If you have trouble with the seated sleeping position (like me), an overnight flight can feel downright torturous. How is anyone supposed to get comfortable and actually doze off in such positions?! Unless you’re one of those lucky folks that can shut down anytime, anywhere, red-eyes are probably the stuff of your nightmares.
Here are five tricks to help you get some sleep on your next red-eye.
Location, Location, Location
Give yourself a leg up on your next red-eye by carefully selecting your seat. If you’re flying with a budget airline, pony up the extra cash for the privilege of picking — you’ll thank yourself later. There are benefits to both the aisle and the window seat (does anyone ever actually opt for the middle one?), but drifting off to sleep is definitely easier when you’ve got wall and window support on your side. Additionally, your seat-mates won’t disturb you when they get up for a bathroom break.
Also consider which side you typically sleep on (left or right side). This will determine the side of the plane you select. If you’re a right-side sleeper, pick a window seat on the right side of the plane so you can lean up against the wall on your preferred side.
Lastly, avoid the rows near the toilets and the back galley where food-prep takes place. This is probably the busiest section of the plane and all that noise and commotion (plus the combination of ... smells) is not conducive to a peaceful sleep.
Break out the Comfy Clothes
I never understand how people can knowingly board long-haul flights (never mind a red-eye) wearing business suits, high heels or tight, restrictive clothing. I guess sleep is not their priority. But if it’s yours, make sure to don your most comfortable duds. That means stretchy pants or sweatpants and closed-toe shoes with thick socks that’ll keep your feet warm in the chilly cabin. Don’t forget to wear a few layers on top that can be removed or added depending on the fluctuating temperature.
Bring Your Sleep Gear
It’s not natural for most people to fall asleep sitting nearly straight up in a brightly lit place without a bed, pillow and nothing but the soothing sound of roaring engines. Help yourself out by packing items to cancel out all that discomfort, noise and light. A neck pillow is a key travel accessory that keeps your neck supported and prevents that annoying head-bob as you drift off. A slip-on eye mask prevents the glaring overhead lights or your neighbor’s reading light from penetrating your eyelids. Earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones ensure you don’t hear that baby crying in 12B or the chatter of your seatmates. Done, done and done.
Skip the Food and Beverage Cart
While it’s tempting to eat and drink on a flight as there’s not much else more to do, doing so can disrupt your sleep. Staying hydrated is important, but pounding water in-flight means you’ll be running to the bathroom too often to stay asleep for long. Pre-hydrate before the flight instead of during. Try to avoid alcohol altogether as this will also prevent you from feeling fully rested. And then there’s the plane food, which often leads to bloating and cramping. If possible, eat a proper meal just before the flight so you’re not tempted by the in-flight meal. Or bring along some healthy snacks like apples, oranges, unsalted nuts or dried fruit to hold you over.
Relax Your Mind and Body — or Resort to Natural Sleep-Aids
With all the excitement of your trip and the energy of the airport, your body likely doesn’t realize that it’s nearly bedtime when it comes to boarding the plane. To get your mind and body prepped and ready for sleep, follow your normal bedtime routine. Wash your face, moisturize, brush your teeth, take out your contacts, change your underwear — do as much of your bedtime routine as the airport facilities allow. Once you’ve boarded, prep your mind for relaxation with some slow tunes or a guided meditation app. Get comfortable in your sleeping space and start to drift off.
If all else fails, there are some natural sleep aids that can jump-start your dreams. Melatonin is a good bet.