10 Smart Tricks for Catching Z’s in Economy Class

Chris Phelan

Everyone knows that getting enough sleep during a flight is impossible, and flying in economy class only worsens things. So how do people manage to fall asleep on planes? Recently, experienced travelers met in an online discussion to reveal their tips and tricks for getting much-needed shut-eye on your next flight.

1. Noise-Canceling Headphones

Man wearing Noise-Cancelling Headphones
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If the general noise of the cabin causes you to have trouble getting to sleep during flights, it may be wise to invest in noise-canceling headphones. Offerings from companies like Sony and Bose not only offer active noise-canceling features, but many headphones automatically adjust your sound settings after taking into account the cabin's air pressure! Although these headphones are pricey (often costing hundreds of dollars), they are worth it.

2. The Window Seat and a Pillow

Woman siting in window seat
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For millions of travelers, the tried-and-true method of snagging a window seat and cozying up with a small pillow is the best way to get some much-needed shut-eye. “The biggest tip to falling asleep in economy is also the most obvious: get the window seat; it's the only way you don't have to worry about your head and neck being supported, especially with a neck pillow.”

3. Have a Few Drinks Beforehand

Woman drinking
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There's a thin line between having a few drinks before a flight to induce sleep and overdrinking and becoming a nuisance once you're in the air. It's a delicate balancing act, but that's drinking in a nutshell, right? Two drinks are enough to help me fall asleep during particularly long flights. Use this method at your own risk!

4. Go “Full Parakeet”

Sleeping in flight covered with blanket
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Some people have not only ingenious methods of falling asleep on airplanes, but they have unforgettable names of their methods to keep everything lighthearted. “I go full parakeet and drape a blanket over my head,” explains one woman. “It blocks light and keeps me warm.” Note to self: Go full parakeet during my next flight!

5. Travel With a Friend

Traveling with friend
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Not only is traveling with a friend more enjoyable due to the company they provide, but there's also an added benefit: The human pillow. If you're comfortable getting up close and personal with your travel buddy, utilize their warm body and turn them into your personal pillow. Even your head on their shoulder can mean the difference between a restless flight and a trip full of sleep!

6. Utilize the Tray Table

Tray Table
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Whenever I need to fall asleep, my go-to method for getting some much-needed rest is to utilize the tray table. As it turns out, I'm not the only one who uses this option. “I always have opened the tray table and sleep on it with my head on my folded arms,” admits one man. “It brings back the days of sweet, sweet desk sleep at school.”

7. The Belt Strap Hack

Woman shocked
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Some methods for falling asleep in economy class are downright strange and shocking. One frequent flier recalls the unforgettable time they saw their neighbor strap their belt around their forehead and attach it to the front seatback. While I don't advise anyone to try this method, I have to give credit for originality!

8. Use Foot Hammocks

The woman's legs are lying in a leg hammock under the table. Vein health care for varicose veins.
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Yes, foot hammocks exist, and yes, more people are using them by the day! “By the way, I use two of them at once!” confesses one frequent flier. “Because if I use one, my feet tend to pile up on each other, and it's not comfy. The way I use them makes me more comfortable; they elevate my feet enough so my back is not slouching and hurting me.”

9. Avoid Red-Eye Flights

Man traveling at night
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While red-eye flights are tempting due to their low prices, experts and experienced travelers agree that they're the worst flights to try to get sleep on. Most likely, you'll not fall asleep at all, setting into motion a terrible sleep schedule that will affect you for the rest of your trip. Who wants to deal with that? Even if it costs more, fly during “normal” hours.

10. Accept Your Fate

Man shrugging
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Sometimes the best way to get some rest on a flight is to accept your fate and try not to think about it. In many cases, resigning yourself to the fact that you may not be able to sleep on a plane is just the mental gymnastics needed to actually fall asleep and get some rest. Overthinking the situation can only make things worse.

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