Get your best rest with our guide to sleeping on a plane

The tyranny of distance is a real problem for travel-loving Australians.

We love an overseas holiday but unless it’s a quick hop over to New Zealand, any trip to another country involves multi-hour travel and possibly at least one stopover.

Sleep becomes a valuable commodity on longer flights. You want to start your holiday as soon as possible and as fresh as possible. A day lost to jet lag is a day you won’t get back.

So, what are the tips to better sleep on a plane?

Get the temperature right

Wear loose layers of clothing. Plane temperatures can fluctuate, one minute your extremities feel like ice, the next there’s a sweat ring around your neck. With a few loose layers you can adjust to the temperature around you to create the optimum environment for sleeping. A lightweight wrap or blanket can also be a game-changer in such situations. Don’t forget your feet with comfy in-cabin socks.

Read more: Five Australian lakes worth travelling to

The eyes have it

An eye mask is a must. But don’t just go for the glam new style. Try a few on before you buy. You don’t want to get to 35,000 feet and realise your very chic eye mask is also a scratchy, ill-fitting nightmare. Jump online and check out reviews. Do you want a smooth silky number that moulds to your head perfectly, or something that cushions the eye socket?

Noise-cancelling headphones

You know when a plane passes above and it’s noisy? Well, no surprise if you are actually flying that this counts for inside the plane as well. Noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs are a must. As well as cancelling out the plane noise they should cut down on crying children, over-familiar over-sharers and families talking too much. Bonus.

Read: Here’s what you should always pack in your carry-on bag

Plug it up

A subset of noise-cancelling headphones is earplugs. You will pay less but the quality of noise control will correspondingly also be less. Perfect for light travellers though.

Softly, softly

A well-placed small pillow can make all the difference for your comfort and thus your quality of sleep. Perfect for the lower back especially. On the face of your snoring seat partner does not count.

Neck it

A neck pillow is great for lolling heads. The design has come a long way from the originals which were little more than sweaty mini beanbags. Now they can come in memory foam, fabric wraps and hilarious inflatable numbers where you just push your face into them. There are also kids’ ones shaped like animals, but they don’t have to be confined to the under-10s. If you want to be draped in a monkey or bear ears, you go right ahead.

Read: Six common travel problems and how to deal with them

Lean to

If you want to sleep better on a plane, see if you can bag a window seat. It at least gives you something to lean against. Funnily enough, the person next to you, generally doesn’t like that, especially random strangers. Not having to stand up to let people through the loo is an added bonus.

Rethink the drink

Booze and caffeine are both tempting for different reasons, but try to stick to water or juice.

Alcohol may help you drop off, or forget the drama of checking in, but generally it leads to poor sleep quality and let’s face it, more toilet trips.

It also dehydrates you, leaving you cranky and crusty for when you land, which is less than ideal.

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Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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