How to Sleep Better on Long Haul Flights (10 Easy-to-Follow Tips)

Anyone undertaking a long-haul flight will appreciate the importance of getting some rest. When you get to your destination, you’ll be tired no matter what—simply because of jet lag, let alone the fact that sleeping on a plane is uncomfortable.

This can leave you feeling exhausted, tired and unable to react properly when you get to your destination. That’s why it’s important to sleep better on long-haul flights, and that’s why we’ve written this in-depth guide.m

Each one of these ten tips can help you get better quality sleep when flying to your destination. We’ve covered everything from what to do before your flight, how to get a little more space, and how to establish a routine that’s conducive to sleep.

The good news is that these tips apply equally to those flying first class, and anyone wanting to learn how to sleep comfortably in economy class. After all, no matter how you fly, it’s essential that you get some rest—no matter what you’re doing at your destination, be it a business meeting or a vacation.

How to Sleep Comfortably on a Plane

So without any further ado, let’s take a look at our top ten tips on sleeping on a plane.

1] Avoid Using Electronics

At home, do you often find yourself using an electronic device in the hour(s) before bed? The TVs, smartphones, and tablets we all use to ‘help you get to sleep’ may be causing more harm than good. They can make it harder for you to settle down, which can make it increasingly hard to get the quality of rest that you need to feel refreshed the next day.

It’s the same on a long-haul flight – or any flight. If you are trying to get to sleep, one of the best things you can do is avoid using electronics. Since using these products has an adverse effect on your ‘body clock’ which inhibits the creation of melatonin, you aren’t able to feel the need to sleep.

This is because the majority of electronic devices deliver what is known as short-wavelength artificial blue lighting. This means the more time you use an electronic device before bed the more likely it is that you’ll endure a restless sleep. This reduces the amount of REM sleep that you will get, which means you’ll wake up feeling lethargic or groggy.

So, if you want to help make sure you can sleep comfortably on a long-haul flight, it might be a good idea to turn off your electronic devices. One last search of social media or one final read of that Kindle book you’re enjoying isn’t helping.

2] Wear Comfortable Clothing

Of course, as anyone who has endured a long distance flight before will know, comfort is hard to come by. Trying to sit still on a plane can be tough, and you might find that wearing uncomfortable clothing may make the problem worse. Depending on what you wear—wool for instance—you might feel itchy. Or you might continuously slip and slide from your seat due to the material of the clothing that you are wearing.

And while you may rather sit on the aircraft looking suave and stylish, sometimes you don’t get the choice. You don’t need to look fantastic sitting in your seat on the plain. If you are taking a long-haul flight, you should look to compromise your style before you compromise your sleep.

Cotton clothes are the most straightforward option. A T-shirt and jeans should be comfortable enough to get some decent rest. Compare that to what else you might wear: maybe a suit if you’re traveling for business or an uncomfortable dress. Far better is to change once you reach your destination than be completely unable to get good sleep.

3] Pick The Right Seat

Another vital part of your journey is being a success is picking the right seat on board long flight. Even if this is your first time on an aircraft, you will quickly find that you have your personal preference regarding where you wish to sit on board. If this isn’t your first rodeo, then make sure to pick the best seat for you, even if it costs a little more.

Some people find, for example, that sitting in an aisle seat can be too distracting. If you are a light sleeper and you easily get woken up, you’ll find the constant traffic of people walking and moving around hard to deal with. If you think this won’t bother you all that much, then an aisle seat would be fine.

Alternatively, might find that using the window seat is a better choice. You’re further away from the aisle, where everybody’s moving around. The downside is that you can have too much light coming through the window, which can be distracting. Even if you pull your blind down, the person in front of you may not have. This can stop you from being able to get to sleep.

Another point is that you might feel better in a seat with more legroom. Almost every flight has seats like these, although you’ll have to pay a premium for the privilege. If your sleep is worth it to you, you should consider paying this excess if it means that you’re able to get to sleep more comfortably.

4] Avoid Excessive Eating

One of the most common mistakes is to overeat. We understand why; you’re worried that while you’re in the air, you’ll get hungry. You’ll have to pay extra for extra food on board, so why not fill up beforehand? Well, there’s a very good reason: it stops you from being able to sleep as well.

