A long vacation to an exotic destination has one major disadvantage: you have to endure a long flight. Tight seats, little legroom, annoying neighbors, lots of noise. No, that is anything but fun. Only when you sleep does time fly by. Unfortunately, that is easier said than done.
Annelies Smolders, a clinical psychologist and sleep therapist, immediately puts us on the ground. “You have to assume that sleeping on a flight is difficult anyway. Unless you may have a very expensive ticket and comfortable first-class seats.” Fortunately, there are a number of tips that can help you.
1 Avoid noise
A whirling baby or a snoring man: sometimes you have not got along with your neighbor. Earplugs are then an obvious solution. “People who doze off are first in light sleep. That also applies to everyone, including the good sleepers. Is there a lot of noise? Then you wake up faster during that phase. That is certainly the case when you get older because then you have less deep sleep and more light sleep. That’s why I always recommend sleeping with earplugs. You can also have this custom made.”
According to Smolders, it is also a good idea to also wear earplugs at home. “The more you wear it, the more you associate it with sleep. The earplugs, as it were, become a conditioned sleep ritual. And that comes in handy if you want to sleep at unusual hours during a long flight.”
2 Pretend you are at home
This does not mean that you can do your own thing completely, without taking other passengers into account. However, it is important that you try to imitate the classic sleeping situation at home. Smolders: “Many people can only dream away if there is a sheet on them. Does that sound recognizable? Then make sure that you can put something on you on the plane, such as a blanket.”
3 Maintain your sleep rituals
To avoid jet lag, many people want to nap on the plane. But that is not that easy. Certainly not if you take off in the morning and actually have to leave for dreamland a few hours later. Sleeping rituals then play an important role. “If you read a book or watch series in the evening on Netflix to provoke sleepiness, it is best to do so even during a flight. Usually, you have a nice selection of recent films and series, but the noise of the aircraft makes it hard to understand every word. That’s why I always bring an iPad with my favorite series and subtitles.”
4 Close off for light
“The greatest enemy of sleep is light. That is why I am a great advocate of eye masks. That is a cheap and easy trick to sleep anywhere. You can even wear it at home. That way you get used to the mask and you don’t have any problems with the light from the smartphone or an annoying street lamp.”
5 Think carefully before you swallow a sleeping pill
Do you have to fly a long time to your dream destination? Then it makes sense that you struggle a lot. You sit on a chair like a wrapped sardine and your body protests because of that uncomfortable attitude. “Make sure you have a neck pillow,” Smolders points out. “Some people take a sleeping pill because it is a muscle relaxant. Personally, I don’t think that is a good solution. You will not sleep well because of a sleeping pill. It creates a fake sleep: you end up in an unbelievable intoxication so that you simply do not notice the awake moments and the inconveniences,” says the sleep therapist.
Whoever wants to take a sleeping pill, should not wait until the plane. “There are a lot of brands that sell sleeping pills. One makes you sleepless, the other makes you hallucinate. Don’t do it to yourself to take a pill for the very first time during a long flight. First, try it out at home.”
6 Do not order glasses of wine
“Thanks to alcohol, your capacity to stay awake is lost. You relax and end up in intoxication, but at the same time, your deep sleep decreases. In other words, you do fall asleep more easily, but you actually sleep more lightly and you become more aware of that unpleasant attitude,” explains Smolders.
In short, a nightcap is not a good idea. The more you drink, the more disadvantageous. “I do understand that people like to drink a glass. But then you better start with it as early as possible, instead of taking another sip at the last minute. That way, the alcohol may already have disappeared from your body if you want to close your eyes.”
7 … and watch what you eat
“Don’t try to eat too much. The digestion will not be delayed, otherwise you will feel bloated”, the sleep expert warns. “And also pay attention to what you eat. In addition to coffee and sugar-rich food, dark chocolate can also keep you awake.”