How to sleep on a plane: Tips for travellers

How to sleep on a plane?

It’s one of the question you hear being asked by travellers a lot. Both by first-timers and those who have some experience under their belt. Why? Because it matters. One of the best ways to make your flight more enjoyable is to have some sleep on the plane. You’ll arrive at your destination well rested and ready to explore.

But how to get much needed rest on a plane?

Follow these sleeping tips to get some sleep during your next flight.

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Woman sitting by the window of an airplane

How to sleep on a plane

1. Dress comfortably

A good seat and travel accessories make traveling easier, but don’t forget that also clothing plays a role in the comfort factor.

You are about to spend several hours in a relatively small space with no space to move around much, or lie down, so wearing comfortable clothes is a must. You won’t be frowned upon if you wear comfortable sweats, your favourite hoodie (or an oversized cardigan) and comfy slip-on shoes.

Wear breathable clothes that are not bulky yet will keep you warm if it gets chilly on an air conditioned plane.

Do not wear offensive and revealing clothing.

Also leave your favourite outfit at home, or toss it in your suitcase. So, if you spill something on yourself, it doesn’t ruin your good clothes. Do not wear summer clothes and flip flops because you probably will get chilly.

Toss your uncomfortable shoes in the suitcase, too.

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Woman on airplane

2. Book the right seat

Will there be enough leg room?

First of all, evaluate the type of plane. There are wide body and narrow body, or single-aisle, aircrafts. The smallest narrow body commercial aircrafts are configured with one aisle permitting 4-abreast seating (Embraer E-Jet, Bombardier CRJ).

There is not that much space on smaller planes as there is on the larger jets.

Comfort also depends on the airline.

For instance, more and more airlines now are ditching reclining seats. While it’s good news to those who hate reclining seats and those who recline, it’s bad news for those who want to sleep on a plane as comfortable as possible.

Also low cost airlines don’t provide their economy customers with blankets, even on long haul flights (e.g., Norwegian). If you are flying with one of those airlines and you are planning on sleeping on airplane, come prepared.

If you are traveling in a business class, you’ll feel more comfortable than in economy, because it’s designed for comfort.

If you are traveling in economy, evaluate seat options. Not all seats are created equal!

Some airlines include legroom in the flight information. But there’s no information on the reclining options. For instance, some seats may have limited recline due to the proximity to the galley or lavatory.

Use SeatGuru to get a comprehensive look at cabin layout and fond out more about the aircraft.

If you know you’re not going to need regular visits to the toilet, choose window seat. Window seats are the best seats for the best sleep - no one will climb over you and wake you up. And later on, when the plane is landing, you can enjoy the view from the window.

Do not reserve a seat which is located near the toilets.

It’s noisy (and, sometimes, smelly) there - constant flushing and opening / closing of the doors. Also there’s not as dark as in the rest of the cabin because of the airplane lights.

Puppie wrapped in blanket

3. Don't forget to bring these things with you

Here are a few things you should bring on a plane to make your flight more comfortable. Especially if it's a long haul flight.

Travel blanket

If you are always cold, bring a soft travel blanket or a shawl to cover yourself while you sleep.

Airplane cabins tend to get chilly because of the air condition, and you don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night too cold to fall back asleep. If you are flying with a traditional airline (not a low coster), most probably you’ll get a blanket and an amenity pack that contains a sleep mask, earplugs and a toothbrush.

Travel pillow

Sleeping in an upright position is not something to look forward to.

You can ease some of the discomfort from sitting upright for a long time by using a travel pillow.

The best travel pillows on the market are chin supporting travel pillows.

If you don’t have a chin supporting travel pillow and your chin tends to drop, turn around your travel pillow and place it under your chin for support.

Compression socks

Experienced travellers recommend to wear airplane compression socks that reduce swelling and maintain regular blood flow.

Earplugs and a sleep mask

If you are a light sleeper, pack a mask and earplugs.

Thus you’ll able to get some sleep on a rather noisy plane.

The best earplugs are those which are specially designed for air travel. Such earplugs relieve ear discomfort by filtering and regulating air pressure.


  • Saline (or other) nose spray if your nose tends to get stuffy;
  • Natural sleep aid (Valerian, Melatonin, Chamomile) for a good night's sleep;
  • Throat lozenges if dry air gives you a sore throat on a long haul flight.

Airplane seats

Extra tips to help you sleep on a plane

  • Cut down on your carry ons. Do not take more than one carry on. Otherwise you’ll likely have to place one of them under the seat in front of you, and it will limit your legroom.
  • Do not drink coffee before your flight. It takes several hours for coffee to filter through your system. Also black tea is relatively high in caffeine.
  • Do not eat much before the flight. It’s way easier to fall asleep on empty stomach. Eat healthy at the airport.
  • Avoid screens before sleeping. Switch off the reading light and the screen of the entertainment system.
  • Keep the air vent on, but tip it slightly away from you. Thus you don’t get chilly, and you don’t have to wake up because of it.
  • Let airline staff know, that you’ll be skipping a meal. If you don’t want to eat and prefer to sleep, ask airline staff not to wake you up when drinks and food are being served.
  • Buckle the seatbelt over your blanket. If it’s time to land or if there’s turbulence, you won’t be woken up by airline staff who’s requesting to buckle up.

Have a good and hopefully restful flight!

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