How to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success

sleep on a plane in economy

How to sleep on a plane in Economy – tips for success came about after I had to take an emergency flight at short notice.

I was only to be away overnight and the flight was only 6 hours duration. But because I did not get to choose my seat or take my usual comfort essentials the flight felt more like 16 hours long. I am certain many of you have had a flight like my 6-hour flight.

Unfortunately, we all cannot sit up the front of the airplane whether we can afford to or not. So I’ve got some tips that may very well help you to get some sleep in economy class.

Before I give you my tips for sleeping on an economy flight. Below is the short answer to the question “How to sleep on a plane comfortably”.

It’s all about the seat so being well organized and choosing the correct seat will have you well on the way to sleeping on your flight. After you have your seat RELAX this is happening! My final tip is to be super organized and bring along personal supplies that will make you comfortable.

prepared for sleeping on a plane

1. It’s All About the Seat – Choosing the Best Seat for You

Firstly, I want to go through the layout of the airplane which will be of assistance when selecting your seat. Which by the way is my top tip.

There are things to remember about the aircraft which could affect your seat choice. Which is a very personal choice as we all have different likes, dislikes and tolerance levels.


The Galley and the lavatories are generally located at the front and the back of the plane. But if you are traveling on a larger plane they can also be located in the middle of the plane as well.

These places generally have those loud noises which would wake you up annoying after you’ve finally gotten to sleep. Airlines generally have airplane layouts on their websites which could assist you when choosing a seat. Or you can go here SeatGuru to find out what the layout of your airplane is which will help you decide on a seat location.

Leg and Seat Room

Bulkhead seats offer more legroom, but in some cases, the tray tables are in the armrests. These armrests cannot be moved so there is a consideration here. This also takes up more of the seat sitting room because the arm cannot be lifted.

These seats generally do not recline either which would make sleep more difficult. You also need to remember that having no seats in front of you there is also nowhere to stow your belongings during take-off and landing. Which means you would have to keep all your belongings in the overhead lockers.

Choosing the seat behind the bulkhead seat could give you extra room because those seats in front of you do not recline.

Front, Middle or Back of Plane?

Generally, the ride is smoother and quieter towards the front of the plane. Seating from the wings forward suffers the least movement in turbulence. Engine Exhaust makes the rear of the airplane noisier as well as the bobbing around sensation during turbulence.

How to sleep on a plane in economy

Window, Middle or Aisle Seat

There are so many factors to consider when choosing which seat suits you. But if sleep is your number 1 priority then the window seat should always be the first choice. Followed closely by the aisle seat.

Let’s go through the pros and cons of each seat just so you can be sure that sleep really is your top priority.

Window Seat

You can lean onto the side of the plane for extra support even if you are sitting upright or slightly reclined.

If you like the drone that a plane offers this could also be beneficial in relaxing you, drowning out cabin noise and also keeping you asleep. If you don’t like that droning noise you will need to take that on board. (Pun intended)

You won’t have other passengers waking you when they want to leave their seats. Downside you will have to wake others to leave your seat.

Window seat passenger has control of the shade as well.

If you do decide to choose the window seat, think about what side you tend to sleep on in bed. Makes sense to probably choose the window seat that you can lean into on the side you would normally sleep on. (Got to try everything right?)

How to sleep on a plane in economy

Middle Seat

Not too many pros with this seat unfortunately unless your partner has the window seat then you can lean on them!

There is no support except for the armrests (if they are left down) if you sit in this seat. You will have to sleep in the reclined position to get the most support.

Window seat passenger will wake you when they wish to leave their seat, you will wake the aisle passenger when you wish to leave your seat.

Aisle Seat

There are Pro’s for selecting this seat but they really have nothing to do with sleeping. If you are claustrophobic this is the seat for you and secondly, you will feel as though you have more room.

You won’t have to wake anybody to leave your seat. You’ll also have easy access to overhead compartments to retrieve your belongings during the flight.

Con’s you will have both window and middle seat passengers waking you to exit their seats. Anybody including the food and drinks carts will wake you up every time they go by.

Implementing some of the above tips on choosing your seat could very make a huge difference in securing some sleep on your flight.

2. Departing Stress-Free

Okay, so you have purchased the seat that suits you for your flight. Departure day is looming. For the optimum chance of sleep, you need to get into that airplane seat relatively stress-free. If you board your flight over-stressed it will need to take a long time for you to settle down to get some sleep.

  • Make sure your travel to the airport is arranged for you to arrive with plenty of time to spare after check-in. This allows you to have a walk around before the flight, visit the bathroom, airport shops, something light to eat, freshen up, basically to just stretch out and relax.

3. Getting Comfortable


You will often hear the at the beginning of flight one of the attendants or the pilot advise you to change the time on your watch/phone to the time currently at your destination. This will help you to acclimate before you reach where you are headed.

Get Yourself Comfortable

I truly believe that you are more likely to sleep surrounded by your own belongings and not the wiry airline blanket and flat pillows that some supply.

Staying Warm or Cool

A lightweight jacket will also make a great blanket and will not bulk up your carry on. Alternatively, the right scarves or shawls can be worn so they do not need to go into your hand luggage. They can make a great blanket.

Flight attendants control the overall cabin temperature. If it does get too warm you have your own personal control in the console above your head.


Slipping your shoes off and wearing comfortable socks. They will not only keep your feet warm but will assist with the fluid retention and swelling that can affect some of us. The right slipper socks will also allow you to walk around the cabin during the flight. Here is an amazon recommendation.

