How to get some sleep on a long haul flight

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To drift off into sweet slumber while riding in cattle class is no accident. It is a military-style operation that requires preparation, strategy and cunning. So, if you find yourself surrounded by other passengers on an overnight flight with 15 hours ahead of you, here is your POA.

Preparation, preparation, preparation.

  • Find a sleep aid that works for you. Trial the sleep aid at least two nights before the flight. Some drugs have a stimulatory effect on unlucky folk and you do not want to be that guy.
  • Pre-book your seats. Grabbing a window seat offers protection from other passengers toilet trips. Seats at the front of the plane mean no one will be reclining into your space, whilst seats at emergency exits often offer more leg room.
  • Sleep well the night before the flight.You will not be catching up on any sleep debt on your flight. And walking onto the plane over-tired will make any annoying events more unbearable. You do not want to land up bound and tasered.
  • Pack your sleep kit. Warm, loose socks; wet-wipes, earplugs/headphones; neck pillow; moisturiser; lip balm; eye mask; sleep aid of choice.

On the plane

  • As soon as you board the flight, set your watch to the local time zone. Within reason, try to eat when they would be eating and sleep when they would be sleeping. This will help you diminish jetlag on the other side.
  • Take off your shoes and put on loose warm socks. Wipe your face with your wet-wipes and put in your ear plugs. Set up your inflatable neck pillow and get your eye mask in place.
  • Take your drug of choice.  For South Africans this may range from a herbal remedy like Rescue Remedy; anti-histamine like allergex or over-the-counter Motion Sickness tablet. Take your tablet at the appropriate time as per prior experience ie. if your tablet is fast acting and makes you very drowzy, only take it once the plane is safe in the air and make sure you have enough time to recover before landing. **Those traveling with children should avoid taking sleep aids as they may need to assist them during the flight. Ditto for those planning to drive when they reach their destination.


  • Ask to get upgraded to first class. This may require the gift of the gab or frequent flyer miles. Do what you can. If you don't ask, you don't get.
  • Consider others, but be sure to set yourself up for sleep. Check that you can put down the blind and recline your chair before take off. If either can't ask the air hostess if you can swap seats ASAP.
  • Ask to swap to a quieter row - away from the toilets. Sitting near the toilets will be a sh!$ experience.

For even more see...

travel well copy

Tips for sleeping on planes

Sleeping in an airport

Real life story: 3 nights in Atlanta airport

Happy travels!!


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