7 Tricks for Sleeping on a Plane

Not everyone can count on getting some good sleep on a long flight. While some of my girlfriends’ eyes start to fall shut the moment the aircraft takes off, I’m the one who sees each minute passing on my watch. But, during a flight to Guatemala, I discovered that a little creativity can have a considerable pay-off. So here are my 7 tips to help you sleep through your flight. 

man sleeping in airplane

1. Chirping birds, lapping waves, and a sea breeze

’Scuse me? It’s true! The sounds can be extremely calming. And, even though I’m a lover of disco music, it’s more likely to keep me awake than put me to sleep. So, load some sounds of nature onto your phone before you leave – birds or ocean waves, for instance.

2. Shut out the outside world

If you want to make the most of those nature sounds and listen to nothing else, buy a pair of headphones that shut out all the other sounds around you. That’s right, there are some very good ones out there and they’ll ensure that the man snoring next to you won’t bother you anymore. A couple of ear plugs are a good alternative as well.

3. The perfect spot in the aircraft for sleeping

When you check in, choose a window seat so you can lean your head against the wall. If possible, get a seat next to the emergency exit. It’ll afford you more leg room and you’ll come away less cramped. But, if you really want to deal with that properly, go for a flight on our Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Economy passengers have more leg room there. I had the chance to experience that personally during the aircraft’s welcome flight.

A perfect seat to sleep: at the emergency exit

4. Seatbelt on

When the seatbelt lamp goes out, you can take off your seatbelt and let it go. My tip? Keep it on and in a way so it’s clear that you have it on. Not that it makes your sleep more comfortable but, that way, the stewardess won’t wake you if the seatbelt lamp comes on again. That’s especially nice if you’ve gone to al that trouble to fall asleep in the first place. ;-)

5. Forget the films

I have to confess that I’m not the best movie partner. If you watch a film with me – whether in bed, on the couch, or in the cinema – most likely, I’ll fall asleep. Even so, it doesn’t work that way for me in a dark aircraft. The bright light close to your face make your brain too active to sleep. Wait until your fellow passengers turn on their films and the aircraft gets quiet. Then turn on your music – your ocean sounds, for instance – and see if you can fall asleep.

a woman sleeping in the plane

6. A pillow

All passengers on KLM intercontinental flights get a pillow. But it’s even nicer to wrap a sweater around it to make it even softer. Some people like to use an inflatable neck pillow. For me, it’s an instrument of torture. Add an eye mask and ear plugs and you’ll be ready for the flight of your dreams.

woman sleeping in plane

7. Order a nightcap

Yes, of course, you can keep a striped, knitted cap in your rucksack to give you that sleepy feeling, but I’m referring to a nightcap in the form of a glass of red wine. Wine is fine. Beer? Oh, dear! But mostly because you’ll want to pee sooner. I must add, drinking alcohol might help you fall asleep, it does disrupt the sleep cycle and therefor diminishes the quality of your sleep.

If my handy tips haven’t put you to sleep at this point, then I’m curious to read about the tricks you use to fall asleep during long flights. Let me know.

Posted by:   Eline van der Haar  | 
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2glasses of AMARULA works for me

Eline van der Haar

… that will probably also work for me, Muzoora ;-).

Sebastian Van Gent

I take my own pillow, downs feather so it rolls up tight but fluffs out nicely. I also take Two Valium one just before boarding and one at meal time, also one travel sickness tablet which also causes drowsiness and some wine. Then after the meal service I have the lovely and accommodating team on board make my seat into a flat bed and put the pillow they give me behind my back or between my knees. Eye mask on, ear plugs in, Bose head set and drift off. Love the new KLM business seat.

Rich Hudson

With that cocktail you are lucky to awaken!


Double gin and a window seat :)


Yes , that’s my system too !

Eline van der Haar

That’s a good recipe for sleepiness as well, Archel! I can relate to that one ;-).


Thank you for the tips…
I take a pill to calm me down before a (long) flight because of the ghosts in my head (fear of flying) and a bottle of red wine to fall a sleep… :)

Eline van der Haar

/never underestimate the power of a glass of red wine, Roeminah. I’m with you on that one too!

