How to Sleep on A Plane?

Key Takeaways

  • Invest in Comfort: Prioritize travel accessories like neck pillows, eye masks, and noise-canceling headphones. Dress in layers and choose a suitable seat to maximize your comfort during the flight.
  • Create a Relaxing Routine: Develop a pre-sleep routine that includes calming activities like deep breathing or meditation. Avoid caffeine and heavy meals before bedtime to signal your body that it’s time to rest.
  • Adapt to Time Zones: Overcome jet lag by adjusting your sleep schedule before the flight and exposing yourself to natural light during the day. Consider the responsible use of sleep aids after consulting a healthcare professional.
  • Be Mindful of Health: Stay hydrated with water, herbal tea, or natural juices, avoiding caffeine and alcohol. Prioritize your mental well-being by practicing relaxation techniques to combat anxiety, ensuring a more restful sleep on your journey.

Flying can be exhausting, especially on long-haul journeys, but catching some quality sleep on a plane is not an impossible dream.

With the right strategies and a bit of preparation, you can transform your uncomfortable airplane seat into a cozy haven for a restful slumber.

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How To Sleep on a Plane Comfortably?

We have highlighted a few ways in which you can add comfort to your sleep experience on a flight:

a. Reclining Your Seat: A research study found that sitting upright could increase alertness, which could minimize the chances of getting quality sleep. 

If your seat has a reclining option, gently recline it to find a comfortable position.

Avoid sudden movements to prevent disturbing your neighbors.

Experiment with the angle to discover what suits your back and neck best.

“Sleeping upright on a plane can strain the cervical spine and disrupt sleep quality,” says Dr. Jordan Burns. “Research suggests that the lack of proper neck support and the upright seating position can lead to muscular discomfort such as neck pain and reduce the depth of sleep, which is crucial for cognitive and physical recovery.”

b. Using Blankets for Lumbar Support: Most airlines offer a blanket to all passengers during international or long flights. Fold blankets or use travel cushions to support the natural curve of your lower back.

This added lumbar support reduces strain, making your seat more comfortable for sleeping.

“According to research published in ‘The Lancet Neurology,’ maintaining spinal alignment is essential for preventing discomfort and facilitating restful sleep, even in challenging environments like airplanes,” says Dr. Burns.

“This research underscores the importance of finding ways to support the spine’s natural curvature when sleeping in a seated position.”

c. Using Noise-Canceling Headphones: Invest in noise-canceling headphones that actively block out the hum of the plane’s engines and other ambient sounds.

They create a quieter environment, allowing you to relax and doze off without disturbances.

“Blocking out sensory disturbances can also significantly enhance sleep quality on flights,” says Dr. Burns.

“Consider using noise-cancelling headphones and a sleep mask to create a more conducive sleep environment. Staying hydrated and avoiding caffeine before and during the flight can also help your body relax and better adjust to sleeping while seated.”

d. Listening to Calming Music or White Noise: Play soft, calming music or white noise through your headphones. You might need to stream the music before getting on the flight.

These soothing sounds mask ambient noise, making it less disruptive.

Alternatively, many mobile apps offer a variety of relaxing sounds designed to help you sleep, such as ocean waves or gentle rainfall.

e. Bring your Eye Mask: An eye mask is an effective way to block out light, signaling to your body that it’s time to sleep.

Choose a mask that fits well and is made from a soft, breathable material for maximum comfort.

f. Hoodie or Scarf: If you don’t have an eye mask, pull a hoodie or scarf over your eyes to create a makeshift blindfold.

This makeshift solution can help block out light, creating a darker environment conducive to sleep.

g. Wearing Comfortable Clothing and Layers: Opt for loose, breathable fabrics like cotton or moisture-wicking materials.

Avoid tight belts or restrictive clothing that might hinder circulation or cause discomfort during long periods of sitting.

h. Layers for Fluctuating Temperatures: Airplane cabins can vary in temperature.

Wear layers, such as a light sweater or a scarf, which you can easily remove or add according to your comfort.

This way, you can adapt to changing temperatures without disturbing your sleep.

Understanding the Challenges

Let’s talk about a few common issues flyers experience while trying to sleep on a plane:

Common Obstacles to Sleeping on a Plane

Limited Space: Airplane seats are designed for efficiency, not comfort. The limited legroom and narrow seats can make it challenging to find a comfortable sleeping position.

Noise: The constant drone of the plane’s engines, passenger conversations, and crew announcements create a noisy environment.

These interruptions disrupt your sleep cycle and make it difficult to achieve deep, restful sleep.

Discomfort: Airplane seats are often made of firm materials, and the lack of ergonomic support can lead to back and neck pain, making it hard to relax and fall asleep.

