How to Sleep on a plane

You CAN sleep on a plane. It IS possible.

How to Sleep on a Plane

how to sleep on a plane, pug

Sleep is really important! When you sleep, your brain is healing, rebooting, preparing. A lack of sleep can create all sorts of problems – leaving you foggy, anxious and giving you trouble making decisions and really – enjoying life! All parents know the fog of lack of sleep – from a newborn baby, or a child who awakes having nightmares or from waiting on a teen to get home from a date. That fuzzy sleepy feeling is just awful!! You DON’T need it on vacation!

Isn’t it true that vacation is actually the time you need MORE rest and not less!?

When you travel far and wide, you need to sleep on the plane as much as you can. Sometimes excitement gets in the way, sometimes nerves get in the way, and sometimes….travel neighbors get in the way. Here are some tips on how to sleep on a the plane.

How to Sleep on a plane: Tips and Hints

How to Sleep on a plane:  Choose the best time for your flight

Ideally, every flight would leave right at bedtime and arrive at waking up time and we would all slumber peacefully in between.  Trying to time flights with natural resting times is great if you can manage it.

Non stop flights are the best for getting some rest. Getting off the plane…hanging around in an airport and then getting back on the plane and trying to get settled again…is a recipe for exhaustion. Get a non-stop flight if at all possible.

How to Sleep on a plane:  Choose clothing wisely

Sometimes airplane cabins are FREEZING cold and sometimes they are BLAZING hot. It is super rare that they are a nice medium temperature. The problem is…like a box of chocolates. you never know what you are going to get.

So, the answer to the airplane mystery temperature is to wear layers. This gives you the most flexibility in temperature control. Be sure the kiddos are layered, too. Sweating or shivering would keep anyone from having a good flight!

I like this soft cardigan by ACEVOG. Wrap up in it to feel cozy or take it off if the plane is blazing hot. Cram it into your carryon when you don’t need it. Super easy to travel with! It comes in lots of pretty colors!

How to Sleep on a plane: Beware swelling feet and legs!

When you are inactive, like when you sit on a plane for a long time, you don’t use the muscles in your legs and feet. Those muscles are the ones that move fluid around your body so when you don’t move…the fluid settles in your lower legs and feet. Other reasons for swollen feet include too much salt in airplane food, low air pressure in the cabin, and dehydration.

Swollen legs and feet are ouchy! You feel uncomfortable which makes it hard to rest and even harder to sleep.

Avoid swelling with the right travel shoes and compression socks. Shoes that have laces will allow you to loosen them for comfort. We love low hiking shoes when we travel. This is my favorite travel shoe by MerrellHiking shoes might not be your cup of tea and that is OK! You can choose something cuter and still have happy feet.

 Read about how to choose the BEST travel shoes for you!

Another reason to wear closed toed sturdy travel shoes is  YOUR safety. In the unlikely event of an emergency, do you really want to be in a pair of flip flops?

Compression socks help with swelling, too. I’m wearing one now after I broke my foot recently. It feels surprisingly good! Like a big hug for my sad foot. I have to admit, though, it is just hideous. Don’t buy the ugly ones you can get at Walmart or Walgreens.

They make CUTE compression socks!! Who knew? Buy them online instead of channeling your inner old granny.

How to Sleep on a plane: Warm feet

When you wear closed toed travel shoes you’ll be wearing socks. Socks keep feet warm and toasty. If you are concerned about swelling then you’ll need compression socks. Buy the cute ones! Wait till you 127 years old to wear the ugly ones you can buy at Walgreens.

If you aren’t worried about swelling then think about comfort! Will you be taking off your shoes to relax or sleep? What about the kiddos? They’ll want fun and cozy socks, too.

Perhaps you’ll want to start dreaming of your destination on the flight there! Love these Paris socks.

We need these fun socks for our upcoming trip to Greece!

