When it comes to travelling long haul, the thing that stresses many of us out the most, is trying to sleep on the plane. It can be a real challenge. So here at Hyoumankind, our team has put together the seven strategies we’ve found that make the most difference. Think of the tips below as a toolkit to help you drift off in the clouds. So you land feeling human, and ready to face your travel adventure.
Get warm and comfy
No matter what class you’re in, comfort beats glamour when flying long haul. This means wearing lightweight knits, ‘elegant’ sweatpants or stretchy trousers, long cardigans, and soft sleep socks (check out Elle+Riley Cashmere for sophisticated comfort). And forget anything that’s going to wrinkle. If you prefer not to wear ‘flying clothes’ in the airport, change into them once you’re on board. This will also keep your other clothes fresh for once you land. Bringing a soft wrap in a natural fibre like cashmere, wool or knitted cotton will help you stay cosy and drift off. And draping it over your head like a tent says ‘do not disturb’ better than almost anything.
Block out interruptions
If you want to sleep on your flight, limiting cabin and airplane noise is key. You’ll be glad you’ve packed earplugs or noise cancelling headphones to block out some of the noise from the flight crew, other passengers, and the sound of the plane. Most of us sleep better in the dark, so a comfy sleep mask is also very handy here.
Download some extra app support
Your mobile can be a great resource when it comes to sleeping on planes. We love the Headspace app (subscription required) for guided sleep and relaxation meditations. Spotify offers everything from soothing classical or ambient music (Brian Eno is a personal favourite) to deliberately boring podcasts to help you nod off. The White Noise app by TMSOFT is free for the basic version, and has a library of sounds to give you a peaceful soundtrack to sleep. Just remember to download the tracks you want before you leave, as WIFI on board tends to be expensive or non-existent.
Bring a pillow
Comfort and support are everything when you’re 10,000 metres up. You’ll probably receive a blanket and a pillow from the airline, and while these will provide a little added comfort, they won’t give your body the support it needs. We recommend using them instead to ‘plug the gaps’ – more padding against the window, for example.
Bringing your own supportive memory foam pillow will give you a much better chance of sleeping during a long haul flight. The Hyoumankind Go Pillow is made from specially formulated, memory foam that compresses and slowly recovers, moulding itself to cradle your head and shoulders. Its gentle wedge shape means you can use it as lumbar support, for leaning against the window, even for resting over your tray table. There’s no right or wrong, so experiment to find your optimum position.
Turn down the lights
Avoid light, especially blue light, before you sleep. If you’re using a mobile phone or tablet, dim the brightness in the settings. And turn down the brightness on your seat back entertainment, for your peace and your fellow passengers’ comfort. It’s never fun to have your neighbour’s screen glaring at you, while they hide out under their sleep mask.
Settle in for the long haul
Research shows that bedtime rituals can be helpful. We’ve discovered that doing what you’d normally do before bed can help you fall and asleep and stay asleep. So try to get changed, brush your teeth, wash your face and even apply a hydrating face mask to get in the mood.
To get settled, make sure you’ve used the bathroom, and let your neighbour know that you’ll be taking a nap. If you have a favourite sleep aid – either pharmaceutical or herbal – take it in advance, perhaps with dinner, and avoid caffeine and alcohol (although a glass of wine with dinner may help you relax). Then cover yourself with your wrap, add your eye mask and earplugs, and get as comfy as you can. To prevent a flight attendant waking you up during turbulence, keep your seat belt loosely done up over your blanket.
Flight timing and seat selection
If you really can’t sleep on long haul, consider rethinking your flight choices. Perhaps a daytime flight (that lands in the evening) would work best for you, so there’s less pressure to sleep. If you have two long haul flights in a row, you may be better to book a short stay in a transit hotel, rather than trying to tackle the whole journey on little or no sleep. And always try to book ahead to get the best seat possible. We use SeatGuru.com to find the seat with a little more leg room and a little less volume (eg. the front of economy is often where the airline will put parents with young babies).