Jeroen Koenders

Take a sweater with a hoodie and pull the hoodie over your eyes, preferably sunglasses on as well. Headset in, if you’re lucky like me and you’re short you can stretch your legs out and doze off before the plane even takes off and wake up when the plane touches the ground again :)

Eline van der Haar

I would love to be able to sleep that long during a flight, Jeroen. Any other tips an tricks that might help ;-)? Kind regards, Eline

Jeroen Koenders

Avoid sugars! Drink tea and red wine and don’t forget to tell your neighbour to wake you up if you start snoring loudly! ;)

Marcela Luna

I would like to sleep well in the plane…but the children’s shouting….do not permit it..
I have traveled 6 times in KLM but never I slept due to the children….I tried calm music, to think beautiful landscapes…etc…but it’s impossible.


For me that was true, until I had my own! Now I can sleep trough anything! Tip?


Nice canceling headphones are great, even if you do not listen to music on them, it pushes the low frequency engine noises to the background. It makes a difference to me, arriving less tired at my destination.
Not directly helping to sleep but wearing a pair of crock like shoes/slippers adds to the comfort and helps yogurt through security quicker ( esspecially if you need to change planes in US and get stuck in long immigration waiting queues )

Eline van der Haar

Those headphones are truly great, right Peter? It might not help you to fall asleep, but at least it’s relaxing without all the noise around you. Kind regards, Eline


My recipe (very akin to Eline’s):
* get a window seat (if possible emergency exit)
* noise canceling headset on (Bose in ear headset is an excellent piece of kit)
* take one tablet of Melatonin (a natural hormone that helps manage the circadian rhythm)
* have a small snack (eating triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, and makes you feel sleepy)
* I tend not to watch movies (because it activates my brain)
* best music to ease the mind is Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” kind of sound scapes.

Eline van der Haar

I’m with you on this one, Leon!


On overnight flights, I take a pill, wear ear phones and a sleeping mask.
Dinner always at the airport.
In this way I skip waiting for the dinner to be served on the plane and plates taken away.
A little while, after the plane takes off, I am already sleeping.
In this way I sleep at least 8 hours. on overnight flights


I am 2.02 impossible to sit – what about to sleep. I cannot do anything to my length. Please find a solution for that more than paying more than other customers please. I am already happy if I can sit like a normal guy for a normal price


I stay up late the night before my flight, for packing and trying to think about all the things I need to bring so my mind is tired by the time I go to airport and Ck in procedures. I always get a comfort seat and with the staff of Klm I completely relax and and rest at for they take care of me.

Sometimes seeing three sunrises from Singapore to Minneapolis was an experience.

I’ve traveled many times many of the flights of been 10 hours or greaiter in duration. No pills, eat airline food if served. I am short in height, and don’t have any trouble getting into a comfortable position. The main concerns are that I have on long flights is that I can find my passport upon landing and I’m I OK after the duration. Long flights can be very tedious but tolerable. Being relaxed I find is a key position to be in on the flight. I have used Eye masks and find that helpful.
Sometimes it’s just fun to experience the flight for instance, seeing three (or was that 2?) sunrises from Singapore to Minneapolis was an experience.
I am a private pilot and love the fun, excitement and exploring new places worth these trips.

Diane Holmes

Who’s had some good tip,s thank you so much,


I fly to New York quite often and going Westbound (to New York) after the meal I put my eyemask on and I have my music (on an old fashionend walkman with cassettes) very soft. I always have Andre Rieu, Nana Mouskouri, and the late great Pavarotti with me. On the way back to Amsterdam I always have the late flight and as soon as I:m on board I tell the crew that I don;t want to eat and as soon a we are in the air I put on my eye mask and earplugs in my ears and I fall asleep for most of the flight, but as soon as I smell the coffee I:m awake. And the funny thing is, although it;s not nice, the more turbulence the better I sleep (of course with my seatbelt fastend).


