.

Instead, invest in a window or aisle seat. People don’t always realize, but you tend to naturally want to lean to one side. Know your body so that you can book on the left or right side of the aisle, giving you the perfect window seat to rest against. Stay away from lavatories and other places where people congregate, the activity will only disrupt your slumber.

Time Your Slumber

Avoid getting on board and trying to zonk out right away. On longer flights, the first hour or two will include in flight service, so carts will be in the way and things being passed over you.

Take this time to create your sleep space, have a light snack and some hot tea, then unwind with a book or magazine while you wait. After the carts are put away the cabin usually dims and shuts down for a 4-5 hours, giving you quiet sleep time.

Light Layers

The days of being dressed to impress while flying overnight are on the way out. Wear comfortable clothing that you can layer. If you feel constricted by your clothing, or your body isn’t at the right temperature, you’ll have a harder time drifting off. We love a big cozy hoodie that keeps you warm and your face cozy against that window glass.

At home you don’t sleep with your shoes on, and the same goes when sleeping on a plane. Socks are actually good at helping you fall asleep. Fly with a thick pair that keep you warm and protected from the dirty airplane floor. Bring slip on shoes to wear when you get up to stretch your legs, that way you aren’t flinging elbows trying to tie laces mid-flight.

Seated Sleep Positions

Struggling to fall asleep because you just can’t get comfy in that cramped airplane seat? There are two ideal positions for sleeping seated upright. 1) Recline. When you’re reclined back in your chair, the pressure on your lower spine will ease up.

If that isn’t working, or you can’t lean back, sit up straight. Roll up up a sweatshirt or use a small pillow to place behind your lower back. This will give you extra support and cushion, reducing that aching. Rest your forearms gently on the armrests to further relieve your upper body and reduce pressure on the spine.

Bring along a neck pillow to give your neck some support. If you’re not into neck pillows, most flights nowadays have headrests with little “wings” attached, so they bend and move to give your head a place to rest, even in the middle seat.

Keep Sipping (but not on alcohol)

Some people resist drinking water so they avoid having to get up and go to the restroom. If you know that you’ll be in a middle or window seat, step up your hydration game the full 24 hours before take off. Do not forgo water during your flight however, make sure you keep sipping the H2O so you don’t get dehydrated. And do yourself a favor and keep lip-balm in an accessible pocket on your carry-on.

Even though you may want to, a couple of alcoholic drinks is not the way to go if you’re trying to sleep.  It’ll actually prevent you from getting a restful few hours of shut-eye. If you’re someone who gets nervous flying and insists it will help, stick to no more than one glass of red.  


We know you packed them, but consider making a sleep playlist. Fill it up with white noise, nature sounds, or even guided sleep meditations. Headphones will help block out the many noises on an airplane. Say goodbye to the drone of the plane and wailing babies, and say hello to sweet sounds of dreamland.

The Truth About Sleep Aids

If you really want to take a sleep aid, stick to melatonin. If your flight is not going to give you at least a solid eight hours of sleep time, try to avoid it altogether. Taking a sleep aid just to land in five hours means the melatonin will not have worn off, and you will feel extra groggy when you land.

Limit The Light

Close those shades, and turn off your overhead light. If you’re flying during the day, bring a sleep mask along to block it all out. Glaring sunlight pouring in at 35,000 feet will only keep you awake.

Be sure to turn off the flight screen before you’re ready to snooze. Even though the flights typically have tons of new movies you’re dying to see, don’t put one on right before bed, or you’ll find yourself unable to turn away. If you’re someone who truly needs to sleep with the TV on, put on a movie or show that you’ve seen before so that plot anticipation doesn’t keep you up.

Eat Sparingly

Just like you shouldn’t eat a huge meal before bed, don’t load up on Chipotle burrito before you board. Spicy foods and other things that might give you an upset stomach should be avoided for obvious reasons. But if you’re super full, your body will be awake working to digest instead of settling down and getting ready to rest.

Stretch It Out

A couple hours in flight and your body just can’t take it? Stretching pre and mid flight can give some pressure relief and soothe tight muscles and joints. A relaxed body will make it easier to sleep.

Here are a few stretching yoga poses that can give you some relief right in your seat:

Seated Cat-Cow: 1) Place your hands gently on your knees, 2) Inhale, bringing your chest forward, and looking up 3) Exhale, round out your spine so that you are bringing your shoulders forward and you gaze down at your navel. 4) repeat for as many breaths as you need

Twist: 1) Place your left hand on your right knee 2) Inhale and twist your torso to look over your right shoulder 3) Exhale and breathe here for as long or little as you like 4) Repeat with the other side, bringing your right hand to your left knee, and twisting to look over your left shoulder

Seated Figure Four: 1) Take your right ankle and cross it over your left knee, making that four shape 2) Flex your right ankle 3) Forward fold to feel a deeper stretch 4) Repeat on the other side

Conclusion: Don’t Stress About Sleep

All in all, don’t stress about sleep. If you start the trip with the mindset that there is no way you’ll be able to sleep, you could actually psych yourself out of sleeping! Instead, adopt a mindset that you are prepared and ready to maximize this flight.

If you unsuccessful in getting a full uninterrupted eight hours, don’t be hard on yourself. Practicing and learning what works best for you will get you one step closer to the perfect slumber at 35,000 feet. So grab your blanket and bon voyage!