Let’s face it: sleeping on an aircraft isn’t exactly pleasant. Sleeping in the sky is difficult to come by (unless you’re travelling first class or have the ability to knock out anyplace) due to the sardine-packed spaces and incessant noise.
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When you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll be exhausted and have jet lag when you get at your destination. It doesn’t have to be this way all of the time. Working around these restrictions can improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep onboard.
Continue reading for our science-backed* tips on how to sleep on a plane.
1. Stay at the right temperature.
The ideal sleeping temperature, according to science, is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures fluctuate in different zones of the cabin and when a plane takes off, flies, and lands, despite the fact that cabins are normally kept between 71 and 75 degrees. According to a research, 60 percent of flights had temperature variations over 50 degrees. Dress in light, readily removable layers to avoid overheating and becoming cold as the plane descends in temperature.
Cooling head temperature also helped insomnia patients attain the same sleep quality as healthy participants, according to research from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. To create a sleep-friendly environment, try wearing a cooling cap.
2. Wear bed socks.
You may also wish to remove your shoes and put on some bed or flight socks in addition to a blanket. Feet-warming socks resulted in 7.6% greater sleep efficiency, 7.5 times fewer sleep awakenings, and 32 additional minutes of sleep, according to a study published in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology.
3. Power down your devices.
Here’s the deal: if you want to sleep, you’ll have to turn off your phones, iPads, and other mobile gadgets. Blue light released by phone screens disrupts your circadian rhythms and suppresses melatonin, the hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycles, according to a Harvard University study.
4. Wear a light-blocking eye mask.
Natural light might also make it difficult to fall asleep. Exposure to room light reduced melatonin duration by roughly 90 minutes, according to a research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Dim the lights as much as possible and cover your face with a mask to keep the light out.
5. Listen to pink noise.
Pink noise may be a better option than your preferred playlist. Pink noise strength drops as the frequency increases, unlike white noise, which plays equally at the same frequency. Consider the sound of crashing waves, steady rain, and rustling foliage. Listening to pink noise reduced the time it took participants to fall asleep by 38%, according to a small research published in Front Neurology.
6. Wear noise-canceling headphones or earplugs.
Airplane noise is loud, even if you don’t notice it. A cruising jet emits 85 decibels, which is similar to a vacuum running, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. According to a study published in the Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, aircraft noise causes sleep difficulties in people who live near airports. It’s no surprise that sleeping on an aircraft is difficult! Noise-canceling headphones or earplugs can assist in noise reduction.
7. Uncross legs and use footrests.
You exert pressure on one side of your body when you cross your legs. Crossing your legs, while it may help you relax, might limit blood flow and raise your risk of a blood clot on long flights, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maintain a small bend in your knees while keeping both legs straight.
Another idea is to keep personal belongings and luggage out of the underseat area so you can stretch and get blood flowing to your feet. Additional support might be provided with a footrest.
8. Lean backward with proper support.
If you’re flying in Economy, you may have limited options for reclining your seat. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, leaning back to a 135-degree angle while sleeping is the safest position since it relieves pressure on the body and reduces the risk of a blood clot. You’ll want to recline back 40 degrees in your seat, but don’t do it all the way.
Armrests are not to be taken lightly. Armrests can relieve back pressure, which commonly prevents sleep, according to a study published in the Orthopedic Clinics of North America. To support your upper body and relieve some of the strain on your back, rest your forearms on top of the rests.
9. Add a pillow to the lower seat back.
The truth is that our bodies aren’t built to sleep on our backs. Even at work, sitting upright puts a strain on our bodies. Place a rolled-up jacket, blanket, or small cushion across the lower seatback to support your spine’s natural S-curve. Long-haul travel comfort and back pain can be improved with sufficient lumbar support, according to sleep specialists.
10. Embrace a neck pillow.
Our heads aren’t properly supported on planes, which is one of the main reasons we can’t sleep. Neck pillows, we understand, appear to be a little strange. According to a study published in Human Factors and Ergonomics, a U-shaped cushion wrapped around the head and supporting the chin caused the least head movements, resulting in reduced discomfort when sleeping.
