How to Sleep on an Airplane – 25 Simple Hacks For Comfortable Sleep

passengers in economy class

Catching a long haul flight on a budget? Restful sleep is essential to arriving in your destination looking fresh and not severely affected by jet lag.

Ideally, flying Business Class or First Class would be the perfect way to get some shuteye thanks to the expansive space, relatively less noise, and the best of reclining seat-to-bed options.

However, that may be unrealistic for a budget traveler. Here are the best ways to actually sleep in coach on a long-haul international flight to anywhere in the world

How do you sleep on an airplane?

1. Workout Before the Flight

Exercise is one of the best antidotes to sleeplessness, especially on a flight. Once the body gets tired falling asleep usually follows in most cases. This is why hitting the gym or engaging in rigorous exercise 2-3 hours before the flight works like magic.

However, make sure not to overdo it by sticking to the regular level of intensity.

Even if you’re physically challenged or suffering from health problems that make intensive exercise uncomfortable or impossible, light routines like taking a walk in the neighborhood can be good for you.

Who knows? You could end up feeling so sleepy that you’ll be dozing off a few minutes or hours into take-off.

This trick works even better if the flight time is far from your regular bedtime. Instead of the body waiting until the regular bedtime to release sleep-inducing Melatonin, the built-up fatigue from the physical workouts may result in dozing off quite earlier.

2. Noise-Canceling Headphones Are a Must

Failure to bring noise-canceling headphones on-board can cost you dearly. If you’re like me, it means any level of noise can be a huge barrier to nodding off.

Unfortunately, the uncontrolled noise from seatmates and others sitting close by can be a huge problem for Economy Birds like us.

A few babies may also throw tantrums that can make even the deepest sleepers struggle to keep their eyes shut. Thankfully, these headphones can neutralize background noises to enable catching up on that blissful sleep required for optimal functioning when you arrive.

Additionally, if you’re a fan of listening to white noise to induce sleep, it is imperative to create your own before your flight. You can either build playlists of your favorite bedtime tunes or download popular white noise sounds like rainfall, thunder, and meditation audios.

Thus, the options for securing sleep-boosting white noise during flights can be limitless.

I personally use the Cowin E7 Active Noise-Canceling Headphones from Amazon during noisy flights. It features amazing technology that drowns out all background noises so I can focus on listening to relaxing pleasant sounds for good sleep.

3. Get Intimate Right Before the Flight

Many of us have wild fantasies of joining the Mile High Club but that may be a stretch. Instead, why not get freaky with your partner an hour or so before checking-in? This can release the Cuddle hormone oxytocin which may help enact sleep even before you can say jack.

Sex also releases endorphins that kill pain and releases stress – 2 things that can negatively impact the ability to sleep.

Besides, sex can be a physically arduous task that signals the brain to release additional sleep-boosting hormones. It can have the same impact on sleep as pumping iron in the gym or running a marathon, if not better.

4. Ditch the Alcohol

For many of us, having a tipple during a flight has become some sort of tradition. However, did you know that alcohol can rob you of much-needed sleep?

Firstly, drinking alcohol can set the pace for frequent bathroom visits after every couple of minutes. This can make sleep hard to come by as the need to empty the bladder becomes apparent just when you’re close to reaching Dreamland.

Taking a pee frequently due to excessive drinking can also cause dehydration which is bad for your overall health.

If you must drink, it should be nothing more than a glass of wine.

5. Snap Up that Window Seat

cloudy sky in an aircraft window

Nothing can be more frustrating than having to get up to make way for your seatmates just when you’re drifting off to sleep. If your seatmate has bladder issues then you can have a torrid time throughout the night.

This is why window seats can be so critical. With zero chance of having to make way for another person, you can expect uninterrupted sleep all night long.

6. Take Temperature-Sensitive Clothing

Have you ever been on a flight with just the right temperature? That’s a rarity. The majority of aircraft are either too hot or too cold. Thus, wearing the right clothes can make all the difference especially when there’s little you can do about the in-flight temperature.

Wearing light and flexible clothes that can be easily taken off such as tracksuits or proper suits in the case of men are recommended. After all, you can always take off your jacket and tie whenever you feel too hot.

You can also carry heavy hoodies that can make you warm if the flight turns out to be too cold for comfort.

7. Book a Regular Bedtime Flight

Have you noticed that you go to bed usually around the same time each night? This is because the human body is wired to hit the hay during that time. You may not have a lot of options based on your destination and current location.

However, if possible, always try to book flights that leave around your regular bedtime. This should enable good sleep with little effort since your internal sleep clock is already programmed to kick in around that time.

A good dose of sleep should enable you to arrive at the destination feeling well-rested and fresh. This can be critical if you’re traveling for business as you need to be in the best frame of mind.

