You’ve booked your long-haul flight and plan to sleep your way across the sky so you can start your holiday at your bright-eyed and fabulous best.
Enter reality! The flight is barely 30 minutes in and already the guy in front of you has reclined his seat so far back he’s practically laying in your lap, the kid in 7C has been screaming for twenty-nine of those minutes and there’s enough sunlight streaming through the windows to solar power the freaking plane. Once your seatmate starts snoring like a congested walrus, you begin to accept that, as opposed to fresh, you’ll be arriving at your destination so dishevelled and bleary-eyed that the casual observer may think they’re witnessing the first stage of the zombie apocalypse.
The truth is that for the average person, grabbing any sort of sleep when you’re travelling economy class, is about as easy as scoring a date with Channing Tatum. So if you’re bracing yourself for another sleepless trip these holidays, try these 24 hacks for getting some shut-eye, in any sitch…
1. Be an early adopter
Stay up late or go to bed early in the days before you fly to start adjusting your body clock to changing time zones and put much less of a shock on your system.
2. Eat yourself to sleep
Before you fly, embrace lean proteins and complex carbohydrates like wholegrains to increase your serotonin levels, which help promote sleep as well as improve your mood.
3. Get classy
If you really want a good flight’s sleep, fly business class to avoid having to fashion yourself into a pretzel. Many airlines offer luxe lie-flat seating so you can get horizontal and snooze in style… but you’ll pay a mighty big premium for the privilege.
4. Leg it
If, like most of us, business class is out of your budget, it’s definitely worth paying a little more for premium economy. Even the smallest bit of additional wriggle room will contribute to a more comfortable sleep.
5. Get the sweet seat
If your budget relegates you to cattle class, picking the right seat is quite possibly the most important piece of the in-flight sleep puzzle. Aim for a window seat on the left side of the plane. It is alleged that windows are slightly off-centre on the left side and provide the perfect spot to lay your head. Plus you wont have to get up every time your seatmate needs to pee.
6. Take your SO
Travelling with someone you can flop over onto and use as a pillow rest certainly aids nap-time comfort, though less so for the floppee. To make the most of your couple space, book an aisle and window seat in the same row. Nobody wants that middle seat, so it gives you the best chance of scoring an empty space next to you. If the middle seat does become occupied, you can always ask to switch the aisle or window for it.
7. Embrace sweat pants
You may look on fleek rocking your designer trophy jeans and sky high Louboutins, but you can forget getting anything even remotely resembling sleep while you do. If shut-eye is your end goal, trade the designer duds for loose, non-constricting clothing.
8. Free your feet
Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, but make sure you keep your tootsies toasty in warm socks. Compression socks are best as they can help prevent tingling, leg cramps and blood clots. And while we’re on the subject, keep them clean. No one wants to breathe oxygen that’s been infused with the stench of someone’s feet.
9. Carry on lightly
Even if you’re prone to packing enough checked-luggage to outfit the entire cast of a Broadway musical, keep your carry-on to a minimum so that it can be stowed in the overhead and doesn’t take up precious legroom underneath the seat in front of you.
10. Bring your blanky
The temperature can drop drastically mid-flight which makes sleep more difficult, so pack your own pillow and blanket for extra comfort, as you’ll find the familiar textures and smells may help you relax and fall asleep more easily.
11. Sniff it
Spritz your pillow with a little soporific lavender oil for an extra snoozy effect – studies show that inhaling lavender oil before and during sleep decreases blood pressure and encourages deeper sleep.
12. Nix napping at take-off
Take offs can get a little bumpy; your ears are adjusting as the cabin pressure changes and everyone is chattering while they settle in for the flight. For a better chance at an uninterrupted siesta, wait until the first meal service has concluded before attempting a little shut eye.
13. Be picky
Speaking of meals, order the vegetarian option or a special meal on a full service flight. You’ll get your food served before anyone else and you can start snoozing sooner.
14. Can the caffeine
This is a no brainer. Caffeine will only keep you wired. Instead, pack a few calming chamomile tea bags.
15. Ban the booze
While some people believe booze has snooze-promoting effects, alcohol-induced sleep is not quality sleep. It’s also worth noting that alcohol can also act as stimulant and there ain’t no one on your flight who wants you to get the party started at 30,000 feet.
16. Position it
Ergonomics and economy seating are mutually exclusive concepts. Place the small plane pillows supplied behind your lower back to lessen the strain in your spine.
17. Belt it out
Buckle your seat belt over the top of your blanket so the flight attendant won’t wake you to buckle up during turbulence.
18. Be resolutely anti-social
Deter the marathon chatterbox in the next seat from ceaseless mid-flight small talk by popping on some noise cancelling headphones as soon as you board.
19. Do not disturb
Flight attendants are constantly door-knocking with snacks, drinks and duty-free deals. Politely inform them that you’d prefer to remain undisturbed for the remainder of your flight…unless you’re worried about missing out on a bag of peanuts or an in-flight shopping spree.
20. Give movies a miss
The blue light from modern electronic screens will keep your brain busy and stop you from sleeping, so give the in-flight movie a miss and settle for a little light music, or use a sleep calming app on your smartphone to help you drift off instead.
21. Mask it
Invest in a good quality eye mask. It may make you feel like you’re channelling Batman, but absolute darkness is essential for prompting your body to produce melatonin, the hormone that makes you fall asleep at night time.
Try listening to a guided meditation through your headphones to find an inner tranquillity that can be as relaxing and restful as a good sleep.
If all else fails, consult your doctor about prescribed medication to help you sleep. Just remember that sleeping deeply in a cramped, upright position can increase the risk of deep vein thrombosis as well as leaving you drowsy and disoriented, so only reach for prescription sleeping tablets in-flight as a last resort.
Images via giphy.com, factmag.com and tumblr.com.
Comment: What’s your foolproof trick for getting shut-eye in the air?
Aleney is a travel, food and parenting writer. When she’s not treading on Lego or being forced to watch Frozen on loop, the mother of two can be found hauling her ravenous offspring around the globe. Follow Aleney on Twitter and Facebook.