I have always slept on planes. Jon can never sleep on planes. In fact, I usually fall asleep before the flight even takes off, even if I’ve slept a full eight hours. It’s the hum and vibration of the engine on the runway that lulls me into sleep and I wake up when the plane is in mid-air. If I’m particularly sleepy, usually because I had to get up at 4am to catch my 6am flight, I will sometimes fall asleep before the plane takes off and wake up when it’s already landed – but only on short flights like to Chicago. Those are especially cool because as the plane is parking at the gate at our arrival, I’ll turn to Jon and ask, “did we leave yet already?”
It’s not like I find airplane seats oh-so comfortable to curl up and snooze, either – and I don’t wake up from a long flight feeling refreshed like I’ve been to the spa. It is possible, though, to sleep upright – my dad always takes naps in a dining chair, and my grandfather slept in a barker lounger for years (of course, they do recline like first class). I’m also not a fan of medicating. However, here are some tips I’ve learned over the many years that have helped me maximize my sleep so I can maximize my vacation time.
The key, I find, is to already be tired. If you’re taking a red-eye, you should already be tired. If you’re taking a morning flight, sleep about 4 hours the night before.
1. Make sure you get a seat that reclines. Check seatguru.com to see which seats will recline. A window seat is even better, because you can lean your head against the window.
2. Get a neck pillow, an eye mask, and/ or earplugs. I like Brookstone’s travel pack, but it takes up quite a bit of room in the carry-on.
3. Inflate the neck pillow HALWAY – or else your head gets jutted out. Also it will inflate more as the plane changes pressure.
4. Go through your regular night routine: brush your teeth, wash your face, take out the contact lenses, etc.
5. Wear comfortable clothes. Constricting jeans is not what I normally wear to bed. Take off your shoes. Get a blanket or bring a sweatshirt.
6. If you’re taking a red-eye and if you’re an exerciser, exercising six hours before your flight will also help your body go back to normal rest mode.
7. Though many critics claim alcohol does not help sleep, it’s Jon’s latest discovery: the mini-bottles of red wine. He’ll take one and then sleep a few hours. Another girl I traveled with to India went on a bar-crawl through O’Hare airport and then slept the entire 13 hours to New Delhi.
8. Read a book – don’t watch a movie. Something boring usually helps. Counting clouds helps, too.