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March 2, 2021

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9 Tips For Sleeping On A Plane In Economy

by Jason Dutton-Smith

Flying coach class (economy class) over a long distance has its challenges. Whether travelling for business or leisure, it’s how we arrive that can make all the difference to how quickly we settle into our new time zone.

If you have trouble sleeping on a plane, here are nine of our best tips to help you sleep during your flight and arrive at your destination just that little more refreshed and relaxed.

1. Non-stop flight

Try to book a non-stop flight or the most direct route, to get you to your destination. Having to stop on the way or changing aircraft can be disruptive to our sleep patterns. At times this cannot be avoided and connecting a hub city may be required, so try looking for a connecting flight with the same plane service. By not changing aircraft it can avoid any unexpected delays or missed connections.

2. Seat belt over blanket

I learnt this little trick the hard way. When resting, ensure your seat belt is buckled over the top of your blanket. This way, if the seat belt sign comes on during the flight, the cabin attendants can see you are already safely buckled in and will not need to wake you.

3. Comfortable clothing

Loose, comfortable clothing is a must when travelling long distances. Don’t wear anything too tight or that will potentially wrap around you or slide upwards when you shift or move. Pack some sweat pants and a jumper into your carry-on bag and change after take-off. This way you will also have fresh clothes to change back into before arrival.

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4. Choose your seat wisely

As soon as you book your flight, reserve your seat as far ahead of departure as you can. If you have to pay for seat selection, it may be a worthy investment so you are not seated near the bathrooms where people gather or the noisy galleys where food is prepared.

TIP: select a seat forward of the wing to help reduce the engine noise and use a website such as SeatGuru to help find the best seats ahead of time. Exit row seating may have the welcomed extra legroom, but some seats may have limited or no recline at all due to the exit doors. Some varieties of wide-body aircraft may also have only two seats to the row in the last row/s of the aircraft.

5. Time of departure

If you’re not a morning person, choose a departure time later in the morning or afternoon so you can rest naturally prior. Or select a flight time in the evening. The trick here is to not upset the natural sleep pattern where possible. This is not always possible on longer international flights, but, if that longer flight involves a connection, consider staying a day to rest and reset at a hotel airport before continuing your journey.

6. Travel pillow

There are many travel pillows on the market, but not all pillows are created equal. Just like selecting a pillow for your bed, invest in one that is right for you. Avoid pillows with small beads inside as they can be noisy when you move and consider a pillow you can manually inflate so you can adjust the firmness to suit.

TIP – try putting the inflated pillow in front of your neck, so your chin rests on top. This will stop your head from bobbing up and down when dozing and avoid that crink neck.

7. Extra legroom seats

exit row seating

exit row seating

Consider a seat with extra legroom, such as the exit row or bulkhead seat, so you can stretch out. If selecting an exit row, just beware of the location that it’s not near a natural gathering place such as bathrooms. There is nothing worse than someone kicking your feet while you’re trying to rest or partaking in loud conversations.

The bulkhead seats generally have a divider with no seats in front of you, but these are often the baby bassinet location too. While nice to not have any seat in front of you, you may find the video screen and meal tray table are also in your armrest, meaning the seat width may be smaller due to the storage space required.

8. Mask and plugs

Consider purchasing an eye mask to remove traces of light, and a pair of earplugs to block the noise will also help.

9. Noise-cancelling headphones

My favourite ‘must-have’ travel accessory is noise-cancelling headphones. They are a great way to reduce ambient aircraft noise and passenger chatter and makes it easier to listen to music or movies throughout the flight. There are many on the market, but consider the full over-ear headphones for comfort and to ensure they don’t fall out of your ears when sleeping.

Bonus Tip

The one sure way of getting restful sleep on your flight? Splash the cash to purchase a Business Class seat or cash in those frequent flyer points to upgrade to a business class seat. To maximise the opportunity, ensure your airline provides seats that convert to a lay-flat bed, and of course enjoy the extra amenities that a Business Class offers such as enhanced meal and beverage service and more space to sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.

Business class seat

Business Class seat

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