Flying solo can sometimes feel like a game of roulette, holding your breath every time a potential seat mate walks down the aisle. And even if you do get lucky with your seat partners, there is exactly a zero percent chance of getting much sleep unless you are magically able to contort yourself into a pretzel. Unless you’ve brought some sleep aid with you or scored a whole aisle to yourself, getting some sleep on a plane can seem like an impossible task. But never fear, if you’ve got a super long flight ahead of you, we’ve got some tricks and tips for how to actually sleep between dinner and breakfast service.
Yes, it might make bathroom breaks more awkward, but having that window to lean against is way better than falling asleep on your neighbor’s shoulder. Try picking a window seat on “your” side- for example, if you sleep on your left side at home, pick a seat on the left side of the plan. There is also another sneaky reason to be on the left side of the plane: the windows are usually off-center—compared to the right side, where they line up evenly—which makes cozying up against the side of the plane easier.
If you have one of those U shaped neck pillows, flip it around so it actually provides some support for your neck. If you don’t have one, bring a really big scarf (a definite must for long flights) that you can use as a pillow. You can also spritz your pillows with calming lavender essential oil for relaxation and for blocking out other possible unpleasant airplane smells. Yep, we’ve all been there. If you can snag a couple extra little airplane pillows, you can wedge them between the seat’s adjustable headrest to keep your head from rolling around and jerking you awake.
Now that your top is comfortable, it’s time to try and figure out what to do with your feet. Economy seats are famously uncomfortable and hard on your spine, so sitting on a pillow can really help. If you’re tall, keep the area under the seat in front of you free. If you’re shorter, you can rest your legs on your carry on bag to try and get as close to 180 degrees as possible. Kick off your shoes and bring comfy sock so your toes don’t get cold.
Here is where being short has it’s advantages. Curl up. You might get some weird looks, but it’ll be worth it. If you’re taller, lift both armrests and lean against the side of the plane. Put your pillow, scarf, sweatshirt, and whatever else you have you have that can serve as a cushion behind your back.
Say no to cocktails, coffee, tea, and soda, which are all dehydrating and have caffeine and ask for milk instead; it contains tryptophan, which can promote drowsiness. Keep some bags of chamomile tea in your carryon and stick to healthy, sleep-inducing snacks like almonds and bananas while you’re waiting at the airport.
You may think watching the in-flight movie will help you relax into sleep, but it will probably just put you into a sluggish coma. The bright lights from the TVs, your laptop, or any other tech sends signals to your brain that just make it more awake. Make sure you’ve got some noise-canceling earphones and choose relaxing music over another sappy rom-com. Another bonus to wearing headphones is it acts as a polite signal to your talkative seat mate to let you get some rest.
Let’s be honest, the cute outfit you put on when you got to the airport is no longer looking great and it’s definitely not going to look better after a 15 hour flight. As soon as the captain turns off the “fasten seatbelt” light, head to the bathroom and slip into something a lot more comfortable. Sweatpants comfortable. You should also take off your makeup and apply lots of moisturizer to give your skin a rest.
Obviously, none of these tricks are going to make you sleep for ten hours straight. Unless you are a magical being that can snooze through turbulence and drink service, just try to aim for a 90- minute nap. When you sleep, your brain cycles through various stages, each lasting 90 minutes so even if you just nap, you’ll actually wake up feeling refreshed rather than hungover.