Say the travel bug has bitten you, you packed all your bags, and you’re excited to be traveling across the country or even abroad again finally. However, there’s one problem—you got yourself a middle seat in economy class. Don’t worry, and don’t let it ruin your trip just yet.
Here’s how to sleep comfortably in a plane’s middle seat:
- Go to the toilet shortly before boarding the flight.
- Avoid drinking coffee, alcoholic beverages, or soda.
- Use a comfortable neck pillow.
- Secure your hand-carry items.
- Recline your seat after checking on the person behind you.
- Wrap up in a warm, comfortable blanket.
- Play some music on your noise-canceling headphones.
- Wear a blindfold for sleeping.
- Skip the meal option.
- Switch seats.
If it were a three-hour flight, that’s just one movie on Amazon Prime or Netflix. But if it’s longer and you need some comfortable shut-eye to save yourself from jet lag and wasting precious travel time, that’s going to be a problem. Luckily, this article will discuss the tips further for you, so go check it out.
1. Go to the Toilet Shortly Before Boarding the Flight
One of the most inconvenient things when inside a plane is using the lavatory.
It’s small, uncomfortable, and often occupied. It’s also quite frustrating when you have to wait until the fasten seatbelt signs go off because you are not allowed to stand up from your designated seat for a bathroom break until then.
What is even more irritating is when you are in the middle seat in economy class. You have to wait until the lavatory is empty, and you will inevitably feel guilty asking your neighbor on the aisle seat to move aside as you rush to the toilet.
However, when you have to fly for 12 hours, you may have to visit the lavatory at least once. Imagine how uncomfortable it is having to ask your neighbor to move while the person is taking a nap. It should be fine as long as it’s not so frequent.
That’s why you must use the toilet before boarding.
Ideally, you should use the bathroom 10-15 minutes before the expected boarding announcement. It will give you enough time to use the bathroom and fall in line for boarding.
However, if you cannot force yourself to go, you may opt for another strategy.
For instance, you may try to board the plane last. That way, you can let the window seat passenger board before you and avoid the inconvenience of having to step out to let the person through.
Chances are other passengers are busy settling in, and there is an available lavatory.
Once you get into the plane, you can head to the lavatory directly. Or you can place your stuff in the overhead compartment first before heading to the toilet. Your aisle seat neighbor would also have enough space to stand up to let you in when everyone else has settled.
Reducing the need to go to the toilet will definitely help you sleep more comfortably, even if you were unlucky enough to get a middle seat. Here’s hoping your window-seat neighbor thinks the same way you do to avoid bathroom breaks.
2. Avoid Drinking Coffee, Alcoholic Beverages, or Soda
As discussed, going to the toilet is one problem when you occupy a middle seat in a plane. To reduce the need to do so, you might as well cut back on caffeine and alcohol, as these drinks will increase your need for a bathroom break.
Caffeine is a natural diuretic, which means that it triggers urine production. As a result, you will be compelled to visit the bathroom more often. Therefore, you must avoid drinking beverages that contain caffeine, such as coffee, green or black tea, and soda, at least two hours before the flight.
Alcohol, on the other hand, is also a diuretic.
Some passengers may feel the need to drink alcohol during a flight to help them sleep better, which actually does help you sleep. However, it will also increase your need to visit the toilet.
When you feel thirsty, it’s best to drink water instead. The air-conditioning inside the plane may be dehydrating, so you need to stay hydrated. Some passengers might skip drinking water to reduce the need to urinate.
It’s rather dangerous to go several hours without drinking water unless you’re sound asleep, which is what you’re after during a long flight.
3. Use a Comfortable Neck Pillow
Economy airline seats are notorious for being uncomfortable and sometimes even unhealthy for people with back or neck problems. One way to sleep comfortably in flight is by using your own neck pillow. You can buy one that best matches your needs.
People traveling solo hesitate to sleep during a flight because their heads tend to move in all directions the moment they doze off, giving them pretty painful neck strain when they wake up. What’s even worse than a neck strain is waking up with your head leaning against a total stranger’s shoulder.
Just how awkward is that?
Wearing a neck pillow can help prevent that from happening. Check out this MLVOC Travel Pillow from Amazon.com. It is comfortable, washable, and provides the necessary support to avoid neck strain while sleeping on your seat.
4. Secure Your Hand Carry Items
You can sleep comfortably on a plane when you feel secure.
If possible, place your hand-carry luggage inside the overhead compartment and put important stuff inside your pockets, such as your phone, wallet, and passport. You wouldn’t want to keep worrying about your valuables when you’re trying to get some sleep.
Wearing a warm jacket with inside pockets would be perfect as it can keep you warm and secure your valuables at the same time. Be sure not to stuff bulky, sharp, or hard objects into your pockets, as they can make you feel uncomfortable and prevent you from sleeping soundly.
5. Recline Your Seat After Checking on the Person Behind You
Sitting upright throughout a flight longer than three hours is unbearable and even unhealthy for some people. Imagine having to endure that for up to 10 hours. Thankfully, there is an option to recline your seat even in coach class.
