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napsacUnless you’re 18 inches tall, sleeping on a plane can require Zen, calculated fatigue, a prescription, and three or four Finlandia and tonics.

Enter the Napsac ($47.50): one part backpack, one part sleeping apparatus for the spatially oppressed.

Inventor Joe Maginness sent over a sample of his travel innovation, which is basically a well-constructed backpack topped with a U-shaped memory foam pillow. Inside, there’s a support beam that keeps the walls of the bag rigid and upright. Tired? Wear the backpack in reverse, tighten the straps, rest your chin in the bag’s soft concavity and ponder a placid mountain lake on a windless morning.

Sleeping on Planes

If a horse can sleep standing up, surely I can sleep stuffed in coach with the Napsac on a Continental red-eye to France. The bag was screaming — nay, neighing — for a field test.

Try as I might to get comfortable, though, sleep did not come. I felt too much downward chin pressure when using the bag. After about 90 seconds, a hungry grizzly started trotting through the lake toward me, and I needed to readjust, firing a metaphorical gunshot in the air, to ease my jaw tension. Ninety seconds later, he was back. I have a theory that the chin issue was caused by my torso being longer than the sac, thus creating too much space between pillow and beard. Either way, the in-flight squirming continued.

Perhaps my lack of comfort was my own fault. When using the Napsac, proper posture — a problem for anyone bound to a desk for a third of his life — is key. A straight back allows the sac to be sufficiently tight against one’s body and held in position.

While I couldn’t quite hit the sack with the backpack, I did use it frequently during idle moments on the road. I was the slightly hunched traveler, chin resting on pillow, on the fountain steps in front of Notre Dame, on a park bench, in an art museum studying Impressionists. When I was just looking for a quick break, I called on the sac. And despite my in-flight insomnia, I found myself commending the product for its above-standard bag qualities. The Napsac fit a laptop in a padded pocket, and a guidebook and a sandwich in the main compartment. A cell phone, an MP3 player, a packet of cookies and car keys occupied the many zippered pockets. Frankly, it was just a nice carry-on bag, pillow or not.

Now it’s your turn to try the Napsac. My field tested (gently used) version is up for grabs. Simply post your tip for sleeping on an airplane in the comments, and we’ll choose one responder at random to receive the bag.

— written by Dan Askin

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44 Responses to “Part Bag, Part Bed: Can It Help You Sleep on a Plane?”

  1. Meghan says:

    I will beg, steal, cry or cut someone for a window seat. To me, it’s a necessity for some zzzs. Next make sure you wear comfortable clothing. Yes, I mean stretchy and not fashionable in the least. Make the most of that extra room the window gives you and utilize what yoga has taught you about relaxing. Works for me everytime!

  2. Barb says:

    What works for me is getting a window seat and putting sweatshirt against the window. If I am forced a middle or aisle seat, I use a neck pillow. If I don’t have a neck pillow, I turn my head to the side while keeping my body forward. When my chin dips down a little, it’s not as bad feeling as when I nod off forward waking myself up every time. I’m interested in the sack… awesome concept!

  3. Lisa Roberts says:

    Earplugs, eyes covered, neck pillow and several drinks. Still no sleep, I’m always so tired and cranky when I reach my hotel overseas I figure the sites will be there when I wake up and I take a nap. Sometimes they last 6 hours….

  4. LSKahn says:

    I am also a devotee of the window seat because it is easier to sleep there. The problem with sleeping on planes is that they are too busy. They are always feeding you on European flights. Then you sit for a long time with the leftovers until they pick them up. Then, before you know it, they are feeding you breakfast. Who can sleep under such circumstances? You have to be really tired.

    If I am really tired, I will cat nap on long flights. I also always eventually fall asleep on the Transpacific crossing. It is so long and they leave you blessedly alone. After awhile there is nothing to do but sleep. That the seats are larger on Air New Zealand and Qantas than they are on US airlines’ planes helps big time.

    No matter what you do, you’ll always arrive tired because sleep on a plane (unless you are paying through the nose in first or business) is always dealing with cramped quarters. However, when you get to where you are going, it is always worth it.

