Once upon a time, air travel was a treat that people looked forward to. But now, that time is long gone.
These days, flying is mostly seen as a necessary evil consisting of one unpleasant experience after another. Hours-long security lines, having to check your carry-on because of full overhead bins, eating yucky food, and of course, sitting in a cramped, uncomfortable seat all conspire to make it impossible to sleep while en route to your destination.
Well, almost impossible. Turns out, with a little advanced preparation, you can score some rest while up in the air and feel somewhat energized and refreshed when you land. We talked with four professionals whose careers take them regularly flying the skies to find out how they snooze better at 35,000 feet.
Pay attention to their smart strategies, and get ready for a much more tolerable next trip.
The key to avoiding interrupted sleep is to buckle your seat belt over your blanket or sweater, not under it. That way, the flight attendant can see that you’re buckled up and won’t wake you if there’s turbulence.
For an easier time falling asleep, I always:
- Try to reserve a window seat. It’s easier than trying to fall asleep on a neck pillow while basically sitting upright. (I’ll use a pillow or a blanket as a cushion to rest my head on the side of the plane.) Also, you can also control your light exposure.
- Wear comfortable clothing. Falling asleep when you’re in a crowded airliner at 38,000 feet in the air is all about making yourself feel as at-home as possible.
- Avoid crossing my legs. When you cross your legs, you can restrict blood flow and increase your chances of a blood clot. Or be in pain when you awake.
- Recline my seat. Reclining your chair will help ease some of the pressure on your lower spine. With less pressure on your back, it’ll be easier to fall asleep.
- Eat light. Overeating or having fatty foods might feel uncomfortable and make it harder to sleep. For me, a grilled chicken salad typically does the trick.
Greg Geronemus is the co-CEO of smarTours, a guided tour company that has taken over 150,000 travelers to over 40 destinations worldwide.
Kevin, the Authentic Wanderer
As a frequent traveller, I’m often finding myself taking an overnight flight – whether it’s from Melbourne to Doha or Bangkok to London.
Overnight flights are sometimes unavoidable and at other times simply the best way to get the most out of your trip.
For me, I’ll generally take 5mg of melatonin after I take off if I need to sleep immediately. (Generally, I try to time my sleeping with the target time zone). I also put on an eye mask that I travel with and my Bose QC25 Noise Cancelling headphones, and that will generally be enough for me to be able to sleep. If it’s been about 15 to 30 minutes and I haven’t managed to get to sleep, I’ll take a second 5mg dose of melatonin.
Kevin is the founder of the international travel blog, The Authentic Wanderer.
Between traveling for business and for pleasure, I log 50+ trips a year, including frequent redeye flights back to Boston from the west coast. Here are a couple of things that work well for me:
- Listening to the same podcast every time through Bose noise canceling in-ear headphones. I always use the same podcast because at this point, I just associate it with sleeping. The sound itself doesn’t really matter—it just needs to be consistent. As for the headphones, the big over-ear models have good sound, but you can’t learn up against the window with them.
- Wearing a light jacket, so I’m not cold while I’m trying to sleep.
- Taking a dose of ZzzQuil right when the plane starts to board. Often times, I’ll be asleep before takeoff.
Kevin Karner is Head of Growth at the messaging app, Drift.
As a pro wrestler, 6’4”, 264-pound Hanson regularly travels both nationally and internationally with Ring of Honour Wrestling. But his size doesn’t always make it easy to doze off. Here are a few of the tricks he relies on to get more comfortable—and up the odds of falling asleep on the plane:
- I always bring at least two pillows with me. That way, I can get the right head and neck support.
- If my tail bone is uncomfortable, I’ll stack a backpack and pillows on my lap and sleep leaning forward to relieve some of the pressure.
Hanson is half of the pro-wrestling tag team, War Machine. Before joining Ring of Honour, he wrestled with the WWE.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.