11 Best Tips for Getting Sleep on a Plane

by | Sep 8, 2019 | Beauty, Fitness & Health, Travelling | 2 comments

Long-haul flights are back on the agenda! And the biggest discomfort, no matter what class you are travelling in can be getting sleep during your long-haul flight. If you were lucky enough to afford, or be bumped from economy to business, or even better, first class, your chances of sleeping are increased as you have more leg-room and a seat that may recline to a bed. But if you are in economy class, don’t fear, I have flown for many years and in many economy sections and survived to tell the tale! I no longer get off the plane feeling like ‘death warmed up’ as I am fully prepared for my flight. And you can be prepared to survive your flight too with my 11 tips to get sleep on a plane. 

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Note: This blog was originally written April 2018, updated September 2019 and now updated again in December 2022. The post contains affiliate links, read full disclosure here.


Preparation for Getting Sleep on a Plane Begins on the Ground


Preparation for getting sleep on your flight begins before you get on the flight. How true! Some of these simple tricks can help you survive a long-haul flight. I follow them every time I’m going to get on a long flight and also on long bus and train trips.


  • When you book your flight you may want to book a flight that leaves late evening. That way, if the flight leaves when you are normally going to bed you may be sleepier and be able to sleep. 
  • Choose your seat at the time of booking. Some seats have more space such as those with bulkheads and those near exists. You may need to pay extra for the privilege – believe me, it is worth it! There is a great website SeatGuru you can check out before you book your seat. It allows you to type in your flight and it will show you the best seats on that particular plane. And also, those seats to avoid like the ones close to the toilets. I like to have a window seat when I am travelling on a long-haul flight because I can lean against the plane. The middle seat I try to avoid so I don’t have anyone trying to step over me!
  • Avoid stimulants like coffee and alcohol on the day of your flight. Stop drinking them at least 6 hours before your flight.
  • Pack items that will help you be comfortable enough to help you sleep. Like a neck pillow, noise cancelling ear phones and eye patches.


Avoid Stimulants on the Plane


As I mentioned before, avoid stimulants on the day of your flight. Closer to the flight take a herbal relaxant such as Valerian. A herbal relaxant can also take away the anxiety and nervousness of getting onto your flight. If you have a fear of flying a relaxant can help take the edge off your fear. 


Choose the Best Position for Your Body


Have you ever pulled your meal tray down and put your head on it to sleep? Like the guy in the photo! Well don’t do it again, it is bad for your lower back. It is recommended the best body position is to recline your chair, lean back and have support for your neck (see further) or if you have a window seat lean against the side of the plane. Sit with your legs together and bend your knees slightly. Do not cross your legs as crossing them could lead to pain later on and can increase your chances of a blood clot as it restricts the flow of blood.


Use a Travel Pillow


I love my travel pillow. I discovered the one in the photo, a Trtle a few years ago. And believe me it works wonders and know that neck pillows look embarrassing but hey, I swear by mine. It helps me tune out because it helps me to relax. When it is time to tune back in, the pillow has helped support my head and neck and I wake up able to move my body without any stiffness, aches and pains. The Trtle also keeps you neck lovely and warm as sometimes it can get cold on the plane.

I’ve tried a number of neck pillows over the years, but this is my favourite.


Block out Plane Noise


Blocking out noise such as the constant hum of the plane, those screaming kids and people chatting and moving around the plane is a must. The quieter you can make it the better you can sleep on a plane. I suggest you invest in a pair of ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones. Sometimes, my own music helps me sleep.


Block out Light on Your Flight


There can be a lot of light on the plane. From daylight coming through windows. Overhead lights from people reading to light from TV screens and other electronics. Having an eye mask will definitely block the light out and remind your body it is night time. So if you are serious about getting some sleep on your long-haul flight, definitely block out the light (and the noise).


Stay Warm While Flying


When flying at 40,000 feet the air cabin can become cold. Definitely wear layers of clothes so you can put them on when cold, and take them off if you get too hot. Put a blanket over you as well – best under your seat belt so crew don’t wake you during turbulence to tell you to buckle up your seatbelt. Note: Some airlines provide a blanket but not all, so maybe take a small one with you on the flight. You could fold it up to be a pillow if not needed to keep you warm! Take a pair of socks to keep your feet warm.


Wear Compression Socks


Compression socks won’t make you sleep better but wearing a pair can help reduce the effects of getting Deep Vein Thrombosis. This is where blood clots can form in your legs from sitting on a plane for long periods of time dormant. The lack of movement can restrict blood flow and cause Deep Vein Thrombosis. Compression socks can also help keep your legs warm.


Change into Comfortable Clothing


Gone are the days when flying required you to wear business wear, particularly if you wanted to be upgraded. Thank goodness! To be able to sleep on a flight you need to be comfortable. That means wearing comfortable clothes. So what clothes do you feel comfortable in? Loose fitting clothing is usually best. And layers. Some people change into their ‘flying clothes’ shortly before boarding or once the seat belt sign gets turned off go to the toilet and change. I prefer to wear my comfortable clothes on the plane which are long comfortable pants or stretchy jeans, a t-shirt and a jumper or jacket. I also prefer to wear shoes and socks so my feet stay warm. Though I have been known to wear sandals when coming from a tropical island – but I put my socks in my bag so I can pull them out and put them on if needed. So consider the clothes you will wear on the plane because you don’t want them restricting your movement and making you uncomfortable.


Advise Crew Not to Wake You


You can advise the crew that you don’t want to be woken during meal times (and at other times like during turbulence). I have heard that some airlines provide a do not disturb sticker you can put on your chair or yourself to let crew know you want to sleep through a meal service. How cool is that!


Take Toiletries for Comfort in Economy Class


For your own comfort in your economy class seat take toiletries on the plane with you. Taking toiletries onboard your flight will help you keep your bed-time routine up before you sleep. And just having access to your toiletries can really help keep you relaxed. Like lip balm for your lips if they become dry. Eye drops as the recycled cabin air can be very drying on your eyes. Also some face wipes to freshen up not only your face but other parts of your body. Deodorant and a toothbrush and toothpaste to freshen the mouth. A hair brush and/or comb also. Believe me, these things can help you feel refreshed, relaxed and comfortable so you can get some sleep.


Are You Ready to Get Sleep on a Plane?


I cannot guarantee you will fall asleep fast on a plane but hopefully, with my above mentioned tips you will feel relaxed enough to get some sleep on your flight. If you didn’t get much sleep on the plane then lets hope you have accommodation booked so you can get to it fast and get some sleep. Book accommodation for your arrival here. Happy Flying.

If you have any other tips for getting sleep on a plane, I would love to hear in the comments following.


You May Also Like:

9 Tips to Survive Long-haul and Overnight Train Trips
What to Wear on a Plane


Thanks for sharing!

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Travel Insurance. There are a number of reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having bought a policy as you never know when something might happen. SafetyWing is great digital nomads and long-term travellers and World Normads has policies for general and adventure travel.


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Hi. Sharyn here. Savvy Australian female with a passion for travel and working abroad. I’m on a mission to provide you with my best tips, tricks and hacks to work abroad and travel the world. If I can do it, so can you!  Read more.


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  1. cass

    Loved this one too – we’re on the same page about the importance of better sleep I reckon hehe!

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Getting sleep is important to your travels. If you are tired and grumpy you don’t travel that well! Well I don’t!


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