Recently, I slept for 8 hours of a 12-hour flight. In economy. Want to know how I get so much sleep on long haul flights?
And, this is without voodoo, black magic, drugs or the travel version of rain dancing.
Over the years of tripping between New Zealand and England, not to mention taking flights all over the world (the longest being 14 hours from Dubai to London, plus a 1 hour on tarmac delay) I’ve learned a trick or two that often* helps me close my eyes and get a decent night’s rest – yes, even in long-haul economy.
Plan when you’ll sleep
I try to work this into the flights when I’m actually booking them. If I’m able to, I like to take flights where I’ll sleep naturally or a little later (the adrenalin of flying usually keeps me going). For instance, flying London to New Zealand via Los Angeles recently, I flew out at 3pm, which after the 10-hour flight and 4 hours stopover meant that I stayed awake until around 6am UK time. I knew that my next flight would get me into New Zealand at 6am in the morning, so I slept through the Los Angeles to New Zealand flight. I was still pretty tired, but it helped me to settle into the NZ timezone so much quicker. Or, I like to land early evening – and then roll to bed at 10pm. (It’s not rock and roll, but it helps to beat jet lag in a big way!)
Get a Window Seat or an Aisle Seat
This will totally depend on which one you prefer, who you’re travelling with and how many times you’ll need a loo break. I usually prefer a window seat as I can twist a little more than an aisle allows – though they tend to be a little bit colder. Also, try to sit forward of the wings or further down the plane – the engines are rather noisy.
Get an emergency exit seat
Who wouldn’t want more leg room when trying to sleep on a long haul flight – but, be warned that they are boxed in armrests, which isn’t ideal for those that are wider hip-ed. Don’t be afraid to ask for a different seat at check-in – you may not have any luck, but you never know what might happen – I ended up with an aisle emergency exit for free.
Wear warm, loose, comfortable clothing
I have a couple of sets of clothing that I solely leave for flying comprising of a black T-shirt, yoga pants, fluffy socks, my most comfortable undergarments and a pashmina scarf that adds a little flourish to an otherwise drab outfit, doubling up as a shoulder wrap in the airport and cosily wrapping around my neck when I get a little chilly. When flying long haul you have to be comfortable and warm.
Take a full change of clothes for each flight leg
Trust me, the hassle is worth it. In my carry-on bag for long-haul flights I also carry a mini-set of my toiletries including a toothbrush. This is for a few reasons; in case they lose or delay my luggage, for use in the transit lounge shower and so my skin doesn’t react with unfamiliar lotions and potions. I also make sure to include makeup/face wipes so that I can freshen up mid-flight.
Lay off the caffeine but keep hydrated
No coffee before sleeping + lots of water from my water bottle. That’s it. No magic. Oh, I do like to have a glass or two of white wine or bubbly just before I’m going to sleep though, it mellows me out even further.
Keep away from the movies & using screens
If I want to sleep, I simply don’t put on those screens. The blue backlight is meant to stimulate our brains, so I keep well away from them with a good book or my unlit Kindle – and it means that I get to hoover through my ‘to read’ list. On the London > Los Angeles flight I managed to read two whole books before I gave into a comedy movie.
Use Airport Lounges
If you have the time during layovers, go relax in a lounge. Especially if there are shower facilities – I’ve been known to book the routes of flights based on the facilities of lounges…
What are your tricks to sleep on long haul flights?
(Nb:I don’t bother with those neck pillow thingies as the noise of the beans wake me up…)
* These tricks aren’t fail-safe – but work more often than not!
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