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Tips for sleeping on long haul flight in economy class

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So you are on your vacation and you can’t wait to reach your destination  Problem is you’re on a long flight with cramped seats and you want to rest! 

The good news is I’m going to share with you some tips for sleeping on long haul flight in economy class.  After all you have probably saved up for this vacation and you really don’t want it getting off to a false start if you arrive at your final destination feeling exhausted, irritable and playing catch up on your sleep.  

If only we all had the money to buy a first class ticket to have the previous lie-flat seats!  But don’t worry about that, below I’m going to share with you some top tips for sleeping on a long haul flight in economy class to ensure you are well rested.

How to sleep comfortably on a plane in economy class

1. Opt for the window seat.

There are so many options to pay for these days and getting a window seat is often one of them.  If you can afford it get yourself a window seat as this enables you to lean against and rest your head on the side of the plane.  Making it so much easier for you to rest especially with a neck pillow. Another good reason to have the window seat is that you can control the light coming in with the pull down shutter on the window.  

2. Try for the extra wide seats

Another thing you could do is to pay a little extra for the extra wide seats on a plane. This allows you to stretch out your legs and feet more.  This also helps with circulation and allows you to move about a bit more on the flight to get comfortable. 

You can feel like herded sheep but if you get the right seat you will be able to sleep and rest.

3.  Keep your feet flat on the floor

The problem is that if you sit with your legs crossed you could end up restricting blood flow especially on long flights.  You could also end up with cramp in the lower part of your back.  Keep both your feet flat on the floor and your torso straight.  This will ensure you don’t put any unnecessary stress on your body. 

4.Recline your chair

Long haul flights economy class mean you have to do your best to sleep with what is available to you.  If you recline your chair then this will ease any pressure on your back should you fall asleep and indeed the reclining position will also aid you going to sleep also. 

Another option is to sit up straight and rest but to be honest this will end up being uncomfortable as it’s so hard to stay up stress if your head is dangling, you then end up with neck strain! Although if you don’t like reclining your chair  you could opt for a neck pillow and a rolled up coat or something to support your lower back if you are sitting up straight.

Making use of the arm rests will also help support you if you are sitting up straight although it can be a bit awkward if you are sitting beside a stranger. 

5. Limit screen time

Blue light produces light that makes our body think it is daytime.  So when you want to rest on a plane turn off your devices including the TV screen in front of you, your tablet, phone or whatever else you have with you.  Your body needs melatonin to sleep and these screens limit the body’s production.  

6. Ditch the sleep aids

While sleep medicine may help you at home, when travelling on a plane leave it at home as it can make you groggy rather than waking refreshed.  Also you may not know how you would react to this and travel.  Instead use the other tips to help you rest.

7. Stay away from alcohol

If you are nervous flyer you may be tempted to opt for alcohol to calm your nerves or you may think alcohol will help you sleep.  While this may be true, the problem when you awaken is a sore head, thirsty and again feeling groggy and not very cheery!  Not to mention all that drink could have you going to the bathroom several times!

8. Don’t overeat

Overloading on crabs may make  you feel groggy too and won’t help you get a comfortable sleep.  What happens when we overeat is that the body needs to work harder to digest the food and pump blood to your stomach as it ries to break down all that food.  Opt for your normal portions and eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and protein. 

9. Shift your sleeping pattern

Making a slight change to you sleep pattern the week before you are heading off on vacation can make all the difference.  There have been studies to show that shifting your sleeping pattern can help you avoid jet lag altogether.  Another piece of research also says that if you are traveling east on an overnight flight you should sleep during the first half of your flight.  Going west you should sleep during the second half of your flight.  

10. Change time to your destination time zone

As soon as you get on the plane change your watch and cell to the time zone you are flying to.  Then behave as you would at that time.  If it is 12 midnight in the destination time zone then don’t opt for a cup of coffee!  The idea is to get used to the new time zone as quickly as possible so you can arrive well rested and refreshed rather than groggy and needing sleep!

Sitting like this will certainly give you cramp!

What to take to sleep on a long haul flight

When it comes to trying to sleep on a long haul flight considering what will make you comfortable is really helpful.  There are a few things that I always bring with me.  These are:

  • A travel pillow: this is a must have accessory to allow you not only to sleep on the flight but also relax. The U Shape provides the support your need and won’t damage your neck.  It really doesn’t matter which one you choose, be that the inflatable one or the memory foam.  As long as you try it before taking it with you.  I can highly recommend this pillow for comfort. 
  • A sleep mask to cut out the lights
  • Noise-canceling headphones but if you don’t have these you could opt for earplugs instead but remember they come in different sizes so try them out before taking on the plane. 
  • A few chamomile tea bags
  • A relaxing playlist

Long haul flights can be stressful so the items above are my must bring items to ensure I have a relaxing and enjoyable flight. 

What to wear on a long haul flight

Being comfortable and warm on a flight is really important and if I am trying to sleep on a plane I have to be relaxed and able to move freely.  For me this means a pair of joggers and an oversized hoodie, a pair of comfortable socks and loose-fitting trainers.

I’m sure you are aware that due to the pressure in the cabin our body can swell and we can feel uncomfortable in no time at all if we are wearing restrictive clothing.  That’s way it’s important to wear what makes you feel comfortable.  Although a word of caution, don’t take your shoes off during the flight.  I made that mistake and found it so tough to get them back on to my swollen feet that I had to wear them like a pair of mules!

Research has shown that the quality of sleep you get on a plane isn’t great. I think we all have to accept that but look at it like this, it is better than no sleep at all!  I just hope that the above hints and tips will help you feel more relaxed and rested on your next long haul flight.

First, you aren’t imagining that you get worse sleep on an airplane. According to a limited 2013 study in the journal Sleep, in-flight sleep is worse quality than sleep on the ground. The study’s researchers examined and compared the sleep quality of an in-flight crew while they were in-air, and during a hotel layover.

Happy dreaming.

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