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Fly like a pro – Sleep hacks for restful air travel

Posted on October 10th, 2023

Airplane travel allows you to explore amazing new destinations and connect with loved ones. However, air travel often presents a challenge: getting quality sleep during your flight. 

Whether you’re on a short domestic hop or a long-haul international red-eye, a few hours of rest can make a world of difference in how you feel when you land. 

Let’s go over some effective strategies to help you sleep better on planes. That way, you can arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to go.

Recreate your natural sleeping position as much as possible

You obviously can’t lay your body flat on a plane the way you can in your bed. But you can try to recreate your natural sleeping position as much as possible. You can, of course, recline your seat. Plus, you can take a small travel pillow and place it behind your lower back. That way, you get your spine closer to the ideal neutral or straight position. 

Then, you can place a small carry-on bag under your ankles to prop up your feet to reduce pressure on your lower back, hips, and knees. If you’re tall, however, you don’t need something extra to prop up your feet. Instead, you can simply extend your legs, keeping only your heels on the ground rather than resting your feet flat. That way, you’re less apt to feel the plane’s vibrations, which could keep you awake. 

Choose the optimal seat on the plane 

Your seat choice plays a significant role in your in-flight sleeping experience. If possible, opt for a window seat, as it provides a more stable surface to lean on and allows you to control the window shade. 

Avoid seats near the bathrooms and galleys. They can be noisy and disrupt your sleep. Also, pay attention to seat pitch (the distance between seats) and try to select a seat with more legroom for added comfort (if it’s in your budget). 

Bring the right sleep accessories with you

Investing in a few travel sleep accessories can make a world of difference. Consider packing the following items: 

A neck pillow: A quality neck pillow that provides support and helps you maintain a comfortable sleeping position is a must-have. Choose a pillow that’s tall enough to prevent your neck from bending too much. Many neck pillows are too short, and while you sleep, your head falls to one side or the other, restricting the blood flow to your brain and causing you to wake up. 

Earplugs or noise-canceling headphones: Earplugs and noise-canceling headphones help block out the noise of the plane’s engines and fellow passengers, making it easier to fall asleep. 

A black-out eye mask: Blocking out cabin lights and distractions using an eye mask can significantly improve your sleep quality.

Dress comfortably for the flight 

Wearing comfortable clothing can also enhance your ability to sleep on an airplane. Choose breathable fabrics and loose-fitting attire and dress in layers to adapt to temperature changes. Compression socks can also help improve circulation and reduce leg fatigue.

Stay hydrated and avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine 

Dehydration can worsen the symptoms of jet lag and make it harder to sleep. Drink plenty of water throughout the flight, but avoid excessive caffeine and alcohol, as they can disrupt your sleep patterns.

Adjust your body’s clock 

Before your flight, try to adjust your body’s internal clock to your destination’s time zone. Doing so can help reduce jet lag and make it easier to sleep at the right times during your flight. Consider taking short naps if necessary (20-30 minutes), but avoid long ones. Long naps can leave you feeling groggy.

Practice sleep-inducing techniques 

Once you’re on board the plane, employ relaxation techniques to help you fall asleep. Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, or guided meditation can calm your mind and relax your body. 

Getting quality sleep on an airplane is difficult, but with the right preparation and strategies, you can make it happen. It may take some trial and error to find the combination of strategies that work for you, as everyone’s sleep needs are different. But if you follow these tips, you can improve your in-flight sleep experience. 

Dr. Meghna Dassani has practiced dentistry for over two decades and is passionate about the role dentists play in whole-body health. You can learn more at her website:

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