Science of sleep: How to get a good night’s rest when flying. Norvegr Art of Sleep

Whatever your destination, discover our top tips for maximising sleep on long-haul journeys and and enjoying a relaxing flight

Woman sleeping on a plane

While travelling the world has never been easier, flying long distances – and crossing multiple time zones in the process – can have a significant impact on our body clock, leading to both sleep deprivation and the dreaded jet lag. Whether you’re flying for business or pleasure, long-haul flights needn’t be a chore with our helpful sleep tips.

Dress for the occasion

Even if you don’t want to change into full pyjamas, it’s important to be as comfortable as possible when preparing for sleep on a plane. Loose fits and soft fabrics are essential, allowing for freer movement while preventing the restriction of blood flow during rest. Styles like tracksuit bottoms, oversized T-shirts and slouchy knitwear all work well – and a pair of soft cashmere socks is always a treat.

Complete your pre-sleep rituals

One good way to psychologically prepare your body for rest is by adhering to your usual pre-sleep routine during the flight, such as removing makeup, washing your face, brushing your teeth and so on. Once your body begins to wind down in preparation for sleep, the “sleep hormone” melatonin is triggered and you’ll find it easier to relax.

Switch off

Artificial lighting – also known as “blue light” – emitted from electronic devices is proven to interfere with natural sleep cycles, so as tempting as it may be to check your phone or watch in-flight TV during the flight, try a more analogue pursuit before turning in, such as reading a book or magazine.

Stay hydrated 

While some sleep studies claim alcohol can aid in-flight sleep in moderation – a glass of red wine, perhaps a Scotch – most experts will agree that too much alcohol can have the adverse effect by dehydrating the body. The same goes for caffeine-based beverages. Instead, keep a bottle of water to hand so you can stay adequately hydrated throughout the flight; a herbal tea before bed can also work well. Additionally, avoid eating a heavy meal less than 2-3 hours before sleeping, otherwise you may be prone to indigestion.  

Have sleep accessories to hand

Unlike the relative quiet of your bedroom at home, a plane cabin can prove a rather more disturbing environment for sleep, from the myriad activities of passengers and crew to the constant thrum of the aircraft engine. However, a selection of well-chosen accessories can improve matters greatly. A comfortable sleep mask shuts out the light, while a comfy neck pillow adds support and noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs help block out sound. Many airlines also offer cosy blankets on long-haul flights – though be sure to buckle your seatbelt over the top of the blanket before turning in, otherwise the cabin crew may wake you to check it is securely fastened.