Top Ten tips to sleeping on a long haul flght

Transatlantic travel pack

Long haul flights are not generally fun. Obviously we can make an exception to this rule if you are flying first class, quaffing champagne and eating fine foods while browsing the Wall Street Journal, before pressing a button to activate your totally reclining bed. If you are not doing this then the flight attendant’s breezy announcement ‘we hope you enjoy your flight’ always rings a bit hollow to me. You know that once you’ve watched four movies on the trot and struggled to the bathroom a few times, that you are getting very tired and that the chances of any decent sleep wedged into that uncomfortable upright seat are very, very slim. These are my top ten tips gleaned from many hours in the air, for maximising your chances of snatching some shut eye..

No 1
Ear plugs are essential. The plane is big and noisy with those large jet engines. Also noisy are those blinking announcements about duty free, scratch cards or clear air turbulence. I find wax ear plugs the best because you can really wedge them in for full noise reduction, not too far of course or you may never get them back. I did treat myself to some fancy ones on a long flight back from Canada last year, and although they aren’t quite as good as wax ones, they get a lot less grubby and there is a small device to poke them mercilessly into your inner ear canal.

No 2
To go with your ear plugs – obviously an eye mask. If you are travelling first or business class you will be provided with one of these essential little items, but otherwise carry one at all times. There’s always some light spill or someone continuing to mess about with the screen next to you so this is mandatory. You need to be as oblivious as possible to your surroundings.

A hopeful appeal

No 3
Pillow from home. Now this may be a controversial choice but I find those weedy little blow up neck pillows entirely and utterly useless! They just make your neck ache and you feel like you’ve got a surgical brace on. My travel companion is a full size latex Dunlopillo (quite hard to get hold of these days) It is extraordinarily comfortable for a weary head. It also has the advantage of being quite large so you can collapse onto it in a number of different positions or wedge it into any strange shaped corner. The disadvantage is, that it often confuses the security scanner and they think you might have a gun in the middle of it and a small fracas ensues. On the plus side, if you carry it separately, it doesn’t count as hand luggage and you can then free up more space in your ruck sack for return journey souvenirs. It also cushions fragile items such as ceramics very well.

If that pillow could talk…

No 4
Medication. This can be of your choice. A bit of a sedative or a painkiller can just take that edge of what could potentially be a miserable sort of  day. Temazapam are very difficult to get hold of now but guarantee to make the nervous flier pleasantly relaxed. If you can’t get even a tiny amount of a controlled drug then you can always try a painkiller – these tend to make you drowsy anyway. I prefer Solpadeine soluble, but any old painkiller will probably do. Even a Lemsip can help with drifting off..

Sweet dreams!

No 5
Socks. Now, you may find you do not need socks at all depending on the temperature of your pressurised cabin. However one thing is certain. If your feet are cold – YOU WILL NOT SLEEP! Feet must be cosy and preferably raised off the ground to increase the chances of slumber. Occasionally I have wedged my feet into the seat pocket in front of me just to get them off the floor and a tadge nearer to the desired horizontal. Again, if you are in business or first class you will be provided with socks. If not – take your own – fleecy is best.

Respect the feet

No 6
A good book. Getting lost in a good book can calm you down and take you out of your stressful environment relaxing you to sleep. Why do I need a book I hear you cry – doesn’t everyone just watch movies? Well the thing is, sometimes the movie thing goes wrong, or you’ve seen them all and in any case watching the screen tends to wake you up  – it doesn’t really make you sleepy. I’m old school, I like a book with pages – I’m not sure if the kindle device works the same way, as it has a bright screen too.

The future is definitely not a game

No7
This one is a bit harder. DON’T DRINK ALCOHOL on the plane. We all know people who start drinking as soon as they get on the plane and seem to keep on going until they pass out into blissful oblivion. Job done you may think, but have you ever spoken to them the next day to see if they are fully operational? They probably aren’t. Alcohol is very very tempting because it relaxes you but it also dehydrates you and has at least twice as much an effect on you as it does at ground level because of the reduced air pressure. This is especially tricky if the alcohol is free, so you may well ignore this one. However if your objective is sleep then it is best avoided. I once went mad on multiple double Baileys on a flight to Abu Dhabi, and I’ve never looked at a glass of it the same way since.

The deadly drink!

No 8
Another hard one now. Don’t eat the dodgy bread buns or the sickly chocolate things or gooey desserts they give you in your in flight ‘meal’. Your stomach cannot possibly digest them and you will feel bloated and uncomfortable and sleep will not come easily. I find wine gums work quite well along with a bit of protein.

In flight energy

No 9
Get an I pod. The I pod is a wonderful invention. You can play soothing music to yourself or some sound effects. My favourite going to sleep track is the sound of the rain forest which goes on for eleven hours of rain fall and tweeting and chattering – if your battery lasts that long. Otherwise there are lots of talking tracks you can download to speak calming words in your ear or maybe a recording of the shipping forecast – very soporific.

No 10
A furry hoodie. This is optional but I find it quite useful for inducing snoozing. Any physical barrier which creates your own virtual space is good for sleeping. A cosy hoodie can double as an extra layer, a blanket a pillow or its own little isolation chamber as you drift off to the land of Nod..

Perfect camouflage

If you have found my tips useful, do consider employing them the next time a nice ten or twelve hour stretch in a flying metal cigar box to exotic climes comes your way! I’d love to hear your own top tips for sky high sleeping too!

Good night zzzzzzzzzzz