Little radial but it works for sleeping and Jetlag. Stop eating noon the day before you leave and only drink water. We you arrive in the time zone of destination, start eating at the schedule eating time. This empty feeling helps me to sleep very well, taking some of the above tips on account (headphones, earplugs). The new window seats take away the leaning advanced. They very badly positioned,


Entertainment on board…
Is it possible for KLM to load some sounds of nature (chirping birds, lapping waves and a sea breeze) to the inflight entertainment system ?

Ahti Suomisto

Oh let’s stop beating around the bush: take an Ambien or Valium and (if you have proper tolerance) a mild drink like a beer. Consult your doctor!


Simple, save up & go business class works for me

Herman ten Klooster

Tip no. 5 (no films) sounds nice, but it’s not nice when it’s mandatory. On 2 flights from KUL to AMS I could not watch a film (or anything else) even if I wanted to. Entertainment system for my chair on the blink despite countless efforts by the cabin crew to reset the system.

Mike Hulst

Great tips! Nr 8…which is my nr 1…use the blanket provided! After numerous flights I found out is was the use of the blanket (like you do at home every day) that made the difference. Together with the pillow and the window…the perfect combination!


Hi KLM. Why don’t you provide the birds, ocean or forest sounds on one of the channels you provide. Then everybody can enjoy it.


Valium, a window seat and NOT an emergency door seat. You have no place to put up your legs! I cannot sleep upright. I cannot sit with no way to put my legs up. I suffer with restless legs. I find it easier to take off my shoes and turn towards the window and put my knees against the seat in front of me. I also recommend a J pillow. Got mine online. It’s awesome.

Silje Angelvik

I just can’t sleep. I stay up the night before, I’ve tried drinking wine, I’ve tried pillows, I’ve tried music and the meditation station.
I fly long haul flights one or twice every 5 months.
I think I’m just too tall (180 cm) to comfortably sit in an economy seat.
If I use window seat my head slides down back or front, neck pillows are torture.
if I chose seat by an exit, it’s freezing.
I’ve come to terms with going through the entire catalogue of interesting movies on my. intercontinential flights and then collapse when I arrive or in the upstairs garden at Shiphol during 6 hour layovers.


It just pay the extra and go club class or first for a flat bed lol

Elio Assis

Nothing will work. Each one of you have a trick that will work only for you fellows. I fly from Europe to Bazil (12 hours) “walking” through the seats. WOW !

Mitul Mehta

After taking over 200 Transcontinental flights I agree with all the 7 points. Also adding a few points to ensure one gets undisturbed sleep.

8. Eat light before boarding the airplane, skip that late dinner on the flight.

9. Visit the restroom before you hit the bed.

10. Remove your shoes and get comfortable.

Eline van der Haar

You’re a true expert, Mitul. Thanks for the extra tips. Now let’s see if they work for me too ;-). Kind regards, Eline


Seat.and take shoes off.
Buckle up over your blanket.
Blindfold is on.
Plane takes off and I’m asleep.

Giljor Gulliksen



Get up really Early in the morning before you leave so that you are actually tired.

Pedro Tross

Melatonin 3mg.

LipHeng How

I always bring 2 inflatable neck pillows. I will put 1 at my back to support my back. I find this gives me more comfortable sleeping experience without feeling back pain in long hour flight. Another one is to support the neck of course.

Eline van der Haar

Thanks for the tip Lipheng. I don’t really feel pain in my back during a flight, but an extra pillow is always comfortable! Kind regards, Eline

Emmie di Biesse

I always bring my own pillow for my head and put the small provided one behind my back. I take off my shoes, put on warm, high socks, rest my feet on my bag under the seat in front of me, wrap the blanket around legs and body and sometimes an extra shawl around the shoulders. Creating your own comfort is a must in Economy Class, even in the so called ‘Comfort’ rows.

Eline van der Haar

That’s a good one Emmie. I think I’ll create my own comfort class as well next time ;-). Kinds regards, Eline

Nicky Verbeek

When i can stretch my legs….i can alway sleep

M-C Violette

Take a sleeping tablet! Works for me….


I agree — and think that its good to switch thing up and see what works best. I work for a public transportation company and for our Don’t drink & drive free new years service we did a lot of social marketing, as well as the standard methods we use last year (our co&)8oltn#r230;I interested to get back into work and see if the usage increased.

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