How to Sleep on an Airplane

I’ve heard from several friends that they can’t sleep on a flight. Well, I don’t have that problem! I am either out right before they close the boarding door or after my meal on an international flight. However, there are times that it is not always easy to relax in the increasingly sardine-packed airplane where less leg room and more people exercising their right to recline into your lap can mean a very unpleasant trip. There are certain things you can do to sleep when flying overseas or domestically. Below are some of the best tips for a peaceful and relaxing slumber on a flight.

Book a Window Seat

Nowadays, airlines are charging for window seats. Pay the extra cost. It is worth it. You can settle in without being disturbed by a seat mate who needs to get up to stretch or use the restroom. Make sure to determine your comfort factor of your seat in terms of proximity to a bathroom (if sleep is critical, avoid) and a flight attendant station (again, avoid) and reclining seats or non-reclining. Just make sure you take care of all of your business before you settle down for a long mid-flight nap.

Book an Economy Comfort Seat

If legroom is important, book an economy comfort (premium seating). For those long international flights, the extra cost is so worth the comfort regardless if you have a window or aisle seat.

Earplugs and/or an Eye Mask

Shutting out the noisy, distracting world of your airplane community is paramount, so pack accordingly.

Choose Your Flight Time Wisely

An overnight international flight or a domestic red eye fits in with your natural sleeping schedule, making your body respond in the usual “it’s time to go night-night” way.

Noise-Canceling Headphones

If things are particularly raucous you might want to double up on earplugs and noise-canceling headphones.

Soothing Music

Create your own white-noise with a relaxing music playlist of your choice. My playlist includes contemporary Christian and Old Skool Hip Hop. Yeah, don’t judge me. It is very relaxing. 😊

Ask for an Empty Row

With most airlines overbooking and getting as many warm bodies into seats as possible, the likelihood of a whole free row to stretch out in is unlikely, but it never hurts to ask. You never know!

All Hail the Neck Pillow

Nothing dignified here but when sleep is your main concern, dignity doesn’t always matter. Just don’t wear it on your neck around the airport. Also, you can put it on backwards in-flight with the gap in the back for maximum neck support.

One Cocktail or One Glass of Wine (Alchohol/Liquor)

I know, I know. Every travel pro warns of the dehydrating effects of alcohol on a flight. But you know what? One and only one cocktail or glass of white wine works the same at home as in the air for me: an instant ticket to Nap Town. For international flights, the wine is free. On Lufthansa, they offer beer out of Prague. Go figure!

Cozy Scarf or Blanket

Yes, I have traveled with my blankie. You know the one that is on your couch that gives you all the comfort in the world. Take it with you. It comes in handy for any flights that are over 8 hours. Oh and warmth it gives you when the flight is way too cold even when you don’t get a window seat.


I am all for a headgear. I tend to have a knit cap during the winter months or a hoodie. The hoodie does wonders at blocking out light and other distractions and provides a nice sensory deprivation effect as well as privacy. Equally good at blocking light and offering a modicum of privacy: a baseball cap or knit cap pulled down over your eyes when it’s time to be knocked out.


O-M-G! I have hospital socks that does wonders for your sense of comfort and relaxation, critical for getting in the mood for sleep. Just don’t wear them into the germ-minefield bathroom.

Dress for Comfort, but Don’t Sacrifice Your Dignity

There’s something to be said for making yourself as comfortable as possible while traveling. My travel attire is sweatshirt and leggings. Wear loose layers so you can adjust to the ever-changing in-flight temperatures (boiling before takeoff, arctic in-flight) and wear cotton and natural fibers for breathability.

Get some zzzzz!!!!

(16) Comments

  1. Shaily

    Nice post! Thanks for listing down the helpful tips for a great in-flight sleep. I agree with your idea of wine/ cocktail. It works for me all the time. Noise cancelling headphones is something I need to try.

