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sleep airplane planeEvery Wednesday, we’ll feature one practical travel tip here, on our blog. Get our clever weekly tips and other travel resources in your inbox by subscribing to our blog or signing up for our newsletter.

Ever since my first flight, a hop across the Atlantic to London, I’ve been unable to sleep on airplanes. Put me on a train or in the passenger seat of a car, and I’ll nap like a champ — but something about the cramped conditions and ultra-dry air of a plane keeps me from drifting into anything more restful than a semi-conscious doze.

On my last flight I tried taking an antihistamine, which makes most people so drowsy that the label warns against operating heavy machinery while taking the medication. But while my head felt hazy and my eyelids drooped, I still spent the entire overnight flight awake, casting occasional jealous glares at the sleeping passengers around me.

As a last-ditch effort, I’ve been tempted to try to skimp on sleep in the days leading up to a flight. However, in 10 Ways to Survive a Long-Haul Flight, Ed Hewitt cautions against it:

“Don’t count on a long-haul flight as a good place to catch up on sleep — it’s not. As attractive and intuitive as it seems to get on a long-haul flight extremely tired, hoping to sleep the whole way, you are in for a world of hurt if you can’t sleep for any reason. You will be on the plane long enough to catch a few winks even if you are somewhat rested.”

Another reason not to skip sleep before a flight: Staying rested and hydrated can help combat the effects of jet lag. Traveling and changing time zones are hard enough on your body without adding more sleep deprivation than necessary into the mix.

Tips for Sleeping on Planes

So I’m going back to the drawing board. On my next flight I’m going to try a stronger sleeping pill — but I’ll bring a few good books, just in case.

Do you sleep well on planes? Vote in our poll!


– written by Sarah Schlichter

4 Responses to “Travel Tip of the Week: Don’t Do This Before a Flight”

  1. Joanie says:

    Great topic and I have suffered the No Sleep issue as well. Awake for nearly 30 straight hours returning from multiple flights from Indonesia, I was hallucinating in the final hour. Ugh. I read that article on long flights and found it VERY helpful. I now work on napping. I figure an hour here and there works better than nothing.

  2. dchinski says:

    Since I purchased noise reduction headphones it seems that I sleep on all flights over 45 minutes long.

  3. Tee says:

    Try to go with the body’s natural rhythms, to sleep at the usual time every day, which to me lessens the initial effects of jet lag – tried the other way of becoming tired before the flight and it back fired :(

    Cheers, Tee

    Tee is Senior Editor of digital magazine http://www.CostaRicaCLOSEUP.com about Costa Rica

  4. You have to be careful with the antihistamines–some are uppers and some are downers. Sudafed, for example, is an antihistamine that will keep you awake while Benadryl is an antihistamine that will hopefully help bring on the Zzzs. A good way to check is to go by the AM/PM designations. AM keeps you up; PM puts you to sleep. Same with Dayquil/Nyquil. Hope you get better sleep next time!

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