You have booked your dream vacation to… Thailand! or Kenya! or Australia! No matter where you are going, you know you’re in for a long flight. You also know that if you don’t want to waste days of your precious vacation time catching up on sleep, you’d better find a way to catch some Zs on the plane. Here are some things to consider when planning for your flight that will help you arrive fresh-faced, rested, and ready to climb Kilimanjaro.
Pick Your Seat
Most airlines allow you to choose your seat either when you purchase your ticket, or online during early check-in.
If you are lucky enough to get a window seat, congratulations! This is prime sleeping territory. In the window seat you will be able to snuggle up against the wall of the plane, resting your pillow, and your neck, in the most comfortable position possible for this confined space.
If you are less lucky and get the middle or aisle seat, you have two options. 1) Buy a stable neck pillow and try to sleep upright, which is always difficult but can work if you are tired enough. 2) When the pilot says it is safe, unlatch the table tray and place your regular pillow on top of it. You can get a surprisingly comfortable sleep with your head and arms resting on the pillow/table.
Bonus Tip: If you book a seat in the Emergency Exit Row, you will have extra comfortable leg room. To sit in this row, you must be 18 or older and able to assist the flight attendants in case of an emergency landing.
Dress the Part
Obviously, you want to dress for comfort. Still, there are some special considerations when dressing to sleep on a plane. First, you want to dress in layers. Your body temperature may fluctuate from warm to cold throughout your flight. So, wear a soft cotton T-Shirt as your first layer for maximum comfort. For women, a pashmina is a stylish and practical second layer which can be worn as a shawl or a blanket. For men, a zip-up fleece makes for a good second layer.
Make sure you wear long pants with at least a little stretch in them, so that they don’t pinch and bunch when you sit. Yoga pants are perfect for this. For men, jogging pants work well.
Look out for your feet as well. Wear warm, cozy socks that you can pad around in on the flight. Also, wearing slip-on shoes will make it easier to take shoes on and off as you go through the security check as well as when you are getting on and off the plane.
Avoid metal jewelry, belt buckles, and keys in your pocket, all of which will poke you and make you uncomfortable as you try to sleep.
Prepare Your Playlist
Make sure you have sleep-inducing, happifying music ready to play on your phone, and don’t forget your earphones! Some airlines offer free internet, but many charge as much as $16 per flight and the signals can be spotty. Your best bet is to download the music you plan to listen to on your flight before you go. If you use Spotify, check out their “Airplane Sleepyhead” playlist. Besides Spotify, check out the Huffington Post’s Top 5 Music Apps for Offline Listening.
The straight answer is No. It is better not to use sleep aids because they will probably leave you feeling groggy upon arrival. There is one exception that many professionals seem to agree upon, however. That is melatonin, an herbal supplement which may help switch your circadian rhythm, tricking your body into thinking it is the night when it isn’t. Melatonin isn’t regulated or approved by the FDA, but several studies have shown it to be effective.
What to Eat
Let’s start with what you definitely don’t want to eat; that is, starchy, fatty, or fried foods. These will leave you feeling overly “full” during your flight and make you too uncomfortable to fall asleep. Also, stay away from high-sodium items to avoid “jet-bloat,” which can be very disconcerting. Better choices are nuts, which will satiate you for a long flight but are easy to digest (so no discomfort.) Opt for low-sodium foods like fruit and non-cruciferous vegetables. Finally, make sure you are well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Flying can dehydrate you, leaving you feeling groggy, sick, and disoriented. Drink water before, during, and after your flight.