Best positions for plane sleeping

Between you and me, I love a long-haul flight. Why? Because it usually means I’m going somewhere exciting and new. I’ll spend some time reading, watching a few flicks over a couple of scotch and waters and just relish the fact that I am uncontactable for hours on end. Bliss!

The one part of long-haul flying that I haven’t quite mastered is the sleeping thing.

Sure, on some flights reading usually does the trick and when that fails, the sleeping pill sometimes works. But there are some flights when I toss and turn and spit mental vitriol at my numb ass on a seat that seemingly wasn’t made with comfort in mind (I mean, why wouldn’t they be made like sofas or cushy couches?) and sleep seems about as far away as my destination.

Seems I’m not alone. In fact, when Skyscanner recently interviewed Aussie flyers, 79 per cent of them said they had trouble sleeping on plane. I want to know what the other 21 per cent know that the rest of us don’t.

In response to this survey, Skyscanner released a definitive list of what experts deem are the best positions for sleeping on a plane.  

1. The lean back technique
Many people go for the window seat for the view, which means very little at night when you’re supposed to be sleeping. But wait! That window and solid wall provide the best spot for laying your head for a good night’s snoozin’.

Failing the window seat ‘lean-to’, use your travel pillow and simply lean back, although that position has its shortcomings. Read on … 

2. How pros use travel pillows
Often when I use the lean back technique, what wakes me is the sudden snapping forward of my head, where my chin tries to make love to my sternum. Aha! Here’s the best sleep tip on the page (apart from double dosing sleeping pills*), turn your travel pillow around so instead of it resting behind your neck, it sits beneath your chin. Use the provided travel pillow (leaving it in the plastic) and stick it behind your lower back, just above your bum. This is the position with which I’ve had the most luck. 

3. Straight legs, bent knees
Don’t try sleeping with your legs crossed or sitting on them, because you’ll cut off the circulation and increase your chance of a blood clot. Instead, keep your legs forward and bent at the knees. 

4. Inflatable sleep aids
Some airlines, such as Thai Airways, have handy leg rests built into the seats. But you can guarantee rested legs by bringing your own inflatable footrests onboard. Unless you fly Qantas and some other airlines that won’t allow them onboard. 

5. Choose the right seats
As soon as you are able, go to your airline’s website and book your seat. Choose one with minimal traffic, away from bathrooms and galleys. Also keep far from the front row of economy, because this is where newborns and infants will typically sit. A380s have a limited selection of economy seats on the upper deck, so book them early. 

On some flights, you can also let the crew know if you don’t want to be woken at meal times. Emirates, for example, have a ‘do not disturb’ sticker you can pop on your chair to let crew know you want to sleep through the meal service. 

Other ways to get those ‘zzzs’ is to block out sound and light with noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs and a good quality sleeping mask; calm your mind with meditation apps or deep breathing; try natural supplements, such as valerian or melatonin; dab some calming scents on your wrists, such as lavender or rose water or pop on some white noise on your headphones. 

Also, stay away from fatty foods, coffee and alcohol before your flight and drink plenty of water. It also helps to book a super early or late-night flight – that way you’re already sleepy before you board.

* Just kidding, you should be careful about using sleeping tablets on a plane. Speak to your GP before doing so.

What’s your secret to getting sleep on a plane?

Related articles:
Why you have trouble sleeping on holiday
How your sleeping position affects your health
How to sleep well during a flight

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