7 Expert Tips to Help You Sleep on a Plane

sleep on planes

Lying restlessly awake, unable to sleep in an ever-shrinking coach seat is akin to being buried alive with a well-dressed groundskeeper who pops by to share some Biscoff cookies every couple hours. It's miserable. But it doesn't have to be this way. We can crowdsource some tips to get our collective sleep game on point no matter how long the flight is.

That's what was happening on a Quora thread, airline workers and frequent flyers offered up their sleep tips for flyers. Here are a few of the oft-repeated bits of wisdom from your fellow sardines, struggling for sleep in the sky.

Window Seats, Every Time

"Window seats or exit and bulkhead rows are essential. If you're in the middle or on the aisle, you can tell the people in your row that you want to sleep. If they're small enough they may be willing to crawl over you to avoid waking you up." - Thomas M. (Air travel tech startup co-founder)

Stay Hydrated... With Water

"The best way to stay comfortable and sleep on a red-eye is to stay relaxed, hydrated, don't drink any booze and avoid rich (gassy) foods." - Steven F. (Airline social media consultant)

"A meal should be served and hour and a half to two hours after take off. Eat, drink well enough to avoid dehydration. NO alcohol, it will make trying to sleep worse, not better." - Judy J. (Frequent flyer)

This is corroborated by many sources. Alcohol can contribute to dehydration and less sound sleep. Everyone knows their own reaction to alcohol best, but there's good reason to abstain if you're looking for some rest.

Head Support

"Keeping your head mostly still is crucial if you want to remain asleep. I use an inflatable neck pillow, not one with filling." - Thomas M.

"One thing I didn't find out until the end of a long haul flight, many seats have "wings" on the head rests that fold inward so that your head can rest side-to-side. They are quite often missed. Ask a flight attendant if your seats do this." - Aaron C (Flight attendant)

Shut the Entertainment Off

"Avoid watching movies during the flight because the screen can make your brain active and believing that is day time." - Linda B. (Vita Talalay)

This is advice also given by sleep expert Terry Cralle, who notes that sleep is more difficult to achieve when light hits your retinas, signaling that it's day time to your brain.

Block Out the Noise and Light

"I have my sleeping gear permanently packed in my carry-on: an eye mask, noise-canceling headphones, earplugs, herbal teas (including lavender and licorice), and my favorite neck pillow. I always like to dress comfortably, even if it is a short flight, and I wear only flat shoes when I travel. Why would women wear high heels on a flight?" - Arianna Huffington (Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post and author of The Sleep Revolution)

"Earplugs (the expanding foam kind) and a heavy bead-filled sleep mask can do wonders!" - Aaron C.

"I find wearing noise canceling headsets and a sweatshirt with a hood and eye shades to block out the world around me best. By blocking out the world you can relax and just let everything around you melt away. By blocking out the world you've also created your own 'personal space' in an environment that has no personal space." - Steven F.

Comfortable Clothing

"Wear comfortable clothing in layers. No jeans. A jacket or sweater with ample internal pockets for wallet/passport is comforting." - Andrew B (Lawyer and frequent flyer)

"Find your comfortable flying outfit, what combination of shirt, undershirt, jacket, sweater, etc. is the most comfortable to you when it's slightly colder than the room temperature. If your clothes are too warm, you will wake up needlessly. The same if you feel too cold." - Alexei Z. (Consultant and frequent flyer)

Consider Your Red Eye Time

"When flying a red-eye the sleep techniques vary by length of flight. A short red-eye such as LAX-JFK or JFK-SNN depend on the time of day. If for example you're flying from JFK to Heathrow departing at 5:00pm, you'll have significant trouble falling asleep, with many passengers first dozing off just before landing, but on that same route if you fly on the 10:00pm you have a greater chance of sleeping with your normal body cycle. " - Steven F.

Everyone is different, but if you're struggling to get some shut eye after the stress of long TSA lines, give some of these tips a shot and see if you can't help yourself pound out a few more Zs before the layover.

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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. His sleep hack for a flight is to have a child for a minimum of one week prior to your flight, and then don't bring the kid on the plane. Guaranteed sleep. Follow him @dlukenelson.