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How to Sleep on Planes

12 Tips For Sleeping on a Plane Like a Pro

I'm an expert at sleeping on planes. I'm the worst travel companion, because when my head hits the back of those weird, bendable, and only slightly functional plane seat pillows, I'm out like a light. I always have these lofty goals of getting work done, making a dent in my book, or catching up on a movie I've been meaning to watch for months, but that almost never happens. Even if I don't immediately doze off, I'm able to get to sleep easily with a few little tricks that make the flight fly by . . . since I usually find myself waking up as we land.

If you are a nervous flyer or just can't ever seem to get comfortable enough to fall asleep on a plane, then here are some things to try that really work.

  1. Get a neck pillow. I know, they aren't necessarily the most stylish things in the world, and they can be annoying to carry around. But if you have a carry-on, it's easy to just hook the pillow around the handles of the suitcase, or tuck it in a bag (you can even get ones that inflate/deflate). If you get a bad seat or a terrible plane chair, then these are lifesavers when trying to fall asleep.
  2. Order a glass of wine. Some will say this isn't always your best bet for falling asleep, but I personally call bullsh*t. When there's turbulence and I'm starting to see my life flash before my eyes, a soothing glass of red wine (or a small bottle if the airline is doing it right) helps me relax and makes me nice and sleepy.
  3. Listen to a calming travel playlist. A calming playlist will help calm any nerves you may have — especially during takeoff. The music also helps drown out random plane noises that make you anxious, crying babies, or those loud talkers who don't seem to realize they are on a plane with 150-plus other people. Make sure to use the "download to phone" feature before you fly, otherwise you won't be able to access Spotify when you're in the air.
  4. Before leaving your house, download episodes of your favorite TV show. Instead of depending on the in-flight entertainment or downloading a movie you've never seen, choose something you have watched a million times and know you love, and download episodes to your iPhone or iPad so you can watch while you fly. This can be comforting and familiar since you've already seen the show, so you don't feel like you have to pay attention. It helps you relax and ultimately aids in sleep.
  5. Bring a book to read. I don't leave the house without some sort of access to several books, usually on my Kindle app on my phone or iPad. But when you're flying, bring a "real" book instead, so that the light of your phone/Kindle doesn't keep you awake. Make it a fun, light book — I'm talking a nice YA romance or comedic memoir . . . not Ulysses.
  6. Get an eye mask. Eye masks help block out lights from the window or your neighbor's TV, phone, iPad, computer, etc. They definitely help give the illusion that it's nighttime — even if it's not.
  7. Choose a window seat. Make sure when you book your flight that you pick a window seat if you can. If you aren't able to snag one, always check back the night before your flight when you go to check in; sometimes window seats have opened up if people switched their tickets/seats around. There's always hope!
  8. Don't nap the day of your flight. Try to do what you can to stay awake until the plane takes off so that you're totally exhausted by the time you sit down.
  9. Wear comfortable clothes. Wear clothes and shoes that you can move around comfortably in so that no matter what position you end up taking in your plane seat, you're able to relax and fall asleep.
  10. Bring a blanket. Or if you don't want to awkwardly carry around a big blanket, bring or wear a jacket, poncho, or sweater that serves well as a cover-up and can double as a blanket when you're cuddling up in your chair.
  11. Be open to paying for extra leg room. If you have a really hard time sleeping on a plane, upgrading to extra leg room (especially on a long flight) can make ALL the difference.
  12. Bring earbuds. ALWAYS. Without earbuds, sleep will most certainly elude you.
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