There’s nothing like the feeling of lift off, as the thrust of a jet engine propels you into the sky to places familiar, or unknown. When travel is easy, it’s fantastic. The problem is that travel isn’t often easy, and for most, it never is. Short of flat beds, massage chairs, free liquid sleeping pills (champagne), and the ritzy perks that help a lucky few sleep while traveling, there are some useful, practical tips to help you catch some ZZZZ’s no matter how cramped the seat…

a purple object on a white surface

Eye Mask, Ear Plugs

Wearing an eye mask and ear plugs on a plane does not make you a diva, it makes you a sleeper. You can’t control what your seat mates and other neighbors do with their blinds, or what terribly tragic choice in music or film they have. Sometimes seat mates are even kind enough to play music or movies without headphones, allowing the whole cabin to share the experience. Wear both, find your zone and pass out.

I will send a business class airline amenity kit, or eye mask and ear plugs to the first five commenters on this post below…

a woman sleeping on an airplane

Choose Window, Aim For Bulkhead Or Exit Row

If you’re in economy, there’s only one seat with no risk of being stepped over and that’s the window seat. It also allows you something to lean against. Of course the best solution is to find a bulkhead, or exit row, offering substantially more legroom, a huge deal breaker for me. Whether or not you can secure an exit row or bulkhead, preferably without paying, go with a window, lean your big pillow against it and count sheep, or clouds…  

a pair of sweatpants with a card on it


I don’t like to look like a hobo when I travel, even though it occasionally happens. I bring a change of clothes, or at least some comfortable sweatpants for flights. I’ll switch out of my jeans on board or in the airport just before, allowing me to look civil, before getting into full relaxation, twisting and turning, uncomfortable seat mode. 

a plate of food on a table


It’s hard to pass up free food. Lord knows I can’t. The best way to maximize sleep on a plane is to follow all the tips above, don the eye mask and plugs, and forget about eating on the plane. Not only will eating at non ideal times create jet lag, it will spark your metabolism, keeping you awake. Eat before your flight, at a local time to your destination. It’s more time to sleep and less grumbling on the flight…

a seat with a tv and a pillow on the side

A Pillow, Any Pillow…

They sell some terrible pillows in airports. Like moth to the flame, many people pack in and buy one, hoping it’s a miracle cure. It may work, it may not, but I personally love bringing a larger pillow I’m comfortable with, popping it against the wall and catching some major rest.

a plane flying in the sky

Bonus Tip: Exercise

I help a lot of professional athletes figure out their travel. One common feature of each elite athletes routine is exercise before and after flights. Exercising before a flight will tire out the mind and body, putting you into a deeper sleep. Upon arrival, exercising as soon as possible will offset the affect of jet lag, especially if outdoor exercise is possible.

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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