  2. Lydia Smith

    Awwwwwnwnnnnn. I can relate with most of these tips. When sleeping is an hobby. Any traveler who flies for long without a neck pillow is not a traveler. I’ll try the white wine trip, sleeping should be encouraged as a good habit on a long flight.😁

  3. Kavita Favelle

    Totally onboard, we follow similar rules! We always book minimum of Premium Economy (unless it’s a really short hop) as that extra legroom makes so much difference, and upgrade with miles to business for longer flights if we can afford it!

  4. Marvi

    I must say (and I’m sure my friends will agree) that I have no problem sleeping while in transit. haha.. And I am fortunate (at least on this case) that I am short and does not have any legroom problems.. LOL. However, I love your tips as I know, there are indeed times that sleeping on a plane can be hard.. I too love having my headphone when I travel. A good (and soothing) music does work wonders and can be very relaxing indeed! 🙂

  5. Hannah

    Excellent tips, especially the legroom! As a tall woman, leg room is always a problem – but upgrading to premium is a great idea for a bit extra. Noise cancelling headphones are another great investment. I like the idea of picking flights that are conducive to keeping with your body clock, I hadn’t thought of that! It’s hard sticking to just 1 glass of wine, but I do agree 1 is good, more is bad 😉

  6. Danik

    Great tips here. My tip would be to drink a bottle of whisky before the flight and sleep the length of the journey. I done one end of Russia to Moscow once with a bottle of vodka in my system and slept the whole journey. Dont remember take off or landing either.

  7. Gabriela@IamFoodieTraveler

    This is super awesome! I do most of the things, but I do have to admit I gave up the white wine for some sparkling water and a tomato juice, it really makes me feel much better compared to the wine.
    And I am one of those people, the moment the pilot says “Prepare to take off, I just go to sleep instantly!” From London to Hong Kong, from 12 hours flight, I slept around 10! 🙂
    Good luck

  8. interNATionalcaty

    Lol…I have had a couple like that.

  9. Gerome of G&D Blog

    Great tips! These are all our must-do things to have a great sleep on the plane. I never tried drinking wine or cocktail though. Should give this a try next time.

  10. Alli

    All of these are great tips but I personally find the eye mask and ear plugs an absolute must above anything else! Ear plugs are the only way I can truly cancel out any chaos around me in order to truly relax enough to fall asleep 🙂

  11. Anne Slater-Brooks

    Got to agree I definitely think there are a few things you absolutely need to sleep on a flight. One is earplugs or your headphones and the second is an eye mask. In fact I even sleep with one at home so I am really conditioned to sleep this way. It is definitely easier to sleep when flying business though and that’s where I thank my lucky stars for airmiles!

  12. Megan Jerrard

    Airlines are charging for window seats now??!! That’s insane. These are great tips though – I usually opt for the window seat because I can rest up against it, and I don’t often need to use the bathroom. The noise cancelling headphones are fabulous because they really do block everything out. I usually try to choose seats at the very back of the plane because they fill those rows last, and if it’s not a full flight I often find myself with a spare seat next to me, or in really amazing scenarios, a full row where I can actually lay flat.

  13. Nisha

    Nice tips. I sometimes have trouble falling asleep during a long haul. I practice some of your tips like getting a window seat and wearing comfortable dress. In the end I just end up binge watching movies 🙂 🙂

  14. Anita Hendrieka

    For me, a window seat is a must too! Luckily I am one of those people who can literally sleep anywhere so if I don’t manage a window seat I am usually okay. Fantastic tips!

  15. Jenna

    Great tips! I can always seem to fall asleep on planes pretty easy, but my husband always has issues. I’ll have to share some of these tips with him for sure. I love window seats-it’s so nice to have the wall to lean against! Cozy scarfs and blankets are the best, and headphones are always a must for me too-all of these are great ideas!

  16. Nick Wheatley

    Awesome set of tips! I agree completely about the window seat – I just gotta have it. I am 6’0″ so a lot of people seem to think I wan the aisle so I can stretch out my legs. But for me the aisle just means getting run over by the drink cart every hour or so. Give ma a window seat and I am out like a light as soon as the airplane wheels leave the tarmac! (and a glass of wine doesn’t hurt either!)

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