· Article

How to Sleep on a Plane

· Article

How to Sleep on a Plane


Pete Bils considers himself something of an expert when it comes to sleeping on planes. As part of his job as Vice President of Sleep Science and Research at Sleep Number, Bils racks up about 150,000 airline miles a year – advising stores, giving talks, and meeting with partners, such as coaches and trainers from the National Football League. With a jam-packed business schedule, he needs to be ready to go as soon as his flight lands, and that means getting the best rest he can while in the air.

“Of course, if you can fly first class with individual seat pods and flat beds, then you’re way ahead of the game,” says Bils. If that’s not possible, Bils has suggestions for what to pack, how to dress, and what to bring on board with you to get some much needed shut-eye when you’re 30,000 feet up in the air.

What to pack

Packing for your trip means more than planning what you’ll need after you arrive at your destination. These are Bils’ go-to items for snoozing on-board.

  1. A neck travel pillow that provides adequate support. This will keep your neck straight and your head from lolling about. Memory foam offers the most support, and a fleece or velveteen cover will be the most comfortable, but be sure it’s removable so you can wash the cover in between uses. Our pick.
  2. Earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. These will block out the drone of the engines, as well as the chatter of your seat mates.
  3. An eye mask. This will block light that can keep you awake or prevent you from getting as deep a sleep as you would like.
  4. A blanket or shawl. Not all airplanes offer blankets to counter the chilly temps in the cabin, so bring your own, and maybe a comfy pair of slippers.
  5. Snacks. Carry on food that has been shown to promote sleep, such as tart dried cherries.

On the plane

  • If possible, choose an evening flight. By flying when you might already be in bed if you were at home, you’ll increase the chances of being able to sleep on the plane.
  • Book a window seat, which gives you a wall to lean against, and eliminates the need for your seat mates to disturb you when they want to get up.
  • Comfort is key. That means no tight jeans or other constricting clothes. Bils prefers “almost pajama-like” clothing for maximum ease of movement, as well as improved blood circulation.
  • Always stay buckled. Once you do fall asleep, you won’t want to be awakened by the pilot’s announcement to put your seat belt back on. Keep it buckled and you’ll avoid the disturbance.

The bottom line, says Bils, is that snoozing on a plane won’t be the same as sleeping in your bed at home, but you can arrive at your destination rested and ready to get going.

Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal health and performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number 360® smart beds, with SleepIQ® technology inside, sense your movements and automatically adjust firmness, comfort and support to keep you both sleeping comfortably. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.

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