11. Avoid alcohol and caffeine.
Not the booze, of course! Unfortunately, drinking alcohol will not help you sleep on an airplane. Alcohol can lull you to sleep at first, but studies suggest that it can lead to more awakenings, poor sleep quality, and less deep sleep. Furthermore, you will wake up dehydrated and drowsy, exacerbating the dreaded jet lag.
Caffeine is another something that coffee drinkers should avoid. Caffeine can stay in your body for up to 14 hours, slowing your circadian clock and preventing you from obtaining some much-needed rest, according to Science Translational Medicine.
12. Try lavender aromatherapy.
If you don’t want to take sleeping medications, there are other options. Instead, take a smell of lavender. Lavender was proven to increase slow-wave sleep in a brief research conducted by psychologists at Wesleyan University. Slow-wave sleep is a type of deep sleep in which the heartbeat slows and muscles relax, which is ideal for flying.
13. Munch on potassium-high snacks..
Good night, and good night, and good night, and good night, and good night, and good night, and good While it’s best to avoid heavy foods, research published in the International Journal of Tryptophan Research suggests that the magnesium and potassium in bananas can help control blood pressure and promote restful sleep.
14. Stay humid and hydrated.
Although the EPA recommends maintaining a humidity level of 30 to 50 percent in your home, airline cabins typically contain less than 20 percent humidity. According to studies, these desert-like circumstances can dry out your nasal passages, making it difficult to sleep.
The National Institute of Health recommends using a humidifier to relieve nasal congestion. Because it’s not rational to bring one on board, you can either use nose drops or inhale a cup of hot tea, water, or coffee to keep your nasal passages clear. To fight the dry air, experts recommend consuming 8 ounces of water for every hour spent in the air.
15. Practice mindfulness meditation.
We often forget to relax in the thick of all the travel stress. Mindfulness meditation, a technique that focuses on heavy breathing and being aware of the present moment, is one way to decrease stress. Mindfulness breathing leads to decreased insomnia, fatigue, and overall improved sleep, according to a clinical study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
What to Do Before You Fly
Now that you’ve learned some onboard sleeping guidelines, you may do some further planning just before you fly, as well as in the days leading up to your arrival at the airport.
Choose the right seat.
Choose a seat based on the side of the bed you usually sleep on. Get a window seat if you can, as you can rest your head on the windows for support. Seats closer to the exit rows provide more leg room, thus they’re more comfortable. If at all feasible, schedule your flight for when you’d normally be in bed.
Change your sleep schedule before the flight.
Ambient light affects our circadian cycles; adding light in the evening keeps us awake and delays our clocks, while eliminating light allows us to sleep earlier. Our biological clocks take about 24 hours to change by one hour, according to sleep specialists. To get closer to your goal destination, use this rule of thumb to gradually adjust your sleep schedule.
Follow a routine.
When you’re at the airport, do things like reading a book, wearing lounge pants, and brushing your teeth that you would normally do before sleeping. It will help your mind to believe that you are in the middle of your typical evening routine before going to bed.
Exercise before the flight.
Exercise is the panacea for all ills. Resistance training, in particular, was found to reduce the time it took to wake up after falling asleep in a research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
Sleeping on a Plane with Sleeping Pills
According to Expedia, 15% of travelers use sleeping pills “usually or occasionally” to help them sleep. While sleep aids are effective, they may cause long-term health concerns. Sleepwalking, dehydration, and prolonged grogginess are all side effects of sleeping pills like Ambien and Benadryl, and they put you at risk for a blood clot on a lengthy flight.
Melatonin is a safer sleep aid because it is created by your body. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews discovered that a dosage of 0.5 to 5 mg will help you fall asleep faster. What’s the catch? Melatonin should be taken five hours prior to a flight.
Using a natural sleep aid like lavender as an alternative to sleeping pills can help you relax. Bananas, almonds, cherry juice, chamomile tea, and high-carb foods have also been proved to help with sleep.
How to Sleep on a Plane When You Snore
On a plane, snoring sounds like a nightmare. What causes us to snore? As we breathe or exhale, tissues along our airways vibrate, causing snoring. Try sitting erect and reclining at an angle to reduce snoring. In this position, the gravitational effect can help minimize vibrations.