    Just returned from doing a New England “leaf peeper” tour after doing a national parks’ tour (I’m a tour manager) and I am planning my next vacation–a home exchange in Rome for 2 weeks in December.

  5. Barbara M. says:

    I try and book the overseas flights for the time I’d be sleeping anyway. Then, I watch the most boring movies I can find. It usually allows me to catch some zzzz’s!

  6. Eileen says:

    Haven’t tried it but the concept is great! Maybe the leaning forward with chin on the pillow will help those who snore.

  7. Tom says:

    I usually don’t/can’t sleep on a plane. However, on long flights, sooner or later you need to catch a few Zzzzs. The best ways I’ve found to get a little (and I mean “little”) sleep on a plane are: 1) Pop a couple of Melatonin (found in the Vitamin section of my favorite grocery/drug store), plug in my iPod earphones, and hope for the Zzzzzzs to come — or, 2) Stay up drinking all night prior to the flight. Of course, I recommend number 1). Due to limited side effects, it beats a hang-over any day of the week! If numbers 1) and 2) fail, I dismantle the in-flight magazine and Scotch tape the pages around my head, completely covering my eyes and ears. A triple layered wrap is usually sufficient. **Warning: If you try this method, make sure you remove the staples before you begin wrapping the pages around your head.**

  8. Debbie says:

    A prescription for Zoloft does the trick- one pill and I sleep for hours!

  9. Debbie says:

    I always try to wear comfy clothes, nothing too tight.Use the bathroom just before boarding and a great cup of hot chocolate helps me. Also, some earplugs help if there are children or chatty people onboard. Would love to get this bag, it sounds great! TYVM.I really enjoy your site.

  10. johncar says:

    I managed to get four adjoining seats from Penang to UK. A couple of scotches. That is the very best way to sleep.

  11. Nick Martucci says:

    I would love to try this product!

  12. Kenneth Vale says:

    window or aisle (or exit row if lucky) is my key to sanity

  13. DKSampson says:

    I swear by a homeopathic called No Jet Lag. I get some cat naps on the plane and arrive in Europe ready for the day ahead!

  14. Deb says:

    My secrets to successful snoozing: Melatonin, +/- wine, neck pillow used around the front of my neck, comfortable clothes, earplugs and eye covering mask, window seat would be prime… and yes, it just gives me a few brief catnaps in between food service and seat mates coming and going, but it helps me be ready to face the day wherever my destination takes me, tired but still happily functional.

  15. Cathie says:

    I think the napsak is a great concept. I’ve padded up the pull down tray with my jacket and leaned forward.

  16. Sharron Smith says:

    I extend my seat belt, curl up on my side, use the underseat luggage to put my feet on, and roll up my sweater for a pillow. It works if you’re short!

  17. Margaret Weinand says:

    I almost never sleep on planes, but have found earplugs, eye mask and a book help. Even a good book will put me to sleep, but if not, it makes the time pass faster.

  18. Doreen says:

    Wish I had something insightful to add, but sleeping on an airplane eludes me. Have tried all of the above suggestions, minus the alcohol and bubble wrap…..nada, rien, etc.
    My husband has used ambien (RX for sleep) & managed to sleep in a sleep-walking sort of way, but had NO memory at all of 15 hours of his life. Maybe not a bad thing, but someone has to be lucid as the designated traveller.
    Maybe the backpack is the answer!

  19. Martha says:

    I always get a window seat. Though they’re inconvenient when I need to get up, they’re essential for sleeping. I bring a travel pillow or neck pillow and stuff it between my neck and the wall, and then use my coat, a blanket or a sweatshirt on top of that to hold my head steady. Reclining the seat helps my head not fall forward and helps me sleep. (I do look behind me before reclining.)

  20. Glenn H says:

    Couple of beers before you get on and a Tylenol PM, grab a window seat, pull down the shade and lean a small pillow in the corner where seat meets fuselage.
    Noise reducing headphones with an iPod on low volume to cut out the noise.

