Simple techniques for getting a good night’s sleep on an airplane and preventing your flight from being a nightmare

Simple techniques for getting a good night’s sleep on an airplane and preventing your flight from being a nightmare


Brian Kelly is one of the rare among frequent travelers, as he enjoys sleeping at 9,000 meters.

Also known as The Points Guy (the points guy), Kelly is an influential blogger from New York who left Wall Street to write about the rewards programs offered by airlines.

Each year it accumulates around 300,000 miles in the air , many of them for long-haul flights, those that stress the majority of passengers.

“I sleep well on planes, I like to travel first class when I go to Asia and Australia because I can have a complete sleep cycle, I sleep eight or nine hours,” says Kelly.

Although sometimes traveling in economy class in local transfers in the United States, in international flights does it in first class or business class.

People pay for the first class to have total privacy , says Kelly.

A woman sleeps in a first class seat of an airplane
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Image caption First-class seats in large aircraft usually have ample space.

“You are in your own enclosed space, instead of being in an open seat where the cockpit is much louder, and the people close to you get into your space .” The future level of luxury for sleeping on airplanes is not to see nobody else, “he says.

For most, traveling in economy class involves pushing and trying to stick the eyelashes in an uncomfortable seat while listening to the sound of the plane’s engine.

Even so, there are some tips and tricks from the experts to help you sleep as if you were one of the privileged ones in the front of the plane.

Personal space

The difference between the economic and first classes is huge, and it’s not all about legroom, explains Jamie Zeitzer, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, USA, and rhythm expert. circadians (the biological clock of our body).

“It’s not just that the seats are lying down, which definitely helps, is that there is no one touching you, no one is sitting next to you, the psychological aspect is quite considerable when you can stretch your body and relax your mind, it makes a great difference, “he says.

But what if this experience of “lying down” is just a dream? What makes sleeping on a plane much harder than on land?

For most travelers, lack of privacy and personal space dry and recycled air turbulence and noise are some of the factors that make sleep difficult.

But Zeitzer says that two major barriers to sleep are really under our control: stress and anxiety .

“There’s social stress: you do not have space, and there’s physical stress: you’re physically compressed in your seat,” he says.

A man recharges on a woman's shoulder in an airplane
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Image caption When the stranger next door invades your space, things start to get complicated.

The causes of anxiety vary from person to person. Without considering the fear of flying, what keeps the majority awake is the pressure to fall asleep , says Zeitzer.

The dream is unique and there is no universal method to fall asleep. But Zeitzer has two strategies that can at least help decrease the interruption.

The first thing, he says, is to try not to think about that .

“If you worry and you get stressed by falling asleep, you will not fall asleep, it just will not happen, it’s easier said than done, but if you can find a way to not worry about falling asleep, that will help solve it,” he adds.

Passengers sleep in an airplane
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Image caption Each person has their own ways of falling asleep, but it is important to reduce anxiety in all cases.

The second thing is to alleviate the anxiety by imagining that you are somewhere else : “It’s about getting out of the stressful claustrophobic position in which you find yourself on the plane.”

Zeitzer recommended to take a real break or imagine ri or : “An eye mask, noise – canceling headphones and some music can block much of the world”.

Sleep strategies

There are all kinds of solutions for this problem. Some use special pillows or headphones .

Others rely on melatonin supplements , a natural hormone that intervenes in sleep cycles and that is considered a soft aid to sleep.

However, Zeitzer advises caution: since it is an unregulated substance, there are few reliable studies on its effects .

There are also those who drink alcohol to erase their environment, and many choose sleeping pills .

Some combine the two, but it’s a risky move, cautions Betty Thesky, a flight attendant with 30 years of experience.

“I’ve seen adult men lie on the floor and put their heads in the corridor, it’s dark in the cabin, someone could step on them, I see it all the time,” he warns.

A passenger asleep in the aisle of an airplane
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Image caption There are passengers who throw themselves in the corridors, which goes against safety rules and puts physical integrity at risk.

“People end up in jail, they take off their clothes, they try to sit in the seats with strangers, they do all kinds of crazy things, so I really think it’s dangerous,” says the purser.

For Thesky, being cunning is a better option.

She is shocked to see people sitting squeezed side by side in the front of the economy class cabin, when there are often empty seats further back .

“When I’m a passenger, I look around to see if there’s an empty place where I can sit down quickly, and you have to move fast because good chairs are quickly occupied,” he says.

He also carries a blanket, travel pillow, some oils and takes “one or two drinks”, because he says that helps, although he warns that excesses should be avoided.

“I see movies and I tell myself that I’m going to do something else to stop thinking about sleeping,” explains the flight attendant.

An A380 plane
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Image caption For Brian Kelly, the Airbus 380, one of the aircraft with more passenger capacity in the world, is one of the least noisy when flying.

Kelly also says it helps to know in advance what type of plane is flying .

“The A380 is my favorite,” he says, “it’s the quietest aircraft in the sky, it’s newer, it does not make as much noise and it’s easier to sleep.”

He advises a seat next to the window in the middle of the cabin , away from the engine, the kitchen and the bathrooms for optimal tranquility.

Spending thousands of dollars on premium seats will not change the fact that you are flying through the sky with hundreds of people.

But if you can create a sense of privacy and space around you and stop stressing by falling asleep, maybe it will give you some sleep after all.

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Rava Desk

Rava is an online news portal providing recent news, editorials, opinions and advice on day to day happenings in Pakistan.


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