Please do NOT walk around the plane in just your socks. Ask any flight attendant about the cleanliness of airplane carpet (or the bathroom – OMG) and they will tell you the grossest stories. Put those travel shoes back on before walking to the bathroom.

How to Sleep on a plane: Be aware of the light

Some people are more sensitive to light than others. Dracula and I both tolerate light at night about the same. I LOVE darkness for sleeping!


For overnight flights, the cabin lights will be dimmed and all windows shut but it is not really ‘dark’. Consider an eye mask to keep out the annoying light. I like this eye mask that has a curved shape so it doesn’t press on your eyelids.

How to Sleep on a plane: Whatever works

One flight I had kiddo curled up in my lap and I built a ‘tent’ over our heads by tucking in a blanket behind my headrest and on the one in front of me. If people giggled on the way by, we were snoozing too soundly to know or care. Our nice tent made it dark and toasty and we slept well.

Some people have their own methods for sleeping on a plane like this guy who tied his head to the headrest with a scarf. A little unorthodox….can he even breathe???  Whatever works I guess, right?


If you are going to tie your head to the headrest….I would go with something sheer to breath through…wouldn’t you? LOL! I would not try it myself, but I do like this lightweight sheer scarf!

How to Sleep on a plane: Keep it quiet

Thankfully, with so much technology these days most people on long flights are plugged in and very quiet. In flight movies, music, and so on..even the little ones have games and ear phones.

But, always, always carry earplugs or noise canceling earphones with you in case because you might encounter:

someone snoring

unhappy crying baby

conversations – We once sat behind three VERY loud friends who talked loud enough to wake the dead.

Noise canceling things come in all shapes and sizes. How about this sound blocking sleep mask by NAP STAR.

Don’t forget the kids. I like this animal headphone fleece headband for the kids!! Play soothing music or a ‘noise’ app to relax your child to help them sleep, too. Everyone needs to be rested when you arrive at your vacation destination so help the kids sleep on a plane, too!! This headband comes in lots of animals and you are sure to find your child’s favorite.

Kids who are RESTED are better travelers! (Really, aren’t we all better at everything when we are rested?) It is worth the time to figure out how best to allow them to sleep on a plane.

Get more tips on flying with KIDS.

How to Sleep on a plane: Keep your head from bobbing

For me, this is the worst part of trying to sleep on a plane. What do you rest your head upon? You know that feeling when you fall asleep and then jerk awake? Ugh! Me, too!


If you are seated next to kiddo who lays in your lap anyway, lean back your seat but not theirs. Then lean your head upon the edge of their seat.

But first, PLEASE use clorox wipes on every piece of the plane you can reach.

Germs are everywhere on a plane! Read how to avoid the germs on an airplane here. If you want to be totally and utterly grossed out by your fellow man then go to Passenger Shaming on Instagram. Don’t click on Passenger Shaming if you have a weak stomach. I promise you will never travel without clorox wipes again.

neck pillow turned around can help hold up your head which really helps you sleep on a plane. I like this one as it is taller so you don’t have to lean your head over quite as much.

Kids are a lot more flexible for sleeping than their grown up parents. Ah, I miss being able to fold up into a little ball and not awaken feeling like I was run over by a truck!! Love this fun travel pillow for the kids!

This interesting gadget, the Skyrest Travel Pillow, looks like a new angle on sleeping on a plane!

This Daisy travel pillow gives you the option of creating the perfect holder for your head. Firm and bendable. This travel pillow is on my wish list!

The Ostrich pillow…I love this one so much that I wrote an entire post about this fun travel pillow!


Cloud nine pillow – now this is a very detailed ergonomically created travel pillow! Is it worth the space? I haven’t tried it, yet.


You’ll be clear headed, rested,  and able to enjoy every single minute of your vacation when you arrive rested after sleeping on a plane.

Get more information on traveling with the kids!

The BEST travel tips for traveling with INFANTS

Pack light – leave the kitchen sink at home

Spots in London your TWEEN will love!

