The expert’s guide to sleeping on a plane

Tips straight from a doctor.

Maxine McCrann
Originally Published: 

I can rarely relax enough on airplanes to drift off, no matter how many slow belly breaths I take or soothing in-flight nature tracks I listen to.

Planes aren’t exactly conducive to sleep, Ramiz Fargo, a sleep medicine specialist at Loma Linda University Health, explains. The seats are cramped, he points out, offering little room to recline or stretch our legs. Flight attendants frequently walk up and down the aisles. The cabin can be bright and noisy. Plus, many of us wear masks on the plane; and while face-coverings are a powerful tool against infection, they can feel uncomfortable to sleep in. “It’s unfortunately a lot different than going into a quiet room and lying down to go to sleep,” he says.


That’s for sure.

Thankfully, Fargo tells me that there are a few steps you can take to improve your odds of getting some sweet, sweet sleep on your next trip.