For starters, a heavy meal or excessive snack before taking off could leave you with indigestion. This is going to stop you from being able to drift off easily. Think back to the last time you ate just before you went to bed: it doesn’t feel right! Your body wants to take the time to digest before getting to sleep. It will also increase your chances of waking up during the flight.

We recommend that you avoid any excessive eating or drinking up to two hours before the flight. This does not mean that you should start stuffing your face three hours prior, either. Try to eat frugally, and stock up on cereals and other slow-release carbs in the morning if possible. That way, you won’t feel hungry while you’re on the flight, and you won’t feel stuffed either.

Another point to make is that you should avoid eating too many snacks while flying, too. Eating candy or anything full of carbs and sugar is going to give your body far too much energy to burn. Remember, you’re sat down for hours on end: you’ll have no outlet for your energy. So even if you would normally eat quite a lot for lunch (for instance), you won’t need as much while you’re flying.

how to sleep comfortably on a plane

5] Get a Quality Pillow

One of the first things that you should pack in your bag in prep for the journey is a good, high-quality pillow. A pillow will give you support around your neck and back far better than an airline seat. With an airline seat, your neck will be too far back to be comfortable, and you won’t get a good night’s rest. With a pillow, you can adjust your position to your liking and guarantee yourself some peaceful sleep.

Of course, you could go to a Dollar General (or similar store) and walk out with a travel pillow for around $1. That’s what’s called ‘false economy.’ It might seem cheap, but you don’t want cheap: you want something that’s going to help you sleep better. So instead of saving money buying a $1 pillow, all you’re doing is wasting $1.

By contrast, an Everlasting memory foam travel pillow forms to the shape of your neck, which can help you stay comfortable for hours on end. It offers side support and stops your head from being pushed forward or back. This is exactly what you need, and what airline seats don’t offer you regarding comfort.

6] Get a Footrest

Something else you might not have thought of to help improve the quality of your trip is to invest in the added comfort of a footrest. Footrests are that little extra bit of comfort that you didn’t know you needed. By the way, we don’t mean a full-on footrest like you’d find as part of the furniture back home—but a smaller, cushioned footrest that’s going to give your feet something comfortable to perch on.

The reason to buy a footrest is quite simple from a medical perspective. For one, the use of a footrest will help to combat circulation problems. Flying in the position you frequently sit in can give you circulation problems due to your lack of movement, and thus make it hard for you to stay comfortable during the flight. It also helps to reduce the risk of joint pain or excessive swelling in the feet. That’s especially important if you’re overweight, in which case flying can pose a health risk.

Sleepy Ride Travel footrests are designed to help you avoid these problems. You can buy ones that are cushioned, or ones which are like tiny camping chairs. These fold away so that you can fit them in your carry on. Whichever you choose, though, they’re going to help you get a better night’s rest on a long-haul flight.

7] Use a Sleeping Mask

One of the most common companions for sleepers on long-haul flights is the sleeping mask. They are the best way to give you that cozy feeling of the dark that you could only otherwise enjoy at home, in bed, with the lights out. But if you want real peace and quiet, you have to buy a real sleeping mask—one that does what it says on the packaging.

You might think that you can settle for the kind of sleeping mask that you’ll get in economy class. The best thing about them is that they’re free, and surely they work well enough—they’re supplied by the airline, after all, so they’re surely fit for purpose. Right? Wrong. You have to pay for quality, like everything in life.

There are many things to look for in a good sleeping mask. Make sure it fits well on the nose. Often, a sleeping mask can feel perfect until you try it on and find that it does not sit well with the natural shape of your nose. Ensure there is a wide, adjustable strap on the back, too. That’s very important in a high-quality sleeping mask. The good news is that there are plenty of top quality masks just like these that you can buy online.

Want to know if the mask does the job that you are buying it for? Then slip it on and shine a flashlight at your eyes (or get someone to) when you’re wearing it. If the light gets through, you need something better. A ALASKA BEAR® sleeping mask is an excellent choice for sleeping better on economy flights.

8] Resting in Reserve

One of the most important elements of going on a long-haul flight, especially in economy class, is being prepared. One of the best ways to get prepared for such a flight is to prepare your body before you leave. Get some sleep on the night before the trip (or during the day) in a bid to try and get used to the timezone of the location that you’re visiting.

