Some of us were born with the super power of being able to sleep on a plane, including while curled up like a pretzel in an economy seat.
The rest of us, however, need all the help we can get to sleep sitting upright on a flight. So, to help you rest more comfortably on your next journey, here are my top tips for sleeping on a plane, including the apps and accessories that are definitely worth packing.
(This article contains some affiliate links – please read this disclosure for further details.)
How to sleep on a plane in economy class
1. Pick your seat wisely
Where you sit on the aircraft can have a massive impact on your quality of sleep. I favour the window, to avoid people bumping my arm in the aisle or asking to get out and use the bathroom.
If you have the option to choose your seat online in advance, look for available seats that are a decent distance away from bathrooms and the bulkhead, which is where they place the baby bassinets. (These seats tend to involve more movement, noise and lights – at least that was my experience of flying long haul with a baby!)
When I’m travelling without my little one, I tend to favour the middle to back section of the plane. Look for somewhere not too close to the galley, which can also be noisy, but, if you’re lucky, there are more likely to be some empty rows dotted around the end of the plane.
If you’re unsure about the aircraft layout and where to find the best seats, type in your flight number to SeatGuru for a detailed guide to the best and worst seats on the plane.
Insider tip: My all-time favourite economy seats are on the upper deck of an A380. A handful of airlines (including Qantas and Singapore Airlines) have a few rows of economy seats on the upper deck behind business that are far more peaceful and generally receive quicker service than in the main cabin below. Look for an upper cabin tab on the seat map when reserving your seats to see if your flight offers this option.
2. Make sure your neck is properly supported
Did you know that the best way to use a travel pillow is not behind your head but around your front to prop up your chin? Scientists say the best way to sleep comfortably in economy class is by making sure you have the right support for your neck.
There are all sorts of face cradles and foam travel pillows on the market at the moment that are trying to better protect traveller’s necks and provide a more comfortable rest in transit. After doing lots of research for this post, the same name kept coming up again and again. According to reviews the Trtl Neck Pillow is the best travel pillow on the market. It looks just like a scarf when you wear it and it’s not too bulky to pack in your hand luggage either.
Personally, I use whatever pillow is provided on the plane, preferably up against the window, but it will depend on the quality of your airline as to how comfortable what they provide is. (If at all!) To avoid any doubts, pack your own travel pillow and make sure it has adequate neck support.
3. Pack lavender scented products
Lavender scented products are known for their sleep-inducing benefits and I swear by This Works Sleep Balm, which I rub onto pulse points when I want to relax and get ready to drift off. They also have a roller ball option, which is easy to apply in a confined cabin.
Another favourite of mine is This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray, which you can spritz on your travel pillow or scarf, and comes in particularly handy if the cabin gets a bit stinky after meal time.
This Works is the brand I prefer to use myself, especially as they have so many travel sized nap-inducing products, but you can find a range of lavender sleep balms on Amazon to suit every budget.
Find all my essentials for sleeping on a plane in my Amazon UK store here.
4. Download a meditation app
Switch off your brain using meditation or deep breathing exercises. There are several apps you can download before you fly including Calm and Headspace.
A white noise playlist is also a great way to block out aircraft noise with more soothing sounds. If you have the budget, treat yourself to some noise-cancelling headphones for a better listening experience without any background noise.
5. Lean back
My back knows from experience that flopping forward and sleeping on the meal tray is going to hurt the next day.
Professionals advise that leaning back with legs uncrossed is the best position for your back when it comes to sleeping on a plane.
6. Lay off the coffee
This sounds obvious but caffeine can take up to 6 hours to filter through our systems (6 hours!), so lay off the coffee in the airport if you want to nod off on the flight.
Booze, both on and off the plane, is also best avoided if you want a better quality of sleep. (So my research says!)
7. Try natural supplements
Personally, if I follow all of the above pointers I’m more than ready to sleep on the plane but my husband, who can struggle to nod off, likes to travel with melatonin and magnesium supplements that are helpful for relaxation and combating muscle stiffness.
Speak to your pharmacist or doctor for further advice, if necessary.
8. Use the Do Not Disturb sign
Ever finally drifted off on a flight only to get woken by the meal service? If you’ve got a friendly seat mate or helpful cabin crew, let them know you plan to sleep through the meal service.
Some airlines offer do not disturb stickers you can pop on your head rest to let crew know you don’t want to be woken for food. (Emirates are well known for doing this.) Check your seat pocket or amenity pack when you board the aircraft.
9. Buckle up over your blanket
Don’t forget to pop your seat belt on over your blanket – that way if there’s any turbulence or its time to land, you won’t be abruptly awoken by someone checking that you’re buckled up.
