Get Cozy Because Here's How To Sleep Better on a Plane

sleeping on a plane

Written by Shannon O’Donnell on

Shannon O'Donnell is a long-term traveler who has been on the road since 2008 and has lived everywhere from Southeast Asia to Barcelona, where she now calls home. She travels slowly and supports responsible tourism along the way, winning numerous awards for her work advocating for the communities impacted by travel and tourism.

Get Cozy Because Here's How To Sleep Better on a Plane

Getting shuteye on a plane takes some skill—a pro traveler shares the best tips to sleep well on a long flight. This includes everything from picking a good seat to keeping your space organized (with packing cubes), and being prepared with items like a blanket, earplugs, and eye mask.

Arriving at your destination well-slept is an art-form for many travelers—with various strategies regarding seat selection and the perfect in-flight kit to maximize comfort. Whether you’re on a red-eye or a long-haul flight to kickoff adventures in Europe, Asia, and beyond, these five tips will help you sleep better on a plane.

1. Pick the Right Seat

While there is endless debate on the benefits of an aisle seat versus a window seat among travelers, the fact is that a window seat will help most travelers sleep better on a plane. Window seats ensure you not only have something to lean against, but you avoid the key pitfalls of an aisle seat that really disturb a decent sleep: getting endlessly bumped by passing trolley carts and needing to get up so others in your aisle can use the bathroom.

2. Pack the Right Clothes

Planes are purposefully kept on the low side of what’s comfortable for many people, and due to the high-pressure environment, many people who might usually be fine in that temperature find it feels colder. The antidote is to pack your underseat bag with the right clothes to stay warm: comfortable travel socks, a soft and comfy jacket (zip-up hoodies are a great option), and a scarf if you’re prone to feeling especially cold. These items are all layers too, so if you get overly warm you have options—it’s much better to have a bit of extra clothing you can layer on than to risk getting too cold with no recourse. Keeping yourself at a cozy temperature will help you sleep more deeply and for longer.

3. Carry Your Comfort Essentials in One Spot

Create a travel comfort kit that contains all of your most essential gear to facilitate a good night’s sleep. Use a packing sac to gather airplane sleep essentials: memory neck foam pillow, Sandman Eyeshade, travel ear plugs, and hand sanitizer. By carrying your own neck pillow, you can use the pillow provided by the airplane as either lumbar support, or to cushion your body from the armrest when you’re leaning into the side of the plane. And, while some planes like the Dreamliner have added time-zone adjusted lighting, which can make it easier to adjust to your destination on long-haul flights, you’ll still want to pack an eyeshade to block out the harsh lights inside the plane and make it nice and dark when you try to get some shuteye.

4. Download Your Preferred White Noise Sound

White noise (and other sounds like pink or brown noise) is a very effective tool to help you sleep better even when at home in your own bed, so it stands to reason you’ll sleep better on a plane when you plug in some earbuds and drown out the sounds of chatter all around you. White noise works by creating baseline sounds that effectively neutralize the other noise that might filter through. Noise-canceling earbuds or headphones are an added bonus over regular headphones as they further help block out the noises that may disturb your sleep.

5. Prep Yourself Before You Even Fly

One secret to a truly great sleep on a plane is to prepare for the journey before you ever arrive at the airport. Your biological rhythms may hamper falling asleep for some used to a very specific sleep schedule, so start adjusting your bedtime in the days leading up to your flight. Also consider exercising the morning of your flight, or take a brisk walk around the airport before boarding your flight.

With the right travel accessories and preparation, you can sleep better than ever before on your next flight!