11 Tips & Tricks for Sleeping on Planes

Sleep on Plane

Not being able to fall asleep on a plane can make or break the first few days of a trip. If it’s a long flight, sleeping for even a few hours is essential to fighting jet lag and starting your trip out on the right foot. Here, Fodor’s Experts reveal their tricks and tips for falling asleep on a flight.

RESERVE THE WINDOW SEAT

Avoid the embarrassing “nod and jerk” head move or, worse, falling asleep on your neighbor’s shoulder and select a window seat.  You can use the airline pillow or your own neck pillow to create a cushion between your head and the window, and you won’t have to worry about getting up when your row mates head to the lavatory. —Christine Smith, Sales Director

Don’t Forget Your Rituals

If it’s an overnight flight, prepare as through you’re getting ready for bed (brush your teeth, change your clothes, etc.) and avoid looking at screens. —Lauren Hanafin, Publicist

VISIT THE HEALTH FOOD STORE BEFORE YOU GO

Natural supplements likemelatonin and sleepytime tea can help you relax, and it’s also worth a shot to try aromatherapy. Lavender essential oil (either dabbed on pulse points or used as a pillow spray) can help you mellow out. —Teddy Minford, Associate Editor

SET THE MOOD

Download Brian Eno’sMusic for Airports to help you relax before a flight.—Jennifer DePrima, Editorial Production Manager

SKIP THE IN-FLIGHT DRINKS

Stay away from caffeine and alcohol—especially alcohol. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't help you sleep. —Margaret Kelly, Senior Editor

USE A PILLOW AND BLANKET

It’s essential to always travel with a pillow and blanket. The Travelrest Travel Pillow is a unique take on the inflatable pillow. It’s a long tube that you can tether to your headrest, making it much easier to sleep sitting up. For a blanket, a simple cotton peshtemal is a great choice, since it’s light and easily packable. The White & Warren cashmere travel wrap is stylish, but a bit of a splurge. —Teddy Minford, Associate Editor

COVER YOUR EYES

Embrace your inner diva and rock asleep mask.  The darkness will help you fall asleep and stay asleep longer, especially if nearby fliers open their window shades or use the overhead reading lights.  The mask also serves as a “Do Not Disturb” sign for your face that will dissuade chatty neighbors and let flight attendants know not to wake you during beverage service.  Some airlines provide masks to premium seat-holders, or you can carry your own to ensure uninterrupted rest. —Christine Smith, Sales Director

READ SOMETHING BORING

Bring a book—specifically, a challenging paperback book, not an e-book or a compelling page-turner. Apparently screens of any kind are stimulating, so save the e-reader for the destination. And a book that is too compelling, one that you can’t put down, is not only stimulating, but also you may find yourself so caught up in the story that you read for hours. Bring a book with subject matter that you find challenging. It doesn’t have to be Godel, Escher, Bach, but it should be denser material, perhaps something you consider a bit dry, but that still interests you. About a half-hour of this more focused effort to concentrate on what you’re reading, and your eyes should start feeling heavy. —Eric Wechter, Editor

Choose Your Seat Wisely

Pick a quiet part of the plane. Stay away from galleys, restrooms, and anywhere crew or passengers might congregate. —Lauren Hanafin, Publicist

BLOCK LIGHT AND NOISE

If I have an overnight flight, I make sure I have a sleep mask on hand, and I put in my noise-canceling headphones with the white-noise app on my phone. Because I’m a nervous flier, I’ll sometimes take a combo valerian-melatonin pill, which can also reduce jet lag.—Jennifer DePrima, Editorial Production Manager

BRING YOUR OWN WATER AND SNACKS

Bring some appetizing, packable, and healthy snacks from home and splurge on the $7 bottle of water at the airport. Having your own food and water will allow you to sleep soundly without having to wake up when the meal cart rolls around. Plus, staying hydrated will help with jet lag. —Teddy Minford, Associate Editor