What's Not Best: Trying to Sleep on Airplanes

Normally when I’m on a plane I read the whole time. But today I had to get up at 4:30 to catch an early flight out and decided to sleep.

This was not the best decision I could have made. The space is already pretty small, obviously. Then my seat wouldn’t go back for some reason, though of course the person in front of me was able to put their seat back.

I found it impossible to figure out a decent position to rest my head, and wavered in and out of sleep for pretty much the entire flight.

I think there were a couple of other times when I tried to sleep on a plane, never with much success. Has anyone ever been succesful at getting decent sleep on an airplane? Alternatively, how do you make the most of the time when you fly?

  • Gary

    I can’t sleep on a plane, either. I read.

  • http://www.thoughtsonthewayblog.blogspot.com Mason

    Once on my way to Romania, I was stuck in the middle row between an alcoholic German and a Pentecostal Nigerian. I lost my salvation 3 times before touchdown. :-)

    “Getting Things Done” arrived in the mail yesterday, and I’m flying tomorrow morning to Arizona. I will be redeeming the time reading my first installment in the Matt Perman School of Processing Life!

  • Ryan Singletary

    Noise canceling headphones made a night-and-day difference for me. The drone of the engine is much more disruptive that you might think. Also, if you’re not against the window, those wrap-around pillows allow you to relax your neck and not worry about nodding off onto your neighbor. Yeah, they’re a little geeky, but hey, sleep is awesome.

    Issaquah, WA

  • http://www.ophastings.com Pat Hastings

    After a number of international flights (some 12+ hrs) I’ve found that I can sleep very well. My fear is that on a long layover I’ll fall asleep by the gate and miss my next flight!

  • http://jamespruch.wordpress.com james

    The best thing that has helped me sleep on a flight is the specially made airplane pillow (preferably the inflatable kind). Couple that with the pillow that the airline provides and your head is not going to move. Also, if you can get your hands on an eye-mask to keep out the light, that will help a great deal.

    This past July, I was on a flight to South Africa and simply read or watched movies until I fell asleep. I’ll be on another flight to SA in January and plan on doing the same thing. Sometimes, on international flights, because of the time change, you need to start working as soon as you get in country. It’s essential to get some kind of sleep on your flight.

  • http://wisertime.wordpress.com Jake

    I don’t. I usually have grand plans but end up watching the C-level movie and looking around. I’m not very good at making the most of time. That’s why I’m reading this blog.

  • David Reimer

    Gervase Markham wrote a helpful guide to sleeping on the plane. Ear-plugs and blindfold are pretty essential in my experience. In any case, I don’t sleep on planes … more “napping”, but it’s still rest!

    David Reimer

  • Andy Jones

    One word: AMBIEN

  • http://www.visionforvanuatu.wordpress.com J. Gary Ellison

    Some of my long international flights, including short layovers, have been 27 hours long. It is helpful to take one or two Tylenol PM’s to get the sleep you would otherwise wish you had when you arrive.

  • Jo

    The answer is drugs!! I fly across the Pacific Ocean 4-5 times per year. It’s brutal. But I can usually sleep for 6 or 7 hours with the help of Tylenol PM, earplugs, eye covers, and good pillow! To be sure I have to wake up and wander through Tokyo/Narita in a daze, but then I board my onward flight and go back to sleep. When I arrive on the other side of the pond, I take Tylenol PM for the first four nights, thus ensuring good nights of sleep in the new time zone. Sleeping on short flights? No way!

  • http://www.cyriac.me Cyriac

    Wow i cannot belive. This is simply making a irrelevant point. I am used to sleep in Volvos on my overnight journey to distant places, then why cant you sleep in a plane ????

  • Sara

    I just had a three hour flight back home last night after a business trip.

    I bring paperwork and magazines to catch up on. I update my Excel spreadsheet that contains my life – bills, budget, to-do’s, etc. I bring a neck pillow and sometimes try to sleep. I listen to worship music, a book or a sermon CD on my iPod.

    I also talk to those next to me about Jesus. I keep a supply of Desiring God resources in a pocket of my laptop bag so I always have them with me for on the plane or in a cab or wherever I meet someone. You would be surprised at how many people are willing to talk or listen and are at least open and friendly. Only God knows if I will meet them in eternity – but I am being obedient to Him and His Word!

  • Kenneth Ross

    Living in the UK, most of our internal flights are no sooner up than they’re down again. However, on longer flights, if overnight I’ll try to sleep (but sometimes to cold). For earplugs, the mouldable silicone ones are great. A neck cushion (I know, they are geeky) is useful. So are those neck wraps filled with wheat – get the flight attendant to give it 60 seconds in the galley microwave! – The warmth will soothe your neck until you fall off (asleep, not the plane!)

    As a pastor, I get a lot personal encouragement by listening to other pastors preach, so I tend to load a few sermon MP3 files onto my PocketPC, and listen to them. Never found that I needed noise-cancelling headphones, just a semi-decent pair of in-ear bud types. (Like Creative E630/E830 or Sennheiser CX300).

    Alternatively, travel with your kids, and snatch whatever relaxation you can when they fall asleep!

  • Matt

    Good thoughts. Now I’m on my way back, and there were a bunch of delays that threw off my layover (there weren’t any direct flights). I was scheduled to get back at noon, but now won’t be back until midnight. Maybe I’ll get my hands on one of those pillows.

  • jmv7000

    I have problems both reading and sleeping. I am too tired to read effectively and not tired enough to sleep. Any suggestions? (This last year, on my way to Germany from Chicago, I just decided to pump myself full of coffee).

  • Mrs, Robinson

    I fall asleep every time I fly, for almost the entire flight, whether international or domestic. There’s just something about the whirring sound that puts me to sleep. It helps that I’m 5’2″ and can curl my legs up in the seat with me, leaning my head on a friend’s shoulder or the window.

  • http://samshawonline.com sam shaw

    I’m 6’4″ and only sleep if I am in the emergency row or bulkhead.