10. Bring your own blanket
Finally, if you’re flying during the day you won’t necessarily be provided with a blanket on a long haul flight. (And who knows how scratchy it might be if your are!) Bring your own blanket on board by wearing a travel shawl that doubles up as a blanket and will keep your neck and shoulders warm on the plane and in the airport.
UK readers: you can shop this whole post in my Amazon store here.
Have any other foolproof tips for sleeping on flights? Let me know in the comments.
Pin for later:
Tips for flying while pregnant
Best carry on luggage for women
Hand luggage essentials for long-haul flights
Tips for flying long-haul with a baby
This article contains some affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on the link, I may receive a small commission. Read the disclaimer for details.
Featured image thanks to Dan Gold
30 thoughts on “How To Sleep On A Plane – 9 Tips For Getting More Kip In Economy Class”
Maannnnn I suck in sleeping on a plane, I even sleep on the table. Usually I just watch movies until I CAN NO LONGER stay awake… insomnia and flying is the worst. But I love the tips you give, especially the lavender scented products, I use it at home always and that helps alot!
I love my lavender balm, it just makes me feel a bit more homely compared to the usual airplane smells haha
I can never get enough sleep on planes so these tips are great! Will defo try them out on my next flight 🙂
Hope they work for you! I can usually sleep ok but have struggled on my last few flights so will be taking ALL of my own advice on the next long-haul haha
My husband is one of those who can sleep ANYWHERE. I, however, am not! Love these tips, especially the one about turning the pillow around. I’m going to try that on my next flight!
It makes sense when you think about it as your head always flops forward. I only learned it when researching this post on best postures etc so will try it myself too!
These tips are great. I especially like the lavender one. I love using lavender oils at home, but have never thought to bring it with me. I’m also going to go check out the meditation apps. Thanks, Jayne!
I adore the This Works products, there’s something comforting about the scent that helps me to relax on the plane.
Good tips! I really struggle with sleeping on airplanes which is so annoying for those long haul flights when I really need to get some rest. My husband on the other hand is fast asleep before the plane event takes off and can sleep through the entire flight!
I’ve got to check out those sleep apps. So far I haven’t found a pillow that works for me, even when I try turning it around to support my chin. Going to check out the one you recommended. Thanks for sharing!
I read a lot of reviews on travel pillow when researching this post and the Trtl is getting rave reviews all around. I’ve got one on order to test about between Melbourne and London so fingers crossed it’s as good as they say!
I love this, I literally get on a plan and start getting settled to sleep (whatever time of day) some really good advice here! Definitely try the lavender, I do it at home, what not on a plane?!?!
Exactly, it’s liking bringing a bit of home on board with you.
Definitely some great tips! I always go for a window seat when its a long flight. Why risk someone waking you to get up (that happened once on a trip – that person did that 3 times!! I vowed never again). My personal preference for sleep – unisom pill. Works like a charm every time.
I’m a window seat girl too and I hate having to be the person who is desperate for the other passengers to stir so I can get out and pee!!
Useful article! I’m always torn between sleeping a film on a plane. Usually, the film wins then I regret it on the first day of my trip when im shattered after staying up all night watching films! Oops
These are great tips! I’ve never thought to turn the pillow around like that. Definitely gonna try this next time!
The buckle over your blanket is SUCH an important one that people often forget when they’re already tired! I’ll definitely be packing lavender scented products from now on! 😀
i use a scarf/pahmina and drap it length ways across my chest.
i then create a swaddle effect by pulling the ends under my armpits and using opposite hands
to create tension on the scarf
its incredibly comforting and you can adjust the taughtness – once your settled with a good travel pillow you are set
I love this tactic – I do something similar myself!
To skip the coffee is a great tip I always forget 😀 Hahah!
Me too. I almost wrote it just to remind myself haha
Just got a neck/chin supporting next pillow to try next week on our flight to Prague. Hoping it helps me sleep. My husband also sleeps everywhere, including the floor of the plane on one of our trips. Cannot say how many flights I was awake the whole time but determined to sleep this time.
Hope it helps! Let me know how you get on.
Hi thanks for the advice i’m always having a hard time sleeping on the plane so i will make sure i try some of these Thank you
Hope they help!
What lavender oil can you bring on the plane?
Anything under 100ml is fine!
There are people with allergies and fragrance triggered migraines who will be in a world of misery if you are using scented products in tight quarters! I think the lavender advice is very much not considerate of the people who are sitting around you!
It’s interesting you say this as I’ve never come across any problems with years of light use of This Works products. I’m not sure if you have smelt them but it’s not as overpowering as say someone wearing perfume or aftershave on a flight. I guess, as with all things, some sense and consideration of others is required and if a passenger ever said my sleep balm caused them a migraine I wouldn’t use it. But honestly in 50+ flights it’s never come up.