Disrupted Circadian Rhythm: Jet lag occurs when your body’s internal clock is out of sync with the new time zone.

This disorientation confuses your natural sleep-wake cycle, making it difficult to fall asleep when you need to.

Sleep Fragmentation: Jet lag can cause fragmented sleep, where you wake up multiple times during the night and struggle to go back to sleep.

This results in shallow, less restorative sleep.

Daytime Sleepiness: The disruption in your sleep patterns due to jet lag often leads to excessive daytime sleepiness, affecting your alertness and overall energy levels.

Importance of Overcoming These Challenges

Here are a few solutions to prevent issues while sleeping on a plane:

Enhanced Physical Health

Quality sleep is vital for physical health, promoting better immune function, muscle recovery, and overall well-being.

Overcoming challenges on a plane ensures you get the rest your body needs to stay healthy.

Mental Well-being During Travel

Adequate sleep is crucial for mental health, helping regulate mood and reduce stress and anxiety.

Overcoming obstacles to sleep on a plane contributes to your mental well-being, enhancing your travel experience.


Why Is It So Hard To Sleep on a Plane?

Sleeping on a plane can be challenging due to limited space, noise, uncomfortable seats, and disruptions in the cabin environment, all of which can affect your ability to relax and fall asleep.

How Can I Choose the Best Seat for Sleeping During a Flight?

Opt for a window seat to rest your head against the cabin wall or an aisle seat for easier movement. Seats near emergency exits often have more legroom, enhancing comfort.

Are There Specific Travel Accessories That Can Help Me Sleep Better on a Plane?

Yes, neck pillows, eye masks, noise-canceling headphones, and blankets can significantly improve your in-flight sleep experience by providing comfort and reducing disturbances.

Can I Use Sleep Aids Like Melatonin To Help Me Sleep on a Plane?

While melatonin supplements can assist with adjusting to new time zones, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional before using any sleep aids to ensure they are suitable for your situation.

How Can I Block Out Noise During My Flight?

Noise-canceling headphones are effective in blocking out ambient noise. You can also use earplugs or listen to calming music or white noise to mask disruptive sounds.

Is It Better To Recline My Seat To Sleep?

Reclining your seat slightly can improve comfort, but be considerate of the person behind you. Recline gradually and avoid sudden movements.

How Can I Overcome Jet Lag and Adjust to Different Time Zones?

Try to align your sleep schedule with the destination's time zone before your flight. Expose yourself to natural light during the day and avoid bright screens in the evening to regulate your body's internal clock.

Can I Bring My Own Snacks and Water To Maintain My Comfort During the Flight?

Yes, you can bring your own snacks and a reusable water bottle. Staying hydrated and having familiar snacks can contribute to your overall comfort during the flight.

Is It Advisable To Consume Caffeine or Alcohol Before or During the Flight?

It's best to avoid caffeine and alcohol, as they can disrupt your sleep patterns. Opt for water, herbal tea, or natural juices to stay hydrated without affecting your ability to sleep.

How Can I Deal With Anxiety or Nervousness That Might Prevent Me From Sleeping on a Plane?

Practice deep breathing exercises, meditation, or listen to calming music to help relax your mind. If your anxiety is severe, consider consulting a healthcare professional for advice.

Are There Specific Sleeping Positions That Are Better for Sleeping on a Plane?

Experiment with different positions to find what works best for you. Some people find sleeping slightly reclined with neck support, while others prefer sleeping upright with their seat cushioned.

Is It Possible To Get a Good Night’s Sleep on Short-Haul Flights?

While it can be more challenging due to the shorter duration of the flight, applying relaxation techniques, using travel accessories, and creating a sleep-conducive environment can still help you get some rest on short-haul flights.


By implementing these tried-and-true techniques, you can turn your next flight into an opportunity for much-needed rest.

Remember to create a comfortable environment, establish a relaxing routine, and be mindful of your body’s natural sleep patterns.

With a little patience and practice, you’ll be able to conquer jet lag and arrive at your destination feeling refreshed, ensuring that your travel experiences are not only exciting but also restful.

Sweet dreams and safe travels!

This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.

Sarah Anderson, Certified Sleep Science Coach Sarah Anderson

Sarah Anderson is a sleep, health, and wellness writer and product reviewer. She has written articles on changing and improving your sleep schedule, choosing the right mattress for chronic pain conditions, and finding the best pillow for you. Sarah Anderson has her Bachelor of Arts degree from Arizona State University in Journalism and Mass Communications. Prior to working for Zoma, she wrote for a variety of news publications. Sarah's work has been featured on Bustle, PureWow, and other publications.

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