a seat in an airplane

Fly first class. Drops mic…

It doesn’t matter where you’re sitting: getting quality sleep on a plane can be seriously tricky. Admittedly, a bed in the sky doesn’t hurt your chances, but so many factors can keep you from getting the rest you need, to enjoy your destination. Without popping a sleeping tablet, here are some wholistic tips to help you delight in hours of peaceful sleep, leaving you as fresh and ready as a long ride in a metal tube possibly can. 

a black board with white text and yellow dotsFlight Times

If you have the flexibility, picking a good flight time can make all the difference in catching some zzzz’s. Flying overnight at a time when you’re body is naturally tired is your best chance for rest. If you want to be fresh on the other end, try to find a flight time where you’ll be sleeping during night time in your destination, trying to wake up as close to morning in your destination. But if you really struggle to sleep on overnight flights, consider a day flight, so you can sleep at night time in a comfortable bed when you land.


This is highly underrated and extremely effective. Get some exercise before you fly. Go for a run, to the gym, play some tennis – whatever your preference is, just do it. And then trademark that phrase. Make it a priority to get quality exercise and fresh air before your flight. Tiring out the body will make it easier to relax; while kicking the body into a rest and recuperate mode. Plus, you always feel good after exercising!

a glass of champagne on a tableAlcohol

This really is a tricky one. It’s scientifically proven that alcohol keeps us from our deepest sleep state. But at the same time, a couple nips of something good may be just the ticket to unwind and doze off in a crowd full of strangers. No doctor will recommend it, but a couple drinks can come in handy. Of course, if you stick to water you’ll feel better the next day. Just make sure to hit the loo before boarding!

Seat Selection

We think window seats are the best for sleep, since you have something to lean on and no one to disturb you. Selecting the best seat possible in advance before a long flight can make a huge difference in your comfort. The longer the journey, the more paying for a preferred seat matters. Exit rows and bulkhead (first row of a cabin) seats almost always yield better legroom, and in the case of bulkheads – often better service too. With the extra legroom, you may be able to avoid getting awoken by a seat neighbor! And if you’re in economy, fly with one of these airlines

a seat in an airplaneTemperature Problems

The temperature on a plane never seems to be just right. Wearing easily removable, easily added layers is key. Think extra socks, comfortable loose jumpers, scarf, chunky cardigan – anything to keep you covered up when it’s chilly or easily removed when it’s too hot. Sleeping is hard enough when the temperature is right, so take it upon yourself to customize yours on any plane. Some pillows even offer cooling gels. Who knew?

Noise Canceling Headphones

For most travelers, the droning hum of a plane just doesn’t scream “sing me to sleep”.  Add in the noises of beverage carts, screaming baby or nosey seat mates and the chances of getting some good rest is bordering impossible. Investing in some good noise canceling in ear or over the ear headphones can make a huge difference. There’s nothing like looking at a screaming baby and smiling, because you can’t hear a peep. 


Let’s be honest, airplane food has a bad reputation for a reason. In economy, it’s nothing more than a reheated microwave meal – despite what they say! Plus, waiting for the food service can cost you valuable sleeping time. Plan ahead, either have a substantial meal before leaving or eat something good at the airport. You can also bring food and snacks with you to eat on the plane, making sure to eat on the schedule of meal times at your destination. No one likes to sleep with a rumbling stomach. 

a bed with pillows and a purse on itExtra Pillow

If the airline does happen to offer you a pillow, they’re usually as comfortable as a pancake. Find a travel pillow that suits you and bring it. Just be sure to avoid the tragically hokey travel products you’ll come across due to relentless marketing, during your search. Having something supportive to lean against can be a game changer in sleep. Remember: window seats offers something to rest upon – if you have a big enough pillow. 


If none of these seem to work and sleeping pills with endless side effects aren’t your thing, why not try melatonin. It is naturally produced and can be bought in your local pharmacy. In fact, many of the worlds most frequent flyers swear by it. No drowsiness or worries about medication restrictions. Melatonin can help control your sleep patterns or treat restless jet lag. Just be sure to check with your doctor first. 

What’s your best tip for sleeping on the plane (other than flying first class).

Featured image courtesy of Air New Zealand.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I always find a shower in lounges (airline or paid 3rd party) and some fresh, comfortable clothing makes all the difference when I’m travelling.

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