Alcohol should also be avoided by heavy snorers, as it relaxes the airway muscles and causes louder snoring. Allergy medications, nasal dilators, and anti-snoring mouthpieces can help relieve symptoms and keep soft tissues from blocking airways. Hydration is important because it prevents mucus from accumulating in your throat, which can exacerbate your snores.
So, why aren’t we able to catch some rest in the air? It’s a combination of the seat construction, less-than-ideal cabin circumstances, and our sleep cycles, to put it simply. Sleeping on a plane is not recommended. However, it is not impossible. You’ll get some good airline sleep and arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to go if you can optimize your sleeping environment. Sleeping in a car, plane, boat, or other moving vehicle doesn’t have to mean missing out on sleep if you follow some easy recommendations.
Check out our infographic below for all of the science-backed advice we gave. To find out where each sleep statistic came from, click on the link next to it. The sleep numbers and sources have not been independently confirmed by Casper.
Sleeping must-haves for long flights
First and foremost, the things you have on hand can make all the difference. What you have with you matters, whether it’s a sturdy place to lay your head or an eyemask to block off the overhead light of the passenger in front of you.
EverSnug Travel Blanket and Pillow
Amazon has it for $27.95.
On your next lengthy travel, don’t be scared to pack your own warm blanket and pillow. Simply ensure that you have a set that won’t take up too much room in your carry-on luggage.
Because it’s lightweight and can be used as a blanket or a cushion, the EverSnug Travel Blanket and Pillow is ideal for long journeys. You can use it as a cushion by leaving it in its case, but you can also unzip it and use the soft 65-inch by 40-inch blanket within. This item is not only inexpensive, but it’s also ideal for times when you only need a pillow or a blanket, but not both.
Imily Bela Women’s Knitted Wrap Cardigan
$43.99 at Amazon
Nicole LeBlanc of Mon Voyage Travel, a travel planner, says she usually boards a plane dressed in long, loose-knit attire equivalent to a nightgown. Then layer up with Imily Bela’s comfortable travel cardigan, which can provide an extra layer of comfort on overnight trips. This cardigan is not only machine washable, but it’s also under $50 and comes in 17 different colors on Amazon.
Travelrest Ultimate Travel Pillow
Amazon has it for $29.95.
When you’re trying to sleep upright, LeBlanc advises the Travelrest Ultimate Pillow for improved comfort. This travel pillow is specially designed to provide comfort whether you’re sitting in the aisle, close to the window, or in the dreaded middle seat.
“I have no idea why this strange comma and banana shape works better for me,” LeBlanc adds. “When deflated, it rolls up like a croissant and can be stored conveniently.”
Bucky 40 Blinks No Pressure Beauty & Travel Eye Mask
Amazon has it for $12.99.
LeBlanc also sleeps with a mask on, the Bucky 40 Blinks No Pressure Beauty & Travel Eye Mask. It’s made of lightweight molded foam that’s curved to keep pressure away from your eyes. It won’t smear your makeup and lets you blink freely while blocking light.
Other sleep masks to try are Brooklinen’s Mulberry Silk Sleep Mask and Mavogel’s Cotton Sleep Eye Mask, which ranked first on our list of the best sleep masks of 2022.
Cabeau Evolution S3
Amazon has it for $39.99.
The Cabeau Evolution S3 was dubbed the “Goldilocks of travel pillows” during our testing. The cushion is sturdy enough to support your head and neck but soft enough to allow you to fall asleep on it. It’s also comprised of a springy memory foam material that compresses into a small travel carrier that fits conveniently in your bag. This cushion strikes the ideal balance between comfort and portability.
Houcopa 2-Pack Collapsible Water Bottle
Amazon has it for $21.99
Nothing is more unpleasant than becoming dehydrated several hours into a long-haul journey. Rather than relying on a flight attendant to bring you water, it’s a good idea to bring your own.
Houcopa’s foldable water bottle set includes two bottles made of food-grade silicone that fold down for easy transport. You may easily bring it in your trip backpack and fill it with water once you’ve cleared airport security.