  21. Elisse says:

    I had a great “beanbag” style neck pillow I’d bought in an airport that worked great- but I left it in the trunk of a rental car. :-( So my best tip now is to get loaded, preferably on something like Mojitos, top it with a really good Korean meal with Kimchee (assuming you’re flying Korean Air), put on the eye mask they give you, fall blissfully asleep across 5 seats, and wake up in Seoul! :-)

  22. Belinda Matchett says:

    I have never,ever managed to sleep on a plane. I am a typical ‘pear-shape’ and find all seats far too narrow to get comfortable and am quite tall so there is never enough leg room either!!!
    The air lines should be thinking less of profit and more about passenger comfort, especially as people are generally getting bigger and taller.
    There is also the danger of DVT as it is so impracticle to move around as much as the medical profession want us to!!!

  23. Cory Layne says:

    Sleep usually eludes me on a plane. It’s next to impossible for me to get comfortable in a standard plane seat (not enough lumbar support or knee room and the neck and head rest don’t fit my neck and head but poke me across the shoulders). I also can’t ignore the constant vibration.

    The only times I remember actually sleeping while flying were on Qantas from L.A. to Sydney, Australia, when I had a sleeper berth; and once on TWA from Boston to Milan, Italy, right after several TWA planes had been skyjacked. The 747 was so empty I had a whole middle row to myself. I put up all the arm rests, lay across the four seats, and drifted off to sound sleep, waking only when someone bumped my feet which extended a few inches into the aisle.

  24. Callie says:

    I always ask for a window seat and bring my inflatable neck wrap-around pillow covered in that soft furry fabric, matching eye mask & a couple sets of ear plugs in a handy little kit. (think you can find something similar from airport travel stores)

    The pillow supports your head in back & wraps around your neck so it doesn’t loll from side to side or fall forward when you’re sleep and the sleeping mask is a good one! It has tiny little puffy areas on the inside below my eyes so NO light can creep in! Then I use my coat or remove my sweater & drape it over myself like a little blanket. Even though I’m not a napper … with absolutely no light in my eyes and my ears plugged, it works really well to keep me comfortable so I can grab a few winks. Now if I could just figure out a way to keep my mouth from gaping open so I don’t look a fool! :)

  25. Pam says:

    Tools for sleeping on a plane:

    — A fleece pullover or something else to keep you warm if the plane is cold
    — Ear plugs or headphones
    — An eye mask
    — Fuzzy socks
    — No caffeine at dinner and a modest amount of water (full bladders aren’t conducive to good sleep)
    — Something to rest your feet on if you’re short (otherwise the pressure against the back of your legs can become uncomfortable)
    — Something to hold your head up so you can avoid the shock you’ll experience when your head drops forward and you suddenly wake up only to realize that you have drooled all over yourself. This could be the window next to your seat, or the little wingy things that some airplane seats have on the headrests.

  26. Julie says:

    I always travel with a small plush dog that I bought in Japan. He’s the perfect size and shape to act like a neck pillow either behind or to the side of my head, and is much cuter than your standard shaped neck pillow! He’s helped me doze on numerous flights and car rides since I bought him!

  27. Karla says:

    I try to book an overseas flight for 7PM or later so I’m tired. Comfortable clothes – no fashion statement – under some cushy outerware. Asile seat. Carry on bag under the seat in front of me. Remove shoes, put on comfy warm socks and place feet on carry on bag for a little elevation. Ask steward/ess not to wake me for dinner or breakfast. Take ambian. Say goodnight to neighbor. Make pillow out of outerware and lean against window. Put on/in eyemask and earplugs. Think pleasant thoughts.

  28. Patricia Koko says:

    I can often sleep anywhere and at nearly any time. Neck pillows are a must but this back pack sounds great. I do get cold and find that keeps me from sleeping more than anything so I try to snag a blanket (do they provide them still?) and wrap it around me with the seatbelt OUTSIDE of the blanket–that way they don’t have to wake me to “see if it is fastened” and zzzzz.

  29. SUZ says:

    For starters, check to see what’s built in! I don’t know how many people do not know that the headrest on some planes has ‘wings’ you pull in toward your head to cradle it. EXPLORE!!!

