How to sleep on a plane (even despite turbulence and a sneezer in the next seat)

2018-10-23 16:30 - Marisa Crous
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Being South African means we're used to living la vida long-haul flights.

When the average overseas trip means an 8 hour flight, with a long layover, plus another 6 hours (or more!) to reach your final destination, a 7 hour flight (which for most Europeans is considered "long-haul") almost seems, short. 

I have never really been able to sleep on a plane. It's so damn uncomfortable.

Mostly, I think because I'm constantly bugged by the idea that perhaps I'll sleep very ungracefully: drooling, talking in my sleep, etc. as other passengers look on in horror. 

It's the stressing about not sleeping that's not making me sleep in a way. Which is really so unnecessary. 

READ: A look at the world's longest flight routes (and the price tag attached)

But I'm willing to learn the tricks of the trade as many people are able to sleep soundly in an uncomfy seat, with turbulence, sometimes even surrounded by sneezing, flu-riddled passengers. 


Here are a few on-board sleeping tips to try (unfortunately, we can't guarantee the graceful sleeping bit): 

Take your own stuff

 - Of course you don't want to go lugging your entire home away from home, but take your own pillow. Be that a neck pillow or an actual normal sized pillow, it is your security blankie. That airplane pillow is just too flat. It's also part of your routine, and having something that's from home is crucial when settling in for sleep. 

 - The Independent says to take earplugs and a mask. The airline often provides both of these, but you never know. Sensory deprivation is often the best way to shut out the world around you, calm your thoughts and fall effortlessly into dreamland. The mask forces you to keep your eyes closed, otherwise distraction is imminent, be that by other passengers walking past your seat or talking around you. 

Switch off

Try to switch off the screen of your in-flight entertainment about 20 minutes before you go for a kip and read a chapter from a book or magazine. Over-stimulation keeps the brain busy and awake. Also turn your phone and laptop off and leave it be.  Even if the Wi-Fi is active and free onboard. 

READ: What flying Business Class is really like

Relaxing aids

 - It's never advised to drink a lot when flying as it can have a very dehydrating effect. Yet having one glass of wine with dinner or a whiskey after could help you relax and bring on a snooze. However, don't over indulge as it could hamper deep, restorative sleep. 

 - Many people swear by melatonin pills. Now this is a hormone found naturally in the body, so it's not chemical or harmful to you*. When travelling over multiple time zones it is especially helpful. Travel and Leisure advises that one only needs to take one milligram and that you should take it about 30 minutes to one hour before you want to fall asleep. It's also important not to nap when you land, rather stay awake and have another dose before going to bed that evening. 

*Do ask your doctor or pharmacist about any health risks before taking. 

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