Going to bed extra late or extra early to try fit with the new schedule will assist you in acclimatizing to your new environment. This may or may not involve sleeping on the flight; it very much depends on where you’re going, and when you want to be going to sleep once you’re there.

If you do need to sleep on your long-haul flight to avoid jet lag, make sure that your sleeping habits in the days prior are changed to reflect this. You won’t get good sleep on a flight if you only woke up a few hours ago. Make sure that when you need to sleep on a flight, you’ve been awake for at least eight hours or so, so that your body will react more naturally to having to get some rest.

9] Keep Your Carry On Secure

Flying long-haul means spending hours upon hours cooped up with over a hundred other people. If you’re the kind of person who’s worried about crowds and safety, then long-haul flights can easily stress you out. There’s enough to worry about when you’re traveling without panicking about your luggage, too. Reduce the stress and pressure that you feel by using a padlock to help keep your bag secure.

Security matters a great deal, and knowing that your bag is too secure for anyone to get into without anyone noticing will allow you to relax. Again, you could go and buy a cheap padlock from a local shop. You should never take the risk with cheap security; buy cheap, and you often need to buy twice. However, you can buy excellent quality padlocks online for reasonable prices.

The sign of a good padlock is how it feels in your hand. Does it feel heavy or light relative to its size, and the materials you would expect it to be made from? When you slide the lock into place, can you jiggle it around? And does it feel lighter than you might expect? If so, you should buy a better quality padlock.

You might worry that buying a padlock online won’t let you test it out, to make sure it’s up to standard. That’s where online reviews come in—you can read the experiences of dozens, even hundreds of other people who’ve bought the same product as you. Take note of online reviews to make sure that you’re buying a quality padlock, so that the next time you’re on a long-haul flight, you’ll be able to rest easy.

how to sleep on a plane in economy class

10] Natural Sleep Aids

Of course, this still does not ensure you’ll sleep soundly on your flight. Even with all of the above, you might find it a little tough to get a good sleep anyway. You may just be a poor sleeper. Many people suffer from an inability to sleep properly. You can avoid eating late, buy all the equipment you need to block out noise, etc. and still find it hard to get a good sleep when traveling on a long flight.

To help you get over that issue, we recommend that you consider investing in some natural sleeping aids like essential oils. Essential oils for sleep are beneficial. They help to keep you in the kind of mindset needed to drift off into a comfortable, happy sleep. You may also feel jet-lagged from waking up, or you cannot get to sleep on your flight. Either way, you can find that essential oils offer a natural remedy to get you sleeping.

The likes of bergamot oil and lavender oil play a considerable part in helping to create a much more welcoming, inviting and natural sleeping process. Other popular choices include mandarin and frankincense. All options make it easy for you to get some shut-eye when traveling. Using any of the above natural sleep aides should make sure that your troubles with getting a reasonable level of sleep can become a thing of the past.

Without a doubt, it’s always going to be stressful getting to sleep on a long-haul flight. You can become anxious or worried for all sorts of reasons. Worrying about the plane making it from A to B is common; you might think that anything from the weather or mechanical failure is going to turn your stressful flight into a tragic one! And it’s not much easier for people who aren’t even scared of flying, because of the lack of legroom and uncomfortable seat.

Last-Minute Tips before Boarding Your Flight

But that doesn’t mean that sleeping on a flight is impossible. In fact, with a combination of the sleep aids above, you might find it relatively easy to get to sleep.

So, here’s what we recommend you do before your next long-haul flight:

  • At least a couple of weeks before you have to leave—or better yet, as soon as possible so they’re ready whenever you need them—buy whichever products you think might help. Having one or two ways of blocking out your surroundings, like the best earplugs and a face mask, are a good start; natural sleep aids will only make it easier. Pick whatever you prefer.
  • Before you have to leave, test out your new products. If you bought a face mask, test it overnight to see if it blocks out enough light in the morning. Better yet, try it while you’re sat in public to see if it can block out enough light for it to help.
  • When you’ve tested out your products, you’re all set to go. Just don’t forget to pack them when you leave.

Apart from that, there’s very little to it—so pick out what you’d like from our list above today.