How to get a nap on a plane – Expert tips part 2

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Use these tactics to improve your chances of sleeping on your next flight

Note: This is the second part of a two-part guide. Read part one of our guide covering tactics you can use before your flight.

Sleep, shuteye, catching some zzz’s – whatever you call it, it’s hard to come by in Economy Class. Use these tactics to improve your chances of sleeping on your next flight like the adorable baby in our featured image (by lambatofa).

An, ahem, sort of health warning: this blog does not address the use of medications as a sleep aid or meditative techniques. Nor does it take in to account matching sleep patterns with destinations times to reduce the effect of jet lag.

Napping on a flight
Using a soft toy as a pillow… classic. Photo by jayceh


During boarding, scope out an empty row…

  • Most planes fly full, but if you happen to be embark one with hardly anyone else on board note empty any rows and be ready to quickly snag them when the “fasten your seatbelt” sign goes out (NB: If you’ve requested a special dietary requirement meal, be sure to keep a watch over your original seat, as that’s where it’ll be delivered!).

Get in the zone…

  • Turn off the seat-back screen
  • Leave the laptop, iPad and office notes in the overhead locker
  • Turn off your phone
  • Listen to some relaxing music
  • Read something that’s easygoing, nothing too intellectually taxing
Napping on a flight
Sleeping like a baby. Photo by emrank

Fuel up the right way…

  • Soon after take-off request one or two water bottles (not cups of waters) that you can stow easily in the seat-back pocket. Buy a bottle of water in the terminal before boarding if your flight doesn’t offer complimentary drinks (there’s no sense overpaying for water).
  • Drink some milk – one of its constituents is believed to cause sleepiness.

Put up the proverbial “do not disturb” sign…

  • Fasten your seatbelt over your blanket – cabin crew won’t then have to wake you if the seatbelt sign goes on.
  • Leave your tray table up – it’s a sign to cabin crew that you don’t want to be disturbed during food and beverage services.
  • Ask your fellow passengers to tell flight attendants that you prefer not to be disturbed, and you’re happy to miss meals and drinks.

Make yourself comfortable…

  • Feet typically swell during a flight, especially if you move relatively little – kick-off your shoes and give them a bit of room
  • If you’re a shorter person, place some cushioning (like a folded sweatshirt) underneath your bottom – you’ll raise yourself in the seat putting your head better in line with the head rest
  • Use the bathroom and the last possible moment before you plan to sleep (the walk down the cabin will be helpful too – see next point)

You’ve got to move it, move it

  • Awake or asleep, the body likes to move in order to ensure blood flow and relive pressure points – move about in your seat, wiggle your feet, gently nod your head, angle your body to a different side … better circulation leads to more relaxation (however counter-intuitive it may seem). The added bonus here is you help to stave off blood clots.

Trick your body in to thinking it’s asleep…

  • Mimic sleep breathing patterns by taking smaller and less frequent breaths.
  • Once at cruising altitude cabin temperatures tend to fall; embrace rather than battle with this cold until the moment you try to sleep – in doing so you’ll simulate the fall in body temperature that you experience when sleeping.

Keep warm and cosy…

  • Try and nab two blankets – one for your top and one for your legs and feet.

Those with a fear of flying probably won’t find any of the advice helpful, and perhaps might want to try a course designed to help them overcome their phobia such as the one run by Virgin Atlantic or easyJet.

Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…

How to get a nap on a plane – Expert tips part 2 was last modified: June 26th, 2019 by Brett Ackroyd
Author: Brett Ackroyd (631 posts)

Brett hopes to one day reach the shores of far-flung Tristan da Cunha, the most remote of all the inhabited archipelagos on Earth…as to what he’ll do when he gets there, he hasn’t a clue. Over the last 10 years, London, New York, Cape Town and Pondicherry have all proudly been referred to as home. Now it’s Copenhagen’s turn, where he lends his travel expertise to