Try a FREE travel guide for KIDS!! Download FREE

The Educational Tourist in front of Chihuly glass tower at in Oklahoma City Museum of Art,

Happy and restful travels,

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

The Educational Tourist logo, Sleep on a plane,


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19 Responses

  1. Kristi Hynes says:

    Once again you have given brilliant advice and found products and ideas that have me laughing out loud! The pillow wig has been added to my list but until I find one I will just tie my head to the seatback with a scarf! LOL

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Ha! Ha! I want to travel with you! We would be laughing too much to sleep!

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment! 🙂

  2. Great tips Natalie! I hadn’t thought of a lot of these. I am pretty good at sleeping when I need to usually, but these tips will for sure help that out

  3. thesecretlifeofanactress says:

    I always sleep on the plane! Even if the flight is in the middle of the day, as soon as I get in the plane I feel tired. Don’t know why ahah! Sometimes I can’t even watch a whole movie! But eventually I prefer this than the opposite 😉

  4. I cannot sleep well on a plane. I envy people who can sleep on a plane really well. There are probably a lot of factors to consider. Also, I have not found the perfect neck pillow that is suitable for me. You have provided a good list of travel pillows. Have you read about the Trtl Travel Pillow? I have not bought it yet because I am still not sure.

  5. Gemma says:

    Thanks for sharing these tips, I always bring a huge cashmere scarf with me on flights, it can double as a (comfortable) blanket. I definitely need to check out the Ostrich pillow, I can fall asleep anywhere, but awaking without a painful neck is the dream!

  6. Arnav Mathur says:

    Getting a decent nap while onboard a flight, is really tough, but if one does follow your tips, it might just be possible.I would love to try out the Ostrich Pillow for sure, looks comfortable.

  7. soumna says:

    I don’t sleep too well on a plane and I always end up quite exhausted by the end of it. It is nice to see some very great products. I would love a compressor socks too and I never travel anywhere without a travel pillow these days.

  8. Riely says:

    I haven’t had much issues sleeping on planes in the past. As I get older it seems to get a little harder getting comfortable on a plane. I like these suggestions of using the seat next to you as a head rest. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about my feet or legs swelling.

  9. Thanks for the tips! I am one of those strange people that can fall asleep as soon as I sit down on a plane – it must be something about the hum of the engine! I always seem to wake up with neck pain though from the uncomfortable seats so I think i’ll check out that ostrich pillow – I may look crazy wearing it but at least i’ll be comfortable!

    • NatalieTanner says:

      What a lucky guy! Some people have the exact opposite problem and can never sleep on a plane! Hope the pillow helps you comfort – you’ll sleep even better!

  10. I always end up quite exhausted because I don’t sleep too well on a plane.Thanks for the tips.

  11. Venu Tanneru says:

    Very informative article with great suggestions, Natalie. Sleeping on a plane is something that’s rarely discussed and you’ve articulated brilliantly. Outfit is the most important thing along with some nice cancellation headphones and proper posture. A neck band too does wonders as you said. But the most important part is the outfit and layering it. You never know the temperature you will be flying in.

  12. Rajkumar says:

    Sleeping in the plane is topic never expected to be spoken. But the tips you gave for the relaxed plane journey are really very nice. starting from top to bottom and even the headphones for music to have a relaxed sleep.

  13. I always spend my time with coloring & reading books on the plane. But after some point of time, I’ll get boredom & go for a deep sleep. But sleeping while travel is quite difficult & head will roll & drool which gives severe pain. Then I found a airplane pillow that gives relief of pain & allows restful sleep. This article could really help for a person who is traveling all the time like me.

  14. Sleeping on plane is really tough for me. If I take a neck pillow, then I can sleep only. Your article will be really helpful to them who travel by air frequently.

  1. February 13, 2017

    […] How to Sleep on a Plane for more ideas for arriving well […]

  2. May 23, 2017

    […] 16: The Educational Tourist You CAN sleep on a plane. It IS possible. From the curator: Specifically focused on travel with […]

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