How To Survive a Long Flight : Sleeping

I started out wanting to make one big post about every tip I have for How To Survive a Long Flight, and then it got so long I realized I needed to break it up into more manageable posts, so I will post this one first because it’s the hardest.

I definitely know the pain of sleeping on long flights first hand; cramped quarters, dry air, achy muscles and sitting upright don’t exactly scream comfort. Unless you’re upgrading to a first class full reclining chair, you’re going to need a little help.


Here are my tried and true tips on what to pack in your carry on to get the best sleep possible (in no particular order):


  1. Ear plugs / Noise Cancelling Headphones – whether or not you are a light sleeper at home, there are tons of sounds that can interrupt your sleep in a plane (toilets flushing, people snoring, people coughing, people talking, etc) A pair of ear plugs to silence everything or a pair of noise cancelling headphones can take you to your own space. I like to set up a playlist of relaxing sounds to play on repeat on the plane.
  2. Eye Mask – The plane will generally turn the lights off about 45 minutes after they serve dinner to allow sleep time. It is a good idea to utilize this time to do just that. However, there is some light that can disturb your already uncomfortable sleep. An eye mask blocks that out so you can pretend you’re sleeping in a really uncomfortable chair in your own home!
  3. Blanket / Shawl – Most airlines do provide a blanket on international flights, but not on domestic flights. Either way, the blanket is always thin and static-y. I like to bring a big shawl that doubles as a lightweight blanket or scarf on the plane.
  4. Warm socks – Would you ever crawl into bed and go to sleep wearing your shoes at home? No? Exactly! When its time to go to sleep in the plane, take your shoes off, and put on a pair of warm and maybe fuzzy socks, they’ll keep your toes warm and you’ll be way more comfortable.
  5. Inflatable Neck Pillow – What’s great about inflatable pillows is that they deflate and fit better in your carry on. The pillow offered by airlines on international flights is thin and itchy, I use that one for some more lower back support which airplane seats lack, and then use my handy inflatable neck pillow for sleeping upright! There is a method to the madness!
  6. Toothbrush & Toothpaste – You brush before bed, and after you wake up at home, so why would you skip this step when on a plane? Plus, it’s a great way to feel refreshed and normal on such a long flight.
  7. Tea – This isn’t necessary, but I like to bring a tea bag or two with me and ask for hot water before trying to sleep. Chamomile Tea is proven to be quite helpful in relaxing and falling asleep.
  8. Sleep Aid – This is probably the most important one in my opinion. I can’t fall asleep upright, surrounded by strangers, 35,000 feet in the air unless I have a little help. I like to take Advil PM because it relieves the unavoidable discomforts of sitting for 11 hours and also helps me sleep in the plane.


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  • LuigiLuigi

    Author Reply

    And what about planning the schedule of your fly late in the evening when you are flying to Europe???? Very useful to don’t get a hard jet lag effect!!!
    I tested it

  • HelenHelen

    Author Reply

    It’s funny what you learn from fellow travelers – warm fuzzy little socks are a must!!! and I always put a warm sweater in my carry on. It just gets so cold! I could not live without my doughnut pillow. and I do take a sleep aid (and lots of wine 🙂 )

  • thoughtful & sound advice! I’m feeling rested just reading this piece!

  • As someone who has been victim to my airplane neighbor’s REALLY stinky shoes on a 10-hour flight, I respectfully disagree with taking your shoes off!