How to Sleep Better on an Airplane

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


Yes—it is possible to get comfortable and score some shuteye in those tiny seats.

The “Sit back, relax, and enjoy your flight” announcement may seem like a joke (you want me to relax in these tiny seats?), but it actually is possible to get comfortable—and even get some sleep—while flying. Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, use these tips to get some sky-high shuteye, so that you arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to go.

  1. Choose an Evening Flight. Trying to sleep during a day flight will work against your internal body clock. Instead, pick a time to travel when you’d usually be in bed, and you’ll find that it’s easier to nod off. However, if you know that you absolutely cannot sleep on a plane, try to pick a flight that arrives at your destination in the early evening. That way, you can check into your hotel, have a light meal and possibly a melatonin supplement, and get to bed just after the sun has set in your new destination. It's a great way to beat jet lag—you’re usually tired from travel, so you’ll sleep well and be on schedule for the next day…even if it isn’t your usual bedtime schedule.
  2. Pick Your Seat Carefully. If you have the option to book a window seat, snatch it up. Not only does the cabin’s wall provide you with a place to rest your head, but your sleep is less likely to be disrupted by people in your row who get up to use the restroom or walk around. If you can, snag an exit row or bulkhead—these seats are often released for free 24 hours before departure, so check in quickly to snag the best seats.
  3. Consider the Upgrade. Business Class and First Class may be more affordable than you think. Many airlines are selling their premium cabins for as little as $50 more than an economy ticket. Upgrade and you’ll also receive perks like free bag checking, priority line access, and an in-flight meal or snacks. An added bonus? Bigger seats, more legroom, and, on international flights, sometimes even lay-flat beds.
  4. Jet in Sweats. You don’t need to arrive at the airport in pajamas, but dressing in comfortable, nonrestrictive clothing like leggings and a soft sweater or pullover will make it easier to get comfortable and fall asleep. You may also want to consider donning a pair of socks—not only can socks help you fall asleep, but airplane floors are notoriously cold (and dirty)!
  5. Buckle Up. Avoid being woken up mid-nap by a flight attendant who needs to check on whether or not your seat belt is fastened. Fasten it over your blanket or sweatshirt so that it is clearly visible.
  6. Sip on Water. The low humidity inside airplanes can lead to dehydration, which may interfere with your sleep. Have some water before boarding, and keep a bottle in the seat pocket in front of you so you can sip when thirsty.
  7. Skip the Alcohol. What you shouldn’t be drinking too much of is alcohol . While one glass of wine or beer is fine, having any more may interrupt your sleep.
  8. Eat a Healthy Meal. Airline food can be high in sodium, which leads to water retention and bloating post-flight. Instead, pack your own snacks, and try to include foods that have been shown to aid sleep, such as dried tart cherries.
  9. Bring Supplies. Your carry-on should be equipped with a neck pillow, eye mask, earplugs, and a blanket or shawl—must-haves for getting comfortable (and scoring some peace and quiet) while sleeping mid-flight.