7 Night Flight Strategies

“Red eye” flights can be challenging for many people. Here are some tips to help make the experience a little more pleasant and, with some luck, get some restful sleep.
“Red eye” flights can be challenging for many people. Here are some tips to help make the experience a little more pleasant and, with some luck, get some restful sleep.

Every traveler knows that they call long night flights “red eyes” for good reason. Especially for people who don’t sleep easily on airliners, they can be tough going. These people get crankier as the flight progresses, and, by the time they land, they’re ready to growl and snap at every happy, smiling person they meet.

Recently, travel writer Sophie-Claire Hoeller offered her version of the “red eye survival guide,” several tips to increase your chances of getting some sleep or at least some rest as you wing your way through starry skies. Here are some of her recommendations…

  1. Sell your soul for a window seat. No, you don’t really have to go this far, but getting one will make a night flight much more pleasant. First, you don’t have to get up and move to the aisle every time someone else in your row needs to use the lavatory. Second, having the wall of the cabin as a surface to snuggle up against (with a pillow of course) may even increase the chances that you’ll actually get some sleep.
  2. Consider sleep aids. Many people don’t like these, but, if you’re willing, Melatonin, Unisom, and Nytol are frequently recommended over-the-counter options. Hoeller also recommends Airsleep, an app that uses “patented Dreamwave Brainwave technology” to knock you out.
  3. Drink lots of water. Juices, sodas, and other non-alcoholic drinks will also do just fine. The point is to stay hydrated, which is often a real problem when sleeping on long flights. Believe it or not, we often sweat when we sleep and we lose even more water when we breathe. If possible, it’s also better to be more hydrated at the end of a flight than at the beginning.
  4. If you drink alcohol, drink clear liquor. Instead of that glass of red wine, you might try a mixed drink with a clear liquor such as gin or vodka. According to Hoeller, clear liquors result in less of a hangover, and, if they’re mixed with water or soda, this helps you to stay hydrated.
  5. Eat before you fly and skip the airline food. First, you can avoid all the preservatives in the airline food, which is never a bad thing. And second, eating early can also help trick your brain into thinking that you need to go to sleep soon—like on your flight.
  6. Go through your regular “go-to-bed” routine as much as possible. Before you try to sleep, go to the lavatory, brush your teeth, gargle, take the appropriate pills, and do as much as you normally do before you normally go to bed. Re-creating your routine in this way, many people suggest, also increases your chances of falling asleep.
  7. Make good use of sleeping attachments such as masks and earplugs. First and most obvious, these block out light, noise, and other sensory distractions that keep you from sleeping. And second, these are great ways to discourage overly sociable seatmates from talking your ear off or overly attentive flight personnel from asking about your needs again and again.

Are you a veteran night flyer who’s developed a few good “coping” strategies of your own? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Just post a strategy you use to increase your chances of sleeping at 30,000 feet in the comments at the end of this blog.


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