In the last 2 months I’ve flown 6 times over the Atlantic and 4 times coast to coast. This was not the kind of traveling you go sight seeing on but the kind of where you have 7 meetings in one day, overnight flight and then another day with 7 meetings. These meetings were crucial for the future of the company so you can imagine the stress as well. I’m not going to complain. I enjoy the challenge and like situations where my back is against the wall. That’s part of why I became an entrepreneur. It’s hard but at least you get good stories to tell.
With this post I want to share how I perfected sleeping on Airplanes. I’m not talking about napping to let the time pass by. I’m talking about getting a full night sleep that allows you to function the day after and be as effective as you would had you slept on a bed.
Here are the reasons why sleeping on airplanes is difficult or nearly impossible:
- Airplane chairs are not comfortable
- Kids on the plane often make noise or start crying
- There is too much light coming from the windows or other passengers reading lights
- Between the meals, the duty free carts and the announcements you wake up almost every hour
- The neighboring passengers wake you up to go out of their seat
- Even if you do sleep by the time the flight ended you haven’t showered, shaved or brushed your teeth for 24 hours.
Ok, so this is not the best starting point but all of these have solutions I promise. Let’s start to see how we do it.
Tips for Getting Sleep on an Airplane
Be in Good Shape
I cannot say that I tested the alternative but I’m assuming this is much harder to do if you suffer from different kind of aches, if you are sick, overweight or anything of that sort. I’m keeping in shape by exercising on a daily basis even when I travel. Running or walking is probably the easiest way to do this. You don’t need any special equipment other than running shoes, shorts and good earphones that don’t come off when you run. A Dry-fit shirt is a nice addition but not required. This advice applies to so many other startup and life-hacking situations that it’s almost assumed.
Pre Flight Preparation
If your flight is only 6-7 hours, you will need to sleep as soon as you get on the plane. Luckily, you have 1 hour to kill at the airport. Try to follow the same routine as if you were going to sleep in your bad. For me, this is eating a large meal with a glass of red wine and brushing my teeth after. Another good practice is to get as much juice into your digital devices. These days, recharging your body is not enough if you want to be effective the next day.
You wouldn’t be able to do this without a few necessities:
- Earplugs or noise cancellation over-ear headphones
- Eye covers
- Blanket or any piece of cloth of similar size you can breath through
On the Plane
As soon as you get on the plane and everyone is seated you need to already go into your sleeping mode. This means getting into a sleeping position, putting the earplugs in, seat-belt on, Cover your eyes and putting the blanket on top of you so it covers your head, face and your upper body. The blanket is important since it adds another layer of isolation from noise and light but much more importantly it sends a very strong “Do Not Disturb” signal. I tried that countless times and people will seriously go out of their way to not wake you up. I have seen people hop over my seat when I do that. This obviously means you will be skipping meals in international flights. If you like airline food, that’s disappointing but keep in mind that your flight is only 6-7 hours to begin with and if you worried about not getting your full money’s worth by skipping a free meal keep in mind you are skipping a night at a hotel so you are actually saving more money by sleeping through. Falling asleep is easiest when the plane takes off due to the angle of the plane as it is climbing to the cruising altitude. It is also the most quiet time so don’t miss this opportunity. It will be much harder after.
Another important note is related to ear plugs. If you were never shown how to put ear plugs in you are probably doing it wrong. Do this right and all the crying babies will immediately be muted.
Most people turn around about 20 times in a 6-7 hour sleep if they are sleeping in their bed. This is something the body does to protect muscles from going numb. You need to prepare some options if you want your body to fully recharge. Here are some options you can try until you get this perfected.
Post Flight Decompression
If everything goes well, you had a decent 6-7 hour sleep and woke up as the plane touched the ground. It is now 6:00 am and your body is fully recharged but your mind still tells you that something is wrong and you generally feel shitty. Luckily there are 3 hours until your 9:00 am meeting and there are a few things you can do to feel better: washing your face, brushing, shaving, changing underpants, putting on new socks and switching to a new shirt. You can get all of these done at the airport. Usually the baggage claim has the cleanest washrooms and it is less crowded these time of day. Make sure to buy bottled water. To complete the morning routine buy yourself a cup of red-eye coffee. That’s both black coffee and a shot of espresso in the same cup – can’t go wrong on that one. As you sip through, get some juice into your digital devices, they have a long day ahead of them as well.
I guess that’s it. I know some of you are using sleeping pills. Never tried it so can’t really comment. I have a feeling most of the advice here applies anyway except for maybe the red wine in the dinner before.
Do you get a good sleep on a plane? What’s your trick? Feel free to share in the comments.