The 2014 Guide to In-Flight Slumber

How to Get Enough Sleep with Your Head in the Clouds

By Jonathan Spira on 4 June 2014
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If you had trouble sleeping on your last overnight flight, the chances are that you weren’t the only one.  And if you were envious of all those people who appeared to be fast asleep during the flight, chances are that they didn’t sleep particularly well at that.

What we can do is take a look at methods and strategies that travelers can follow in order to increase the likelihood of their getting a better night’s sleep when flying.

There are a few things I am not going to recommend, including sleeping pills and so-called sleep aids sold over-the-counter that can not only have the opposite effect and keep you awake but, when used without consulting a physician, could turn deadly.

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Fully lie-flat seat on Virgin Atlantic


Sleeping while aloft, regardless of cabin or seat, is a challenge for many flyers.  Indeed, until recently, I’ve only managed to achieve sleep on flights when I met several qualifications, including being at my regular bedtime and having a comfortable lie-flat seat/bed.  This, researchers say, makes sense because our bodies are used to certain patterns and that is further reinforced by our circadian rhythm, an internal clock that follows a 24-hour cycle and dictates when we should wake, eat, and sleep.

While lie-flat beds and mattress toppers help, a comfortable seat is only the beginning.

One trick I’ve learnt is to mimic my pre-sleep routine as closely as possible when in flight. I schedule my flights (to the extent possible) to be as late as possible (airlines take note: departures close to midnight are perfect for me).  I eat a pre-flight meal in the lounge before boarding, drink water once on the plane (perhaps a sip of juice or Champagne as a pre-departure beverage), brush my teeth, change my clothes, and read something low key before dozing off.  It’s not foolproof but I’ve found it prepares me for sleep better than not doing it.

Click here to continue to Page 2Tips, Changing Time Zones, and Dressing for Success

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