8. Prepare Your Body to Adjust the Internal Clock

One of the benefits of hindsight is that you can always plan ahead of time. If you plan to travel to a destination that is 2 hours ahead of time, you can start going to bed an hour or 2 later than usual a month or so before the actual travel time.

By the time you check into that flight, the body’s internal clock would have made the necessary adjustments. This will ensure that you can get used to the time difference with little effort.

This trick has worked wonders for many folks and should work for you just fine.

9. Go Easy on the Caffeine

You’re probably aware that drinking too much coffee can affect the natural ability to sleep. But did you know that the timing of the caffeine boost can also impact your sleep?

According to studies, you should drink coffee no later than 6 hours to bedtime. Thus, if you only intend to drink a single cup of coffee, make sure to drink it way before you get on the flight.

Avoid accepting complimentary coffee during the flight unless you have plans of staying awake through it.

Besides, did you know that many of the common drinks and snacks we consume contain high quantities of caffeine? Energy drinks, soda, chocolate bars, breakfast cereals, tea, and even decaffeinated coffee have all been found to feature substantial quantities of caffeine.

Thus, it is important to turn down such treats during flights in favor of caffeine-free alternatives such as juices and water.

10. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is vital to enabling key body functions ranging from hydration to temperature regulation. Drinking adequate amounts of water and other healthy fluids can, therefore, be critical.

Remember, the heavy air conditioning on-board can also wick moisture out of your body, leading to side effects such as sore throats, postnasal drippings, headaches, and the common cold.

However, it is important to drink in moderation because you don’t want to disturb your seatmates every half an hour with a bathroom visit. This advice is even more critical for those who may have weak bladders such as the elderly or surgery patients.

11. Keep an Eye on Your Diet

No one knows your body more than you. This is why it is important to keep an eye on your diet the day before and on the day of the flight.

For instance, if spicy foods cause stomach upsets then it is important to kick them to the curb 2 days or so before the flight date. The last thing you want is to be forced to visit the bathroom every 30 minutes or so when you’re trying to doze off.

If you’re allergic to any foods, it is important to avoid them during the flight. Feel free to inform the service attendants of your allergies so you’re not served anything that might trigger them.

12. Don’t Forget Your Snacks

woman holding a tray of fruits of snacks

Have you ever woken up starving mid-flight after the last meal service? It can be frustrating especially when you need to get back to sleep quickly.

Sure, you could always speak to the flight attendants to ask if there’s anything available to eat. But sometimes, they disappear to their cabins for hours during long-haul flights.

This is why it is important to pack your favorite snacks on-board. This ensures that you do not only avoid hunger pans but you also get to consume your favorite snacks.

In-flight food is notorious for being mediocre so good snacks can come in handy especially among picky eaters.

13. Pack Blankets

Blankets have a way of reassuring that you’re in safe surroundings. And this can be the difference between insomnia and blissful sleep while flying in coach.

Packing your blankets can also provide a sense of familiarity and helps lower the feeling of being in a different environment.

Besides, these blankets can lower anxiety levels during bumpy flights and make you feel comfy even when the atmosphere in Coach is far from that. In the event of extremely cold temperatures, the blankets may also keep you warm and comfortable.

I rely on the forestfish Fleece Travel Blanket from Amazon for cozy and comfortable overnight flights. It is affordable, stylish, and easy to pack due to the portable size.

14. Get An Eye Mask

An eye mask can be valuable when trying to catch some sleep in Economy, Business, or First Class. Draping this mask over your eyes may shield them from the in-flight lights as well as blue lights from the smartphones, iPads, and other gadgets being used by seatmates.

Wearing eye masks can also prevent sunlight from entering your eyes and interfering with the ability to sleep mid-flight.

These masks may come in different shapes, sizes, and components. Thus, you get complete freedom to choose what works best for you.

15. Take a Travel Pillow

man resting his head on a travel pillow

There’s a good reason why travel pillows have become so popular. If you desire the best sleeping experience while traveling on a budget, you cannot afford not to take one of these pillows.

Sure, most airlines offer free pillows for transatlantic and other long-haul flights. But, those pillows may be terrible in terms of the quality of neck support required to achieve a memorable night.

 The best travel pillows feature side support which gives you the flexibility to sleep regardless of the legroom on the flight and your type of seat.

I’ve been sleeping like a baby during long flights and bus trips since I ordered the MVLOC Travel Pillows from Amazon 3 months ago. It comprises 100% pure memory foam adjustable to fit all head sizes and ships with soft 3D contoured eye masks, earplugs, and luxury storage bag,

16. Ditch the Gadgets

iPads, iPods, smartphones, and other gadgets can cause sleep disruptions on long-haul flights. With some of the most popular airlines now offering Wi-Fi options on-board, the tendency to stay online and check out social media can be high when flying long haul.

