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What's the Best Way to Sleep on an Airplane?

A lot of people don't like overnight flights because they have trouble sleeping on a plane. What's the secret to getting those well deserved hours of sleep? To figure out the best way to sleep on an airplane you first have to ask yourself what has kept you awake the most on recent flights.

Do you have a hard time sleeping with noise? Does light keep you awake? How about temperature? Or can you just not find a good position to go to sleep in?

Noise or Light

If what keeps you awake the most is noise or light, the solution is fairly obvious, but hard to get right. Getting a pair of ear plugs or a good eye mask is important. I recommend that you try a few and see what you can remain comfortable in for a few hours. A pair of earplugs that work well at first glance might hurt when you lay down with them in, or might make your ears sore after a couple hours. An eye mask might slip around, make you uncomfortable when you're laying down, or, like the ear plugs, get uncomfortable after a while.

Best way to sleep on an airplane

Pick your seat wisely

A couple not-so-obvious tips are to carefully pick your seats. If you don't sleep well with noise, you want to figure out where the bathrooms are on the plane. You also want to find where the engines are. On some planes they're on the rear of the plane, on other they're on the wings. Grab a seat by the exit row and you could be very close to the noisy engines.

Pick a seat in the back and you will probably be near the bathrooms and also could be near the engines. Plus the flight attendant's galley where they ready drinks and snacks. If you don't sleep well with light, stay away from bathrooms and also try to get a window seat. It's better for you if you can decide if the window shade is open or closed. A great way to find the best seat is to check the layout of the plane on Seatguru. Just fill in your flight number and you'll see the layout of the plane, including information on the amenities such as electricity and inflight entertainment.

The perfect flight pillow

If you can't get comfortable, you need a good pillow. By far the best I've tried is the Perfect Travel Pillow which a friend of mine created and is trying to raise money to mass-produce on Kickstarter. It attaches to the headrest, which gives you a much better spot to sleep against than a normal neck pillow – which I don't really like. You can get yours here before the project runs out.

Sleep well!

*update: unfortunately the perfect travel pillow is no longer available.

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4 thoughts on “What's the Best Way to Sleep on an Airplane?


By Frank on 14 October 2014

It's also wise to stay away from the first rows of every compartment. At first it might seem like "Hey, there's a lot of space for my legs" but in reality the airlines love to place mothers with babies in those rows. Be sure that at least one baby will cry half of the night and won't let you sleep.


By Jasper Ribbers on 14 October 2014

Good point Frank! Nothing worse than trying to sleep with a crying baby next to you I can tell from experience!


By Elson on 14 October 2014

Also, newer airplanes are much quieter...an Airbus A380 is waaaay quieter than a Boeing 747, even behind the engines. I could hardly hear the engines roar during takeoff. So consider airplane choice if it can ever be a factor.


By Jasper Ribbers on 18 October 2014

Good point Elson. The worst are the propellor planes, like the ATR-72. But those are only used for short distances.

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