Huzi Infinity Pillow
Amazon has it for $39.90.
Since 2014, Derek Hales’ company NapLab has been testing sleep-related items. For a better night’s sleep on a lengthy flight, he swears by a nice travel pillow, and his favorite is the Huzi Infinity pillow.
He explains, “The pillow wraps around your neck and is adjustable, so you can receive the proper support where you need it.”
The pillow is comprised of bamboo fabric with microfiber layers, making it more breathable than cotton. Even better, the pillow is machine washable, making it simple to maintain. It also comes in eight various colors, allowing you to match it to your carry-on bag.
Bose QuietComfort 45 Noise-Canceling Headphones
$329 $279 at Amazon
Noise-canceling headphones can make all the difference when it comes to getting a decent night’s sleep on a plane. The Bose QuietComfort 45 are Hales’ favorite noise-canceling headphones, which he’s been using since 2016.
He describes them as “very well built, great performance, and compact for convenient travel.”
Alpine FlyFit Airplane Pressure Relief Earplugs
Amazon has it for $16.99
If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on noise-canceling headphones, a good pair of earplugs will enough to shield you from jet noise. Alpine FlyFit Pressure Relief Airplane On Amazon, earplugs cost less than $20 and filter out noise while also preventing ear ache while flying. They’re composed of re-usable hypoallergenic material and are shaped to fit comfortably in your ear canal. When you pair them with a soft neck pillow, your sleeping environment is guaranteed to improve.
$349.99 $278 at Amazon
This Sony set came out on top in our tests as the finest overall noise-canceling headphones. This is due to their superior sound quality and noise-cancelling abilities. So you’re in excellent hands with these headphones if you’re trying to block out the crying infant three rows ahead of you or the loud talk in the row behind you.
Sleepy Ride Airplane Footrest
Amazon has it for $19.99.
The Sleepy Ride footrest sling, according to travel writer Antonina Zaytseva of Embrace Someplace, has been a life-changing tool when it comes to making your legs and feet more comfortable during nighttime flights. It fits neatly beneath the front seat and allows you to relax your legs while traveling.
“At first, I was doubtful, but the device fits beneath the seat as long as you’re not keeping a heavy item underneath,” she explains.
Zaytseva goes on to say that this one product has improved her economy flight experience more than anything else. It’s designed to make you feel like you’re sitting in a recliner with your feet propped up on cushions when you’re using it, providing lower back support and reducing edema and stiffness.
Maliton Inflatable Travel Foot Rest Pillow
Amazon has it for $22.95
You can also use an inflatable travel footrest if you don’t like the notion of a footrest sling. This one from Amazon can be readily inflated once you’ve found your flying seat, and it comes with its own storage bag.
This inflatable footrest is not only for adults, but it could also be a great addition if you’re traveling with children. The footrest bridges the space between two seats, allowing kids to lie flat. A better night’s sleep for them almost usually means a better night’s sleep for you, especially if you have a spare room.
It’s worth mentioning that several airlines, including Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, Air France, and Qantas, don’t allow this product on their flights. Before ordering, double-check that your next long-haul carrier accepts this goods.
Convenience Kits International 10-Piece Amenity Kit
Amazon has it for $10.19.
On a long-haul flight, this 10-piece convenience kit has everything you’ll need to stay comfortable and clean. You’ll feel fresh when you arrive, with everything from a hair comb to lotion, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and deodorant.
What’s the best part? Because all of the goods in this amenity kit are TSA-approved, you can pack it all in your backpack or carry-on bag.
Bombas 3-Pack Compression Socks
At Bombas, the price is $72.
Compression socks are a must-have for travel expert Laurie Robinson of Ovation Travel Group, especially on lengthier, overnight trips.
“It keeps the blood flowing, which aids sleep and eliminates jet lag,” she explains. “I couldn’t believe it until I tried it for myself, and now it’s a staple.”
While compression socks are available virtually everywhere, this three-pack from Bombas is constructed of highly durable yarn and comes in three sizes as well as a variety of colors and patterns.