How To Train Yourself to Sleep On A Plane

Let’s be honest, flying can be downright miserable, especially if you are exhausted yet still can’t sleep.  I know of no better way to immediately turn into a zombie than to take a long flight with no sleep at all.  If you don’t believe me, watch the zombies stumble off your next international flight.

Sleeping on planes is also a way that you can eliminate jet lag, maximize your vacation time by not having to waste as much time sleeping in the destination, and even save money on hotels. If you can get a restful night of sleep on a plane, you can consciously book more red-eye flights, and be ready to step off the plane and return to work, or explore a new destination.

Previously, I was one of the worst zombie flyers out there as I couldn’t get one minute of sleep while on a plane.  Thankfully, I have had enough time and practice to train myself to sleep on planes.  The process was not fun, but I can now sleep like a champ in any airline seat.  Now I purposefully plan my flight schedule around being able to sleep restfully and charge off of a plane fully energized.

Just recently I took a whirlwind 5 day trip that featured a total of 40 hours on planes (post of this trip to come soon).  Of those 5 days, I spent one of the nights in a hotel room, and all others I spent sleeping on a plane.  On two different flights I was able to sleep for eight hours straight without waking up.

How you can train yourself to sleep on a plane!

Here is how I did it….

Force Your Body Into Sleep While Sitting Up

Most people sleep in the same position night after night, and the biggest reason they can’t sleep on planes is because a plane does not allow them to sleep in that position.  To combat this, I forced myself to learn to sleep in a sitting up position.  Sitting up while asleep is not natural for most people, but there is no reason why you can’t make it natural for you.

Train at the Time You Are Most Tired

I set an alarm for 4:30 am when I was in the middle of a deep sleep.  I would wake up when it went off, and immediately sit up against my headboard and attempt to go back to sleep.  The first couple of times this was rough, but since I was still exhausted that early in the morning I was able to fall back asleep.  For most people, falling back asleep in the morning is way easier than falling asleep at night, and this takes advantage of that to help train your body.


It may sound trite, but by practicing a few times you can learn to do this. To help simulate a tray table, I eventually moved my early morning wake up sessions to my office desk.  As I continued, it became easier and easier, even as I reduced the number of pillows and blankets, and made my position more and more upright.

Plan Your Airplane Sleep Ahead of Time

One mistake many people make is that they set themselves up for failure by sleeping a ton the night before, or having caffeine the first time the airline beverage cart comes down the aisle. When I am going to take a long flight I will make an extra effort to sleep as little as possible the night before so my body is prepared to pass out as soon as we take off.

Sleeping pills can be your friend!  If they take two hours to take effect, then take it an hour and a half before takeoff!

Night shades really can help.  It was a weird adjustment for me to make, but I’m glad I did.  It also helps minimize the constant thoughts of a stranger being right next to you.

Other Concerns

If you are worried about people taking your stuff, then wrap your bag around your ankle, or sleep leaning forward and hugging it while it sits on top of your tray table.

Booking A Specific Airline

Targeting a specific airline, or a specific booking class can be extremely expensive, but it is smart to at least know your options.

Some of my favorite in-flight amenities include…

  • Air New Zealand – SkyCouch – the economy seats can be transformed into one bigger bed.  Even though the row features three seats, it can be booked by one or two people.
  • Etihad – Personalized Apartments – yes, this airline refers to their first class product as apartments or residences.  This amazing product features full size beds (not seats, beds with mattresses), spa style showers (true), thousands of live TV channels and movies, on demand chef, and complete privacy. This is the ultimate luxury in the sky, which unfortunately features a price tag to match this high level of service.
  • JetBlue – Lie Flat Seats – JetBlue was the first American airline I saw to offer this option.   A completely flat seat helps me sleep even better.  This is only available in their “Mint Class”, but other airlines have begun to follow suit offering lie flat seats.

So can you sleep on a plane?  Leave your tips below!

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Hey there! I'm Claire, the founder of & While spending 4 years completely bedridden and miserable from an unexpected illness I decided to begin writing about my past travel adventures and now the rest is history. Thank you so much for visiting the website. I hope you enjoy it!