This means a higher probability of stay awake way past bedtime, leading to disruptions in your sleep patterns and related side effects such as fatigue upon arrival at the destination.

17. Get Compression Socks 

Do you frequently arrive with swollen feet after flying long-haul? This can be a sign of deep vein thrombosis or another medical condition that causes the poor blood circulation in the legs.

Whatever the cause, compression socks can work wonders by ensuring that blood and oxygen continue to circulate through both feet even though you may sit idle for several hours straight.

This should enable you to sleep tight even in Coach with minimal legroom and space.

Also, remember to wear comfy shoes such as sneakers to provide breathing room for the feet. If your shoes happen to be killing your feet, don’t be scared to take them off.

My girlfriend and I love wearing the CHARMKING Compression Socks for Women and Men from Amazon. It maximizes blood flow in the feet throughout long-haul flights to prevent foot pain, swelling, and discomfort during journeys.

18. Determine the Best Sleeping Position 

What’s the best sleeping position when you’re flying economy? In our experience, leaning back on your travel pillow is the most comfortable way to sleep. Unlike the famous laying-the-head-on -the-meal-tray method, leaning back on a pillow keeps your back muscles in check.

This may lower the risk of back pain and stiff necks by the time you wake up in the morning.

19. Stick to Your Normal Bedtime Routine

Everyone knows that the human body thrives on routines. This is why trying to follow your normal bedtime rituals even on a flight can be critical.

For instance, if you listen to music for 30 minutes before bedtime each night, that shouldn’t change just because you’re on a flight.

As long as you follow the normal daily routine, you should have an easier time falling asleep.

20. Choose Seats Far from the Washroom

Sitting close to the washroom can be a surefire way of staying wide awake throughout the flight regardless of how tired you may be.

Try to book your flight early and avoid the seats at the rear of the aircraft as the sounds of passengers going in and out can be extremely disturbing. Besides, the sound of loud flushing and running water can be very irritating as well.

21. Meditate Before Flight

brunette woman meditating outdoors

Meditation is one of the best ways to set up the body for sleep. It is a tried and tested technique that has been in use for centuries.

Experienced practitioners can focus their minds on positive things that calm and reduce anxiety and depression levels.

Even if you’re new to it, Guided Meditation an hour so before the flight can work wonders.

I personally use the Body Quiet Meditation Cushion with Accupressure For Stress Relief from Amazon for Meditation and Yoga exercises. The seat is tall for excellent alignment of the hips and spine for correct posture. This means zero pressure on my back, knees, and ankles for superior comfort and longer, pain-free meditation and yoga sessions. I highly recommend it.

22. Ask for an Upgrade

No matter what you do, the comforts in Business and First Class far outweigh the economy class. While there’s no guarantee, asking for a free upgrade can sometimes be successful.

If you’re a loyal and polite passenger, you may just bag yourself a free Business seat by asking gently. That should significantly enhance the quality of your sleep.

23. Bring a Sleep Aid

If all of the above tips have failed, you can always bring over-the-counter sleep aids such as Benadryl. This should help you sleep through the flight especially if you’ve been diagnosed with the fear of flying.

Sleeping pills can also combat restlessness and other signs of insomnia, giving you that wonderful sleep you crave.

24. Buckle Your Seat Belts Over Your Blanket

Have you ever been woken by a flight attendant checking whether you’re wearing seat belts? It can extremely be frustrating especially when you’re just shifting into 5th gear in your sleep.

Buckling the seat belts over your blankets enables the flight attendant to see that you’re well strapped.  This can prevent needless sleep disruptions.

25. Download a Sleep App

Sometimes, a sleep app is all you need to enjoy some shuteye on a long flight. The right app can be the perfect way to shut off the rest of the world to focus on your relaxation.

A visit to the App Store or Google Play Store can provide access to hundreds of paid and free apps to choose from.

The Relax Melodies App from Amazon is a free app that can help you sleep on the most difficult nights. It provides a wide range of sleep sounds, white noise, and meditative tunes at the right frequencies to relax the brain and induce the release of sleep hormones at bedtime. Seriously, you should try it.


Flying on a budget does not necessarily mean good sleep should be elusive. The tips we’ve shared above are effective and can provide amazing results as you try to reach La-La Land while cruising 40,000 feet in the sky.

Hopefully, you’ll incorporate them during your next flight to achieve the right results. Safe flight and happy sleeping!

Gabriel Smith

Hello, my name is Gabriel and I LOVE to sleep. Okay, you’re right, a lot of people do like sleep. But my passion is actually not sleeping. My interest lies in the “theoretical part”. What to do before bedtime. What a good night’s sleep is. etc. In short, how to sleep well. I hope you share the same interest as me, and enjoy reading everything about sleep.

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