11 Ways to Improve Your Sleep on a Plane

Trying to sleep on a plane can be a frustrating experience especially when you know that your body is tired. Planes have numerous distractions that make it hard to get to sleep and stay asleep, but we’ve created a roundup of 11 ways on how to sleep on a plane to improve your sleep quality.

How to Improve Your Sleep on a Plane

11. Use a Neck Pillow

A supportive neck pillow not only prevents your neck from straining when your head tilts to the side, but it also makes your sleep much more comfortable meaning you can quickly fall asleep.

Ideally, you should choose a neck pillow that offers support to the chin to hold your head up without tilting your head forward. Neck pillows pair exceptionally well with eye masks and are much more comfortable than trying to sleep with a traditional flat pillow.

Find the best travel pillow for you with our Best Travel Pillow Buying Guide.

2. Choose a Window Seat on the Plane

Everybody wants a window seat because it means you get a better view out of the window. However, this also benefits your sleep because it means that you can lean your head against the side of the plane.

This makes it easier to sleep compared to sitting in an aisle seat where you have to sit up straight and upright while also running the risk of getting disturbed or hit by the drinks trolley when it moves up and down the aisle.

Most airlines allow you to pick your seat on the plane so you can reserve the window seat. It varies from airline to airline as some will charge you to pre-pick a seat whereas as others will offer this for free.

how to sleep on a plane

3. Remove Your Shoes

If you were at home, you wouldn’t get into bed with your shoes on, so why would you do this on a plane.

If you’re uncomfortable taking your shoes off, then take some slippers in your carry-on luggage that you can change into when you’re seated. Removing your shoes will make you feel comfier and ready for sleep.

Also, if you’re worried that removing your shoes will make your feet cold then be sure to pack some thick warm socks because aeroplanes are notorious for having cold air con. Keeping your feet warm will also aid circulation throughout the flight.

4. Recline Your Plane Seat

When seated, reclining your chair will decrease the level of pressure on the lower section of your spine. This will allow you to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep for longer without waking up feeling sore.

Sitting straight isn’t bad for your body, but many of us don’t have the abdominal strength to hold this position effectively which results in lower back pain. To avoid this, you can place a small pillow behind the curve in your back to provide additional support.

The position you should avoid at all costs is leaning forward which is common where people lean onto the built-in tray on the back of the chair in front. This puts unnecessary pressure on the discs in the spine.

5. Use a Sleeping Mask

Eye masks are a simple yet essential travel accessory for sleeping on a plane. Planes have numerous sources of bright lights including the TV screens, overhead lights and windows.

These lights not only disturb your sleep but also prevent you from feeling tired which makes it harder to fall asleep.

Some airlines will provide eye masks on board, but they are cheap to buy your own and keep it in your hand luggage. The ideal sleep mask will be solid black to ensure that it blocks out all light.

Find the right sleep mask for you with our best sleep mask reviews and buyers guide.
sleep eye mask for plane

6. Power Down

Melatonin is a hormone that is released by our bodies which make us feel sleepy, making it easier to fall asleep.

It may seem like a good idea to watch a movie or program on the plane to help us wind down to sleep, but it can have an opposite effect because the blue light generated by these screens can negatively affect the production of Melatonin.

This isn’t to say that you can’t use your tablet or other latest electronic gadget on a plane, but try to avoid using it for at least 30 minutes before you plan to go to sleep and you’ll find that you’ll get higher quality sleep.

7. Prepare Your Sleeping Pattern

Preparing your sleeping pattern to sync with your destination will not only help you to sleep but will also ensure that your sleeping pattern matches the destination.

For example, if you’re going to a location that is two hours forward then in the week leading up to your holiday start going to sleep 60 minutes earlier.

Also, once you’re on the plane set the time on your watch to the destination city so you can start acclimatising to the time zone of your new destination making you feel better once you arrive. For longer haul destinations, this also allows you to sleep at the most appropriate times.

8. Wear Comfortable Clothes

It’s hard enough to get to sleep on a plane, so make sure that you’re physically comfortable. There’s a lot of factors in the environment that you can’t change such as the temperature or the seat, but the clothes you wear can make a huge difference.

We recommended that you wear less restrictive clothes, so avoid tighter jeans and trousers and replace them with more comfortable clothing. This will also aid blood circulation, so you don’t wake up with numb body parts.

More comfortable clothing will also mean that you can not only get to sleep quicker, but you’ll stay asleep for longer.

9. Use Earplugs 

The right earplugs can make a significant difference to your sleeping experience on a plane. Many people find it difficult to sleep because of the amount of background noise that’s present on a plane.

Because let’s face it, planes are busy places whether this is the sound of the engine, other passengers, children or the air hostesses communicating with other passengers. Earplugs will block out this noise allowing you to stay asleep longer without being disturbed.

Before taking your trip, you should buy a few different brands and test them out to see which size and material suits you best, as they a very inexpensive.

10. Put Luggage in the Overhead Storage

We know that you want to have your possessions as close to you as possible but ensure that any luggage you bring on board is placed into the overhead compartments. If luggage is by your feet, then this can cause your legs to become cramped.

More importantly, if your legs are cramped over a long period such as on a long haul flight, then this can cause more serious issues such as blood clots.

If you’re planning on bringing multiple carry-ons, then try to condense this into one case so this can go in the overhead compartment. Remember that you only need to bring necessities on the plane and the rest can go in your hold luggage.

11. Avoid Alcohol

When you’re at the airport ready for your holiday, we know that you’re excited so you might go to the nearest bar and grab an alcoholic beverage. However, alcohol can harm your REM sleep which is the deep sleep that our bodies fall into which is our most restful state.

After a few drinks, you may find that you fall asleep quicker than usual, but you’ll spend less time in REM sleep which means that you’ll wake up feeling drowsy and you may find it difficult to fall back to sleep. Besides, you may wake up feeling dehydrated or with a headache.

Our advice would be to save the alcohol until you reach your destination when entirely rested and ready to enjoy your holiday fully.


Learning how to sleep on a plane can take practice. Ultimately planning your plane journey is really important so you can set yourself up for a relaxing experience. We hope this has given you some ideas on exactly how to you can sleep well on a plane.

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