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How to Actually Get Some Sleep on a Plane

There's an art to sleeping in a sitting position, with no leg room, surrounded by strangers -- and you can master it.


  • Step 1: Wear comfy clothes Wear loose clothing made of natural fabrics that breathe, like cotton; soft shoes that you can slip off; and thick socks. Bring a sweater in case the cabin gets chilly.
  • Step 2: Have a carry-on Take a carry-on bag that you can use as a footstool. Pack a soft blanket in it, along with two travel pillows and a neck support.
  • Step 3: Strategize your pillow use One pillow can be tucked under the small of your back for lumbar support. If you have children's water wings, bring them; inflated, they make nice cushions. A body pillow is another useful sleep aid, if you don't mind carrying it. Try doubling it and placing it on your tray table to snuggle against.
  • TIP: Wear your neck pillow under your chin if your head tends to nod forward when you fall asleep.
  • Step 4: Scout empty seats Choose your seat wisely. Avoid booking a seat in the last row; the seats usually don't recline, making it even harder to sleep. The next best thing to an empty row is a window seat so you can lean against the wall -- and won't be disturbed by seatmates getting up.
  • Step 5: Take advantage of takeoff Try to fall asleep when the plane is taxiing down the runway and ascending; decreased oxygen in the cabin will make you feel drowsy, plus your body will be in a reclining position.
  • Step 6: Eat, drink and be wary Forgo cocktails, coffee, tea, and colas, which are all dehydrating, and opt for milk instead; it contains tryptophan, which can promote drowsiness. Pack a chamomile tea, a banana, turkey on whole wheat, and a handful of almonds for a sleep-inducing snack.
  • TIP: Eat a light meal if you hope to sleep; your body will find it difficult to relax if it's busy digesting food.
  • Step 7: Create sensory deprivation Block out as much noise and light as possible with a high-quality noise-cancelling headset and a padded sleep mask. Skip the movie in favor of relaxing music.
  • Step 8: Give "do not disturb" signals Keep your tray table up if you don't want to be awakened for a meal, and your seatbelt on so the flight attendant doesn't have to disturb you in the event of turbulence. If you have a blanket on your lap, snap the seatbelt over it so it's in clear view. Sweet dreams!
  • FACT: According to an airline poll, 66 percent of people would be willing to stand on an hour-long flight if the fare were free.

You Will Need

  • Comfortable clothes
  • Slip-on shoes
  • Sweater
  • Carry-on bag
  • Soft blanket
  • 2 travel pillows
  • Neck support
  • Body pillow
  • Empty seats or a window seat
  • Milk or chamomile tea
  • Banana
  • Turkey on wheat
  • Almonds
  • Noise-cancelling headset
  • Padded sleep mask
  • Children's water wings (optional)

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