Those few extra inches can somehow help protect you from numbness.
However, people have mixed opinions about whether or not it is acceptable to recline your seat in coach class during a flight. Some people might say it is your right because you paid for it, and the airplane allows you to do it with just the touch of a button.
Other people, on the other hand, might say that it is totally rude and unacceptable. Some people even get into an altercation with other passengers because of it.
Here’s a news report about the video posted by a female passenger of a man punching the back of her seat.
The video went viral, and people are divided regarding this issue. Some agree with the woman, while others support the man.
Etiquette calls that you ask permission from the person behind you before reclining your seat. If the person says no, however, you can try to explain why you must do so. You can cite a medical condition or anything convincing enough.
You don’t have to lie, though.
It is true that sitting upright for many hours, such as during a flight, can cause some severe health problems. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes and warns of the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots forming in the body during long flights.
Remember to be polite when explaining to the passenger seated behind you.
Chances are that the passenger behind you will understand. However, you also have to consider the other passenger’s situation. Assess how tall the person is and if your reclining seat can cause more discomfort to them.
Mothers traveling with kids also need enough space to put their babies or children on their lap during the flight. Some people need to work on their laptops during the flight. Yes, you want to sleep, but you will only be able to truly do so when you know that you’re not causing inconvenience to others.
6. Wrap Up in a Warm, Comfortable Blanket
It’s no secret that airplanes can be pretty cold.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the airplane’s environmental control system (ECS) regulates the cool air in the cabin to counter the heat released by the human body. If there are more passengers, the plane needs to be cooler.
To help you sleep comfortably, you can request a blanket from a flight attendant. However, it may be best to use your own because that way, you can choose the best size and material. It can also keep you warm and add an extra layer of protection for your valuables.
7. Play Some Music on Your Noise-cancelling Headphones
If you find it easier to sleep in a quiet environment, you may want to use noise-canceling headphones. Airplanes are typically full of passengers, and you cannot control how these passengers behave.
However, you can control how you are affected by their behavior.
There is also an issue with the loud airplane engine noise sometimes. Many airline companies offer in-flight entertainment services, including music, but not all offer noise-canceling headphones.
It may be costly, but it’s worth buying your own headphones if you’re a frequent long-distance flyer who needs to sleep during a flight.
Check out Bose QuietComfort 35 from Amazon.com. It’s wireless and responds to Alexa voice control, making it pretty convenient when your hands are snugly wrapped under your warm blanket.
Prepare some music on your playlist in advance. Select those that can help you relax and fall asleep quickly. The music and the noise-cancellation feature should be helpful for a comfortable sleep.
In addition, headphones can also help keep your ears warm during the flight.
8. Wear a Blindfold for Sleeping
Lights in an airplane go on and off whenever, such as when flight attendants need to serve some meals. Your window-seat neighbor may also want to keep the blinds up and let the daylight in during the flight. These are some things you cannot control.
What you can control, however, is how much you can see. Wear a comfortable blindfold for sleeping. That way, even if the cabin lights switch on to bright mode or rays of light stream through the windows, you can remain unbothered and enjoy your sleep.
If you want something that doesn’t put much pressure on your eyes, you can try LKY Digital’s Eye Mask from Amazon.com. This product can block light effectively and is pretty comfortable too.
9. Skip the Meal Option
If you are flying for less than six or eight hours and trying to get some sleep, you might as well skip the in-flight meal option. That way, you wouldn’t have to wake up in the middle of the flight for snacks or a meal and focus on your sleep.
You might want to eat around two hours before the flight, though, to ensure that you don’t feel hungry even when you sniff through your neighbor’s delicious meal.
Skipping meals on the plane can also ensure that you wouldn’t have to go to the toilet mid-flight.
If you cannot endure six hours without food during the flight, you can bring some foods that do not trigger frequent bathroom breaks, such as bananas, blueberries, or apples. Avoid acidic foods as they can increase the need to urinate.
10. Switch Seats
Here is an extra tip that doesn’t talk about sleeping well in a plane’s middle seat but can help a lot with the sleeping part. If the circumstances allow it, switch seats.
Even if you are trying to sleep and you are confident that you won’t be a bother to your aisle-seat neighbor, there is the window-seat neighbor who can bother you with bathroom breaks and meal requests.
If you are sure you wouldn’t need to use the toilet during the flight, you may politely ask the passenger next to the window if he would like to switch places. If the person agrees, be sure to notify a flight attendant about the switch.
Sleeping comfortably anywhere but in your bed can be a challenge. But it can be even more of a challenge if you are trying to get some rest during a very long flight. Following these tips can at least give you a chance to get some sleep on your flight.
- PubMed.gov: Mechanisms of Caffeine-Induced Diuresis
- CBS Los Angeles: Caught on Camera: Man Punching Reclined Seat on Flight
- CDC: Blood Clots and Travel: What You Need to Know
- NCBI: The Airliner Cabin Environment and the Health of Passengers and Crew