How to Sleep on a Plane Like a Travel Pro

These frequent flyers have to hit the ground running upon touch down, so they have some serious hacks for napping in-flight—even in coach.

 How To Sleep On An Airplane

photography by ANNA SIAN @ANNAMAL


From passenger scandals to miniscule legroom, air travel can really keep you up at night. So what should you do when you have an overnight flight and a packed agenda of work or travel must-dos the minute you land? Well, we caught up with seasoned travelers who log many miles monthly on transcontinental trips to glean their best tips—from how to catch a snooze at 39,000 feet to what they pack for better sleep.

Work That Window Seat
To go to sleep, Peach and Lily founder Alicia Yoon always tries to get a window seat so she can lean against the wall of the plane for comfort. “I'm petite, so luckily I'm able to make more of my space,” she says. Sometimes, she’ll put the tray table down and curl her legs over it. Other times, she’ll drape her feet into the magazine holder in the seat ahead. “If my husband is flying with me, I'll basically use him as a support pillow—that's always the best!” she says.

Dress for the Occasion
Travel writer Aly Walansky dons a maxi dress and shoes she can slip out of for overnight flights. “If you are not in boots and tight jeans you are way more likely to be comfortable enough to sleep,” she notes.

Carry a Large Scarf or Shawl, Preferably Perfumed
“Airplanes can be so cold, I'll often use the scarf as a blanket for extra warmth during the flight,” Yoon says. “It feels much more cozy, and getting a whiff of my favorite fragrance allows me to fall asleep more easily.”

BYOSM (Bring Your Own Sheet Mask)
Yoon also wears sheet masks religiously on flights, as planes can be so drying for skin. “While sheet masking, I massage my face—massaging the temples, pressing around the eyes and brows—which helps promote relaxation,” she says. She loves this sheet mask for flights because it allows for easy massaging without friction on the skin. “And I get my hydration and relaxation at the same time, letting me sleep better,” she adds.

Pills for Insomniac Ills
Walansky always pack two Tylenol PM for a flight. “I confess, I do often chase it with a glass of wine (even the packaging says you can have one or two drinks with it—just no more!), and that helps to relax me enough that I have a fighting chance,” she explains.  

Pack Your Pillow
Walansky notes that those neck pillows you can purchase at your local Hudson News are awesome—but she often uses one as a lower-back pillow instead. “[My back] bothers me more when I try to sleep on a plane than my head and neck,” she says. She also advises bunching up a sweatshirt and using that as a pillow for your head. “Never use the plane pillow,” she warns. “Please.”

Have a Ritual
Michele McConomy, Senior Vice President, Customers, for tech campus RocketSpace, travels from San Francisco to Europe on a regular basis and logs at least 25 air-travel trips annually. Her trick to getting Zs on the plane consists of putting on fuzzy socks, having a single glass of champagne, throwing back some melatonin, and donning an eye mask. Last, she applies Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Oil-Free Lotion before drifting off to sleep.

Essential Oils for Jetlag
Yoon likes to use products with a lavender extract or essential oil to help her relax and fall asleep more easily. “I also like products that have citrus extracts like our Citrus Honey Aqua Glow in the mornings to help me be more awake—because that then also helps to break the jet-lag cycle and allows me to sleep later in the evening better,” she explains.

Published on May 21, 2017 - 7:00am EDT

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