Didn’t sleep well on your last long flight? There are steps you can take to change that next time.
▪ Noise: Wind and engine noise create stress and are anathema to sleep. At home, unless you live near an airport you don’t listen to roaring jet engines while you’re trying to get some shut eye, so block out as much as you can when you fly.
Tip: Bring and wear earplugs (either silicone or foam with a decibel reduction rating of 30 or more). They won’t block out all the noise but enough to make a difference.
▪ Light: Even when all the window shades are down (and there’s always someone who raises one in the middle of the day/night) we now have those seat-back video screens throwing off light all night long. And there are those lighted signs in the cabin.
Tip: Wear eyeshades. They hand them out in some amenity kits on international flights, even in economy class, but they’re not great quality so buy and carry your own (Tempur-Pedic makes a great one) or grab one from an amenity kit in first- or business-class next time you pass through it at the end of a flight.
▪ Turbulence: How many times have I been deep in sleep on a plane and dreamed that I was in an earthquake only to wake up and find that it was air turbulence? More than I care to recall.
Tip: Choose a seat over the wing, if possible; over-wing seats are more stable than those at the front or rear of the plane (think about a seesaw – if you sit at the fulcrum, you move up and down less). And some planes, I’ve found, experience more shake, rattle and roll than others. An Airbus A380 is going to move less than a smaller A321. (Ask a flight attendant next time you fly which of her company’s aircraft have the smoothest ride. She’s sure to have an opinion).
▪ Temperature: Planes always seem to be overheated. Most people sleep better in a cool environment.
Tip: Ask the crew to lower the cabin temperature if it’s too hot. If your plane has air nozzles (many do not these days), turn one on at full force.
▪ Dry air: You’ve shut out the light and the noise, but you wake up in the middle of the night with a mouth so dry you’d think you had been chewing dry oatmeal all night. It’s because airliners at altitude are as arid as a desert. Sadly, even drinking tons of water before bedding down won’t keep your throat, mouth and nasal passages moist. In fact, drinking too much may defeat sleep if your bladder wakes you up.
Tip: Fly on a plane made of composites such as the Boeing Dreamliner 787. The cabin air is humidified at 10 percent to 15 percent compared to 7 percent or so on other aircraft (planes are kept desert-dry in part because metal rusts; planes made of composites have less of an issue). If you wear contacts, you'll find that your eyes remain more comfortable, too.