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How to sleep on a plane

Whether you take one flight a year or one a week, you’ve probably discovered how tough it can be to get a decent sleep on a plane. The seats are narrow, there’s not a lot of leg room and the people sitting next to you are often all elbows, peanuts and screeching headphones. As you toss and turn, lift up your legs to let people pass, and wonder if your neck will ever recover, the plane flies on to your business or holiday destination. So when you arrive, looking a little like Keith Richards, all you’re capable of is snapping at people. Not a great way to start a meeting or a vacation.

So how do you sleep on a plane? What are the tricks those Hollywood stars use so they arrive looking more glamorous than Angelina Jolie at a premiere? For starters, they probably book one of those lie-flat premium seats and have a stylist on hand to brush out their bird’s nest.

For most of us, however, first class isn’t an option. Instead we have to try to be better prepared and think smarter. Read the 5 tips below and hopefully you’ll enjoy a better snooze on your next flight and arrive at your destination ready to seize the day!

Tip #1 Time Check

Before you’ve even left the tarmac there a couple of things you can do. First, try and book a late night flight. Hopefully after all the packing, organising and rushing to the airport, you’ll be naturally tired, which could help you sleep better.

During your flight, keep your watch on Australian time, so you know when you should be sleeping and for how long. If you can, stick with your normal sleep patterns. For example, if you normally go to bed at 11pm, aim for shut-eye at that time. And if you wake up at 6.30am, set your alarm for that time, rather than when the flight attendant arrives with a loud voice and a tray of dinner.

TIP #3 SEAT CHECK

While some people like the idea of an aisle seat, so they can get up and down without bothering anyone, we think the window seat wins hands down! Some people even suggest you pick the window that matches the side of the bed you sleep on, but that might be going a bit too far! If you have a window seat, you can lean into it plus, more importantly, you control the blind. So the sun won’t come streaming in, unless you want it to! 

Another tip: if you’re tallish try and book a seat in the middle emergency exit row. These can cost a bit more and you may have to agree to be taught how to open the door in case of an emergency, but the extra leg room might be worth it! 

TIP #4 SLEEP ACCESSORIES CHECK

SLEEPING ON A PLANE IS USUALLY EASIER IF YOU HAVE A FEW HANDY ACCESSORIES. THIS INCLUDES A NECK PILLOW, PREFERABLY A BLOW-UP ONE SO IT FITS FLAT IN YOUR BAG UNTIL YOU NEED IT. DEPENDING ON YOUR SEAT (WINDOW, MIDDLE OR AISLE) OR HOW YOU LIKE TO SLEEP, YOU CAN WEAR THE NECK PILLOW BEHIND YOUR NECK, OR IF YOU PREFER IN FRONT OF YOUR NECK TO HELP STOP YOUR HEAD FROM JOLTING FORWARD. 

Other great accessories for sleeping on a plane include an eye mask, noise-cancelling headphones & chilled out playlist, compression socks, a page-turning novel and a toothpaste and toothbrush travel set. 

Tip #5 Drink Check

Okay, you’re finally on the plane (and possibly on holiday) and you hear the familiar sound of the drinks trolley heading your way. But before you think about ordering a little G&T, wine or beer, remember alcohol, combined with the dry air, may cause dehydration, which isn’t usually a good recipe for good sleep.

This goes for coffee and any soft drink that contains caffeine, as caffeine is a stimulant, which equals zero snoozing. Instead, try to stay hydrated before your flight and order a large bottle of water when you board the plane.

And good night.

Hopefully, these tips will help you drift off to sleep even on the longest, bumpiest flight. As for waking up, try to wake up at least 45 minutes before you land. This will give you time to visit the bathroom (take along your toothbrush and toothpaste!), collect your gear, find your shoes and, at long last, enjoy a cup of coffee.


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