Improving Your Sleep When Flying

Travel and Leisure ran an article on improving how you sleep on planes. It has some good tips, but this is a topic I’m unfortunately familiar with. Here’s what I’ve learned after several years flying over 100,000 miles.

Dress in layers

Every plane starts off with the temperature set to arctic, only to slowly creep up to an uncomfortable level exactly halfway through the flight. Another factor is your own body heat – you’re heating up the seat, blanket, pillow, etc. I start most flights in lightweight travel trousers, t-shirt, sweater, shoes and socks. Over the course of a long-haul flight, I end up in gym shorts and a t-shirt. Managing clothing layers helps me regulate body temperature, ensuring better sleep.

Earplugs and noise canceling headphones

The T&L article covers noise canceling headphones, but I like to double-up with earplugs. Don’t bother with the mushy plugs that come in the amenity kit. I like the Mack’s Ultra Soft foam earplugs. They’re low cost and greatly improve the travel experience, especially when the the infant in 16B is melting down.


I use melatonin daily for better sleep and take larger doses when changing time zones. It also works well when flying for more restful sleep. It doesn’t work for everyone; if it works for you, it may be worth considering. I buy large bottles of melatonin at Costco and take three pills when the food is delivered. Ninety minutes later, I’m ready for some sleep.

What are your go-to tips for better sleep while flying?

One Comment

  1. I’ve done quite a bit of research on and experimentation with melatonin. I’ve found that it does not at all impact quality and duration of sleep — it just causes a sleep event to occur and that’s it. Other hormone levels and external factors drive how long and well you sleep. So melatonin definitely works for me too to fall asleep when in a timezone conflicting with my circadian rhythm. But the quality and length of sleep can still vary from almost non-existing or very poor to normal. That’s where I think the augmentation you mentioned, with earplugs, eye mask, good temperature, etc on the plane, gets really important if you are serious about getting some sleep while flying. I’m fascinated by the whole phenomenon of sleep in general now that I’ve read “Why We Sleep” by Dr. Matthew Walker, neuroscientist. Highly recommend. And we’re having him speak at Gartner Data & Analytics Summit London — really looking forward to it.


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