The Handbook

Sleep on a Plane

Whether it's a redeye for work or you're trying to get the most bang for your vacation buck, a late night flight can be really helpful. But if not done correctly, you could be spending the entire next day sore, groggy and pissed off. But how does one sleep effectively while fully clothed, sitting up in a cramped cabin? Here are some practical and surprising tricks for getting some shuteye in the sky.

Choose Your Seat


Think about your bed at home. If you sleep mostly on your right side, for example, choose the right side of the plane. Most will opt for the window seat so they have more privacy and something to lean against. Stay clear of the last few rows as they're to close to the bathrooms. Bulkheads and seats near the galleys are often noisy areas. Exit rows offer more legroom but the seats don't recline. Check with such sources as SeatGuru and Routehappy to learn more about available options on the flights you're considering.


Dress Appropriately

With such full planes these days, the cabin temperature can get a bit warm and you'll have a hard time falling asleep if you're overheated. If you're over ten years old, you don't need to wear pajamas in public. Wear breathable, cotton-based clothing, shoes that easily slip on and off and a fresh pair of quality socks.

Get Comfortable

On overnight flights, feel free to recline. You may want to improvise some ergonomics in that cramped economy seat as well. Heather Poole, a longtime flight attendant and author of the book Cruising Attitude, recommends using your small carry-on bag as a leg rest. The dinky airline blanket or pillow they hand out? Tuck them behind you for lumbar support. As for a travel pillow, we swear by the innovative design of the Travelrest, which far outperforms those bulky donut collars. It promotes proper head and neck alignment, making it easier to fall and stay asleep—even in that dreaded middle seat.

Inflatable pillow, $27 by Travelrest

Keep It Dark

Light is sleep's natural enemy so lower your window shade and turn off the TV monitor in front of you. Even those low cabin lights on overnight flights can be enough to keep you from dozing off. If you travel regularly, invest in a sleep mask to fully block out light. If you don't need it to be pitch black, then just wear a ball cap and pull the bill down over your eyes for some shade and privacy.


40 Blinks eye mask, $13 by Bucky

Sleeper Headphones


Create a soothing playlist on your iPod specifically for flying and block out any unwanted sounds with noise-canceling headphones. This set by Solitude is one of the best-reviewed and most affordable on the market.

$99.95 at ProTravelGear

No Booze

While we're rarely ones to refuse a cocktail, alcohol on a late flight is not a good idea. It's dehydrating and that booze-induced sleep on a plane is never restful, beneficial sleep.