Sleep during flight

One of the most hated aspects of air travel is sleep on the plane – unless you can afford to fly first or business class and take advantage of the flatbed.

Seat selection

So should you fly business class if you can afford it? The calculation can be quite simple. Let’s say you are traveling for important meeting. Imagine what could happen if the meeting goes wrong because you’re not refreshed enough and will be less productive or less capable to negotiate.
Calculate the potential loss, and probability of it happening. Then you can compare it to price difference between economy and business class. If the risk is relatively small, just get the economy ticket and follow the advice from Hecatee to travel as good as it gets. If the potential loss is too large and you need to deliver 100% during the whole trip, price of business class ticket may be worth paying.

[should this be removed?] Other way to look at it is to estimate how much would be your productivity loss. Let’s say the value of your fully productive hour is X, but only Y if you are tired. Z is the number of hours of lower productivity that you can avoid by flying business class.
Productivity loss avoided = (X-Y) * Z

Some airlines introduced Premium Economy class. It’s important to look at what is the difference compared to standard Economy class – each airline defines their own rules. Sometimes Premium means additional leg space which may be helpful for your comfort, but often it is just things like free
meals and drinks. These are usually (as most of airline meal) low quality and rarely worth the additional price tag.

Potentially interesting perk (offered free by some airlines) could be the seat selection. Window seat will give you less sleep interruptions, but aisle seat offers more freedom to move. Look at seating arrangement on your flight and pick the best seat for you. The aisle seat in middle row [picture] is typically the sweet spot for long haul flights with 3 rows of seats. It will give you the freedom to move, but will minimize sleep interruptions (less people next to you who need to pee).

Tip:
Of course the best seat on the plane is the one with free seats around you. If you are doing the check in online or at a kiosk at the airport, the seat selection is usually available for most airlines (except for budget airlines). Look at the seat map to see available seats and pick the best ones for you. If you are checking in at the airline counter you can still try your luck – just smile at the agent and ask politely if there are such
seats available.

Better sleep during flight

Even if you are not keen to pay significantly more for business class ticket, there are things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep.

Good pre-sleep hygiene is even more important than usual. We’re not talking about brushing your teeth (even though you should do that too – don’t forget to bring your toothbrush and toothpaste). Even more than on a normal day, it is important to wind down 1-2 hours before you need to sleep,
manage body temperature as much as possible, and avoid blue light. More detailed list and explanations are in section ………..

Other flight specific items you should consider are

  • Neck pillow. Sleeping in seated position is far from optimal, and neck will suffer the most. Pick the most comfortable pillow for you. If you prefer the usual horse-shoe shaped pillow, make sure its shape is adjustable to your needs. You can try some of the new designs, e.g. this
    neck-brace type …[image]… This shape has the advantage of supporting your front side, so your head does not fall.
  • Sitting position. If your seat has head support, use it. Use pillow provided by airline to find the most comfortable position – try it behind your back in different heights, or even sit on it.
  • Sleep mask. Good sleep mask will block all the lights that may temper with your melatonin production and cause you to wake up when you should be sleeping. Go for a comfortable option with material that is pleasant for you.
  • Noise mitigation. Humming of the jet engine, toilets flushing, noisy neighbors enjoying free alcohol – all of these play against good sleep. You can use ear plugs …[example[… or ear putty ….[example from TF]… to find a quiet place in your head. Another option would be headphones – either standard ones which you can use to play calming music or fiction audiobook, or noise cancelling headphones that will filter out the noise from your
    environment. Whichever option you choose, make sure they’re comfortable enough for you to have them on for several hours.
    Special tip: there is music specifically designed to improve sleep. Try brain.fm Sleep …., or a fantastic 6 hour album by Max Richter – Sleep (highly recommended!). It’s shorter version From Sleep is fantastic for naps.
  • Comfortable clothes and shoes. Sleeping in a suit or tight blouse is far from ideal. Even if you are going to the airport directly from a meeting, change before you board. On long flights spend as much time as possible without your shoes. For obvious reasons we don’t recommend going to the toilet in your socks – put your shoes on, or you can pack simple slippers (e.g. from your hotel).
  • Water. Remember that we breathe out roughly 1l of water when we sleep. When you combine it with the desert-like humidity on the plane, you really want to make sure you have water available when you wake up.


**How to make sleep as comfortable as possible
If you can afford to pay for extra legroom

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