How to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success - Tip Top SleepHow to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success - Tip Top Sleep


Make sure you wear loose-fitting comfortable clothing. This is great for maneuvering around the small space you will be in, as well as that fluid retention around the middle.

Head Rest

If space is an issue in your hand luggage there are inflatable travel pillows (here is an mazon recomendation). Best travel pillows? The horseshoe kind is the best so you can pop it under your chin so your head doesn’t lol forward. But when it comes to comfort it is a personal choice.

How to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success - Tip Top SleepHow to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success - Tip Top Sleep

Lumbar Cushions

These can also be found if you suffer from a bad back. Using in conjunction with headrest and feet rests could save you a whole world of pain. Check this bestseller on amazon. 

How to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success - Tip Top SleepHow to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success - Tip Top Sleep

Inflatable Foot Rest

Wonderful for circulation, joint pain, and swelling. For some people it could be a real help. Here is a good one on Amazon.How to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success - Tip Top SleepHow to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success - Tip Top Sleep

Eye Masks

A good eye mask is one that will allow your eyes to move as they normally would during sleep. Try to find one that has eye cavities on the inside of the mask so your eyelids do not have abnormal pressure on them. For example this one is really good.

How to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success - Tip Top SleepHow to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success - Tip Top Sleep


Lavender balm or a couple of drops of lavender oil can assist in the relaxation process. It will also cover up any unpleasant odors you may encounter on your flight. Or what about a familiar fragrance that relaxes you, we are all different.

4. Noise

Noise is a big contributor to some not being able to sleep on planes. Not so much the plane engine but the unusual noises around them being able to block this out is the best.

Ear Plugs and Noise Cancelling Headphones

Get a good quality pair of headphones you won’t regret it. Listen to music to relax and drown out the noise. Using your favorite white noise app downloaded to your device could also be an option.

Play no music and just keep them in so you can keep from getting interrupted while trying to get to sleep.

The best pair I’ve ever had I got here from Amazon.
How to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success - Tip Top SleepHow to Sleep on a Plane in Economy – Tips for Success - Tip Top Sleep

5. Meals and Drinks

Bring your own food to consume on the flight, so you can sleep through the meal times on the flight. Also, have your water bottle on hand, you can have these refilled by the flight attendant during the flight. What about bringing your down camomile tea bag for a luxury treat.

6. Move to Another Seat

Keep your eyes open for empty seats. Cabin crew will usually allow people to move to empty seats after a safe take-off. Remember the old saying “if you don’t ask you will not receive”.

How to sleep on a plane in economy

7. Time Change

When flying for example across the USA east to west and vice-versa you gain or lose 3 hours which will interfere with your circadian rhythm.

  • Departing at 3 pm Eastern Time and land 4 hours later at 4 pm Pacific Time you gain 3 hours making it easier to go to sleep because you feel as though you have been awake longer than you actually have.
  • Departing at 3 pm Pacific Time and landing 4 hours later Eastern Time, unfortunately, the reverse happens in this case. So landing earlier in the evening is better for sleep if you can manage it.

You need to come home sometime right? Go here to my article about beating jetlag…

How to Sleep on a Plane – Checklist

All the information above may seem overwhelming and too difficult, so let’s break it down into these easy couple of steps!

  • Choose Seat.
  • Have all your personal supplies packed in a small bag or similar, within your carry on.
  • Reduce your caffeine and alcohol consumption during the day or two before the flight. Doing this assists with staying hydrated during the flight.
  • Don’t have any caffeine or alcohol before or on the flight they do not assist you with sleeping and you will feel better when you arrive at your destination.
  • Eat before boarding your flight, remember you want to feel comfortable on the flight, so choose something light.
  • Right now you are in your seat, relax and start making yourself comfortable. I always get ready for a night of sleep at the being of a flight, everyone is usually relaxed and quiet for take-off.
  • Do not watch television or use mobile devises the blue light affects your ability to sleep.
  • Don’t engage with your neighbors. Make it clear you will be sleeping on the flight.
  • Before you settle down to sleep advise the flight attendant that you do not want to be woken for meals or beverages.
  • Lastly, make sure your seat belt buckle is visible to the attendant so they do not have to wake you to check if you are buckled up.

One other thing that I always have in my mind when planning travel is the fact that even if you do everything to prepare for the most sleep on your flight. Things happen and sometimes it is as simple your own body not wanting to co-operate.

My last tip is “the backup plan” if I cannot sleep! Simply put the tip is to enjoy this confined time to catch up on all those things I never have time for in my busy life such as movies, books, and magazines.

What about that time consumer, editing and sorting your photos. How satisfied do you feel when that job is done?

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, I have given you some tips that will assist you to get a little shut-eye when flying.

The number one tip to remember is to book your flight in advance and choose a seat that suits you. This will ensure that you have the best possible chance to sleep on a plane in economy class because you are already in control of where you are sitting.

If you are preparing to take a trip on an airplane there is a good chance that you could be staying in a hotel. Check out my article here, which will give you some awesome tips to ensure you get the best sleep in a hotel.

As always here’s to better sleep

How to sleep on a plane in economy tips for success
Categorized as Travel

By Michelle D.

Meet Michelle, founder of Tip Top Sleep, a website dedicated to helping you achieve the best sleep possible. With over 50 years of combined experience in the realm of sleep, Michelle and her team provide easy-to-follow tips and strategies to help you feel better, function better, and live better through optimal sleep. Let us help you prioritize your sleep and discover the power of a good night's rest.