  30. Debbie says:

    Best to get a window seat! Stay hydrated – glass of wine with dinner! Next I change into my pajamas
    – TylenolPM is a must on the long Transcontinental flights ! Earphones and ipod are great to shut out all of the noise of the flight! Audio books are great to download and Loren to also!

  31. Geraldine says:

    I depend on a comfy husband’s shoulder – while he sits in the window seat. I’m usually in the middle seat and just have to make sure to lean over to the correct person when I crash out. I love the planes with the “wing” headrests becasue then your head doesn’t wobble from side to side. I think the nap-sack would be a great help because then your head won’t fall on your chest causing some ugly snores . . . not that I snore! ;-)

  32. Lynn says:

    I once took Bonine (for motion sickness) on a flight back from Hawaii…I live in Florida, and I slept most of the flight, it was great!!!

  33. Ruth says:

    I actually have had some pretty good naps with my own similar “invention”. I have a soft squishy pillow, that I pull out and put on top of my VERY full carry on backpack. Set backpack in my lap, pillow on backpack and lean forward and with iPod tuned to my “sleep playlist” I’m off to dreamland.

  34. Leona Lucente says:

    I have a pillow from that sky mag. It blows up and fits on your tray. It’s angled and about a foot high. Lean forward and go to sleep. it’s the only thing that has ever worked. Your head, neck and even your hands (a muffler pocket in the back) are supported. Nothing is drooping or bent the wrong way. No if they could do something about the noise!

  35. Monica says:

    I have always booked a window seat, have never been on a flight longer than 5 hrs., I have always been able to nap while in flight but only til head falls forward.. I think Joe Maginness is onto something here, the nap bag would store your valuables right under your nose so to speak and provide a place for your head to fall forward and stop you from waking..I think it would be a great gift.

  36. Kerri says:

    I put my sweater on the tray table and flop forward to rest my head on it. I seem to be the only person actually comfortable in this position, but it works well for me.

  37. Karen says:

    My secret…window seat, noise canceling headphones, benadryl and a soft cervical collar. Sure, it looks like you were recently in a car accident, but it keeps your head upright and you skip all the head bobbing, open mouth drooling and sore neck of sleeping without it. When put on loosely you can \settle\ yourself into the collar and find your comfortable spot. Unfolded it fits nicely in the front pocket of your roll aboard. Additionally, you can tuck a blanket in around the collar to look less obvious. This worked for me for my 14 hour flight to Australia and many times since.

  38. Brenda says:

    Sleeping on planes – oxymoron. TylenolPM or Panadiene help a great deal. Pillow to the front and sides of neck – hard to keep in place, though. Sweater or blanket to keep warm. Shoes off. I don’t like to drink too much so fewer trips to restroom. Reading books always works to make me drowsy.

  39. Jay says:

    Like almost everyone, sleeping for me is easiest in a first or business class seat that has a good pitch and that lies nearly flat. Since that has been a rarity, unlike many others, I seem to sleep best in an aisle seat, with a neck pillow, sleep mask, noise canceling headphones, and a blanket. An exit row seat can also be a real plus, especially on those long flights.

  40. K R says:

    i’m very ‘hitchhikers guide to the galaxy’ when getting sleep on a plane:
    * 2 towels – both large(-ish) hand towel size.
    fold, then roll one up; tuck it at the back of the neck; add a bit of recline on the seat; done!
    the remaining towel? that’s the backup towel, natch! it can be eye cover, head/face cover, emergency mini blanket, refresher (with a splash of aqua), or lumbar support…
    i’m an aisle seat kinda’ guy — i’m tall(-ish) and i like being able to stretch a leg out, occasionally. i’m also not fond of shoulder smushing/neck torquing against the window side.
    thanks for the review & contest!

  41. Fatima says:

    Window seat fanatic – I am short and find that if I ask for a window seat, wear loose fitting clothing and flipflops, I can usually take off my flipflops, fold a sweater / jersey into a cushion and place again the window, curl up my feet on seat and put in ear plugs I can get away with at least a couple of hours of snoozing…. Feel bad for the other passengers though when I see how they squirm and toss and turn..

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