5 Tips for Helping You Sleep Better During a Flight

Sleeping through the night or taking a power nap on a flight can be near impossible for many travellers. Let’s face it: Not everyone has the luxury of getting a first class seat. In fact, most of us are stuck for hours crammed into a seat with very minimal space. (Of course, things could be worse–we could be attempting to sleep in an airline saddle).

how to sleep on a plane

I know that for myself, it is very important to get as much sleep on a long flight, especially when crossing time zones as sleeping in-flight can be one method to help overcome jet lag. On the last few flights I took, I made it a goal to find the best ways to get a good long nap. After a lot of tossing and turning, I discovered some key techniques that allowed me to travel far away to dreamland:

Prepare Yourself Ahead of Time

Make yourself tired for the flight. Don’t take a nap before and avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol as they will prevent you from nodding off. The more tired you are when you board the flight, the easier it will be to doze off. Skip the fancy outfits (binding pants are a no-no) and wear loose clothing. If you can spare the room in your carry on, bring a pillow and blanket because some airlines charge you to use theirs. I tried a sleeping mask and ear plugs and they worked to block out noise and light. Also, listening to soothing music relaxes the mind and body and can help for a better and deeper sleep.

Ask for a Window Seat and Avoid the Back Row

This is very important! The last thing you want is to be stuck in the middle of two people with no where to rest your head and sometimes even your arms. If you get a window seat, then you won’t be interrupted when someone else in your row needs to use the washroom. Before you travel, visit SeatGuru.com and enter your flight number: The site will tell you exactly where you’ll be located within the plane, and whether or not your seat reclines (those in front of the emergency exit rows and in the last row of the plane often don’t). If you’re unhappy with where you’ve been placed, call the airline or try to arrive at the airport early and negotiate a switch when you check in.

how to sleep on a plane

Be Extra Nice to the Check-in Agent

You never know what kind of day the ticketing agent is having. With a little bit of extra kindness, you may find yourself in a business class seat for the price of an economy seat (having status in the airline’s frequent flier program also helps greatly in this regard). Sound too good to be true? On my last flight, I simply asked the agent how her day was which led to a two minute conversation and business class window seat. Did I mention that that a business class seat comes with a hot towel, thicker blanket, pillow, free headphones a lot more leg room?

Announce That You Are Going to Sleep

Some people love to talk. The last thing you want is to be in the state of a deep sleep (or headed in that direction) when the person next to you decides to start up a conversation. Let the people beside you know you are going to sleep throughout the flight. Also, find out when meal and beverage service is being served so that you are not interrupted during your slumber. You can even ask the flight attendant to keep your meal for when you wake up.

Cross your fingers

If luck is on your side, the two seats beside you may be unoccupied, giving you room to sprawl out. If there is someone else in your row, you can also scan the cabin for better seats once the flight is under way. A row of empty seats with movable armrests is the best situation for sleeping on a plane aside from first class.

Sweet Dreams!


  • Thanks for suggesting that I tire myself out and avoid caffeinated drinks so I can sleep easier during the entire flight. I’m really afraid of heights and I think I can get over this fear by sleeping on the plane. It might also be a good idea to check airlines that use custom mattresses in their seats for a more relaxing experience.

  • My first step was to develop a bedtime routine. Your body needs time to wind down from the day. My routine includes a shower, a little time writing in my journal and writing my to do list for the next day.Sometimes, even after my bedtime routine is complete, I still need to quiet my brain. I’ve found that books do this.


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