If everything about your dream destination sounds great except the grueling 10-hour flight to get there, then it’s time you learned how to sleep on a plane. In most cases, you aren’t aiming for eight hours of sound sleep. Four or five hours will get you to your destination in a functional condition, but still tired enough to sleep at the appropriate time in the new time zone.
Warning: some of these take a bit of practice before you leave home. But it’s your dream trip, right? Isn’t it worth it?
Cancel the noise. Expensive noise-cancelling headphones are great for a quick nap on a cross-country flight. But the weight and awkwardness usually are enough to keep you from slipping into slumber. And earbuds?
Almost as bad as heavy headphones. Look at Sleep Phone –a fabric headband with flexible flat speakers that rest over your ears so comfortably that you can lay on them, or lean against your seatmate, as the case may be. They are not noise cancelling, so you will need a white noise app and/or a playlist of music that you can sleep to.
Block out light and activity. In most cases, you will fall asleep faster if you can block out extra light and the activity of flight attendants and fellow passengers. Light-blocking glasses called Blackout Bands look cool, but pose the same problem as headphones–not comfortable when you lean your head or face on something. Opt instead for something like this molded eye mask from Flight 001.
Get Positioned. Where neck pillows generally fail is the fact that most of us sleep with our faces touching something. Changing that one aspect can make quite a difference in how well you sleep. The Sky Rest is a giant lap pillow that you hug and lean onto. Or look at Little Cloud Nine. It’s another huggable, leaning device, but this one has you putting your face forward into a tube, with cheeks and forehead resting on the air-filled sides. A square hole near the bottom of the tube is where you put your arms. With your face in the tube, you may not need an eye mask. It effectively blocks most light and all activity like a set of blinders on a racehorse. As wacky as this thing looks, I have tested it and found it to be one of the most comfortable sleep devices I have ever tried.
READ MORE: How to dodge jet lag.
Stay ahead of frigid temps and hard seats. When you think about sleeping on a plane, it’s easy to forget about all the little discomforts that may be keeping you from the shuteye you need. Start with your feet. Try traveling in slip-on shoes, then replace them with an extra layer of warm socks for comfort when it’s time to sleep. Deal with the high-altitude cold airplane temps by dressing in warm layers and asking for a second blanket if necessary.
And then there is your butt. I haven’t flown without a pillow for my backside in almost a decade. You would be amazed at the improvement it makes over rock-hard economy seats. I like this one called Seat Solution . The best part is that it has a built-in handle, making it easy to strap to the outside of your carry-on.
Train your brain. The biggest obstacle to sleeping while flying is probably your brain. The object is to use everything at your disposal to trick yourself into sleeping on cue. That’s where practicing with your Sleephones and a sleep playlist comes in. If you have been falling to sleep at home using the same set of songs, it’s easier to flip the off switch in your head.
Here’s my secret weapon: I use a white noise app by TMSoft set to airplane noise with my sleep playlist playing at the same time for at least a week before I fly. The music soothes and the engine sounds on the app help you grow accustomed to the constant hum and learn to sleep through it.
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