In 2017, an estimated 4 billion people boarded an airplane for both domestic and international flights, and one out of three Americans have flown on an airplane in the past 12 months. It's not a stretch to say that air travel is one of the most common formats of long distance travel for Americans, but just because it's common certainly doesn't mean it's comfortable—especially if you're trying to get some sleep during your commute.
Is it possible to sleep comfortably on a plane? While an airplane seat is unlikely to rival the comfort of your bed, it is possible to get restful sleep on an airplane. Check out these 6 easy tips for sleeping more soundly at cruising altitude.
Book a window seat.
When you sleep, your body needs to fully relax to reach optimal levels of deep sleep. But exactly how can you do that when you have nowhere to rest your head? If you're able, pay a bit extra to nab a window seat—by leaning your head on the side of the plane, your body will be able to more fully relax for restful sleep. If you're not able to book a window seat, bring along a firm neck pillow that will support spinal alignment even if you're in a middle seat.
Bring along a pair of headphones.
If you have the budget for it, purchase a pair of high quality noise cancelling headphones. These specialized headphones are able to cut out the high-pitched whistling that often keeps frequent fliers awake during long flights. If you fly regularly, choose one song or playlist every time you fly—your brain will begin to associate this playlist with sleep, helping you to nod off quicker after takeoff.
Make sure to recline.
Sleeping comfortably means maintaining healthy spinal alignment when you rest—and sitting in the awkward upright position most plane seats default to is not how to do it. After takeoff, take the opportunity to recline your seat and take pressure off your lower spine. This will boost circulation and reduce the tingling feeling in your feet and legs.
Bring along cozy, warm clothing.
Air within an airplane is filtered and the temperature controlled—often leading to colder than usual temperatures. While the optimal sleep temperature is somewhere in the mid-60s, this is usually with blankets and comforters to keep you warm. Bring along cozy and warm clothing to keep your feet, hands and bare skin warm. This will help you doze off and stay asleep for longer in flight.
Dress for comfort, not style.
If sleep is a top priority on your flight, dress in a way that's in-line with how you dress when you sleep. Consider that your clothing will double as a blanket or comforter, so layer up for more adaptable temperatures. Clothing that's too tight or too loose is likely to bunch and pinch uncomfortably, so somewhat stretchy and breathable fitted clothing is usually the best choice.
Eat light and skip the cocktail.
Alcohol is a favorite sleep tonic for many, but while alcohol might help you doze off, it's likely to reduce the overall quality of your sleep. Instead, bring along some natural melatonin supplements and flaxseed or fiber supplements. These will keep your stomach happy and help your body produce healthy sleepy chemicals to drift off.