Plan ahead of time
1. Score a window seat
If you can reserve a window seat, do it. You’ll be able to lean over and rest your head on the side of the plane. It’s a lot easier than trying to fall asleep on a neck pillow while basically sitting upright. Bonus: You can also control your light exposure.
2. Pack some comfort items
Remember your favorite teddy bear as a kid? Think of this as the adult version. I personally take a sarong to keep warm and a good pair of noise cancelling headphones for some music or a sleep meditation.
Now’s the time to put that well-worn sweater, super-soft faded t-shirt, and a chill playlist to good use. Falling asleep when you’re in the midst of 200 people and 30,000 feet up in the air is all about making yourself feel as at home as possible.
3. Stock up on melatonin
If you’re traveling alone, be very careful about using any sleep medicine unless you know how it affects you.
4. Adjust your sleep schedule
Depending where you are flying to, try and adjust your sleeping pattern to your new time zone as soon as possible.
During the flight
5. Set your watch to your new time zone
As soon as you leave your starting city, act as if you’re already in the time zone of your destination.
For instance, if you feel like you need a cup of coffee, only have it if you’d be drinking coffee at that time in your arrival city. If it’s 10 p.m., the answer is no — regardless of how you feel in your current time zone.
The sooner you can start acclimating to your new destination, the better off you’ll be once you actually arrive.
6. Power down
In general, light exposure is a bad idea if you’re trying to sleep, especially blue light from our devices.
Electronic screens are similar to sunlight. So, when you’re looking at that right before bed, you’re suppressing melatonin release.
To get solid shuteye on board, close the window shade and turn off the overhead lights. Dim as many blue light sources as possible, like smartphones, laptops, and the screen on the back of the seat in front of you.
7. Uncross your legs
When you cross your legs, you clamp down on one side, which could restrict blood flow. If your flight is more than four hours, this could increase your chances of a blood clot.
If you fall asleep with your legs crossed, you’ll likely wake up at some point and immediately cross your legs the other way because you’re subconsciously trying to even out that twist.
Here’s a better way to sit: keep your legs straight, with a slight bend to your knees. You want to avoid any blood pooling in the lower part of your body.
8. Support your spine
Reclining your chair will help ease some of the pressure on your lower back. With less pressure on your back, you may be cozy enough to fall asleep.
The second-best position is sitting up straight. But if your abdominal muscles aren’t strong, you won’t have any lumbar support, which can lead to lower back pain.
The fix: a back pillow, which helps to keep that curve in your low back. You can use a travel pillow or even a rolled-up jacket.
9. Skip alcohol
Though it might be tempting — you’re on vacation, right? — booze won’t help you sleep soundly. Alcohol will initially promote sleep, but it’s usually only in effect for three to four hours, and then you can’t get back to sleep.
On top of that, you might wake with a headache and feel thirsty. That could lead to overcompensating with water, and we all know that frequent bathroom trips won’t make it easy to fall asleep, not to mention it’ll piss off the people trying to sleep next to you. Awkward…
10. Listen to a guided meditation
Meditation music can be an effective way to get better sleep. And, if you didn’t sleep well the night before, meditation can help you feel less crappy.
Once you’ve landed
11. Stay up
Even though it sucks, it’s best to stay awake as long as you can before your usual bedtime. If you sleep all day, then you’re going to be up all night, prolonging the same issue.
If you nap, keep it short — 15 to 30 minutes, max. And accept that it may take a few days to feel completely back to normal.
If the first day or two you’re groggy, hungry at odd times, it’s just part of your body adjusting. Give it time, and soon you’ll be back to enjoying your getaway.