Sometimes we're looking for a discount on our business travels. Other times we need to reach our destination early the next day for a business meeting. Either way, we've all likely experienced a sleepless red-eye flight.
Although it may seem impossible, you can get some shut-eye on a red eye with the right approach. I've had my share of struggles too and it's only through painful experiences that I've found a few solutions.
Here are some strategies you can implement before and during your flight so you can sleep and reduce the chances of experiencing jet lag.
1. Choose your seat wisely.
When booking your seat on a red-eye flight, make sure that the seat you pick corresponds with how you sleep. If you're a side sleeper, then it'll be in your best interest to book a window seat. Even better, be sure to book the side of the plane that you sleep on at home.
Once you're on the plane, you can then prop a pillow or rolled up jacket on the window. If you've mastered the art of sleeping upright, then you'll be comfortable booking a window or an aisle seat.
Your sleep position is only one component that you should consider when trying to get the most out of your flight. If you tend to get up frequently through the night to use the restroom, an aisle seat is a better option.
Avoid booking your seat at the front or back of the plane. The front of the plane is usually where families and their infants sit while the rear of the plane is where the flight attendants and restroom is. There's nothing worse than falling asleep only to be frequently woken up by restroom activity.
You can also use a credit card to get an upgrade to business or first class. Use an airline miles credit card for an upgrade that can make the rest of your travels much easier to manage. You'll be able to get more comfortable for sleep.
2. Pack for comfort.
Now that you've booked the right seat, you'll need to pack some necessities. Travel pillows have come a long way and aren't so bulky anymore. I recommend a travel pillow and a large scarf or sweater if you tend to get cold.
I've invested in noise-canceling headphones to block out loud people and the general noises that come with the territory of an airplane. If you have a pair, you'll definitely need to pack it. Though, if that's out of your budget, a pair of earplugs will suffice.
You'll also want to block out all light. A high-quality eye mask is an investment you'll thank yourself for later. Be sure to practice wearing it while at home, otherwise you may have trouble with it on your flight.
3. Dress comfortably.
I can't sleep at night when I'm at home in the comfort of my bed if my clothes are tight. I need loose, breathable fabric to sleep comfortably. It's the same if I'm on a red-eye.
While you don't have to wear your pajamas (though some airlines like Emirates and Qatar Airlines provide pajamas, depending on what class you are flying), you don't want to wear anything that'll restrict your movements and make it hard for you to get comfortable.
4. Drink herbal tea.
If you know that you won't be able to sleep, then consider drinking an herbal tea to relax. Avoid alcohol or drinks with any caffeine. Even decaf coffee can prevent a good night's sleep.
If you must, consider taking melatonin. You'll need to take it 30 minutes to an hour before the plane takes off for a good night's rest -- but be sure to do your research and follow the recommended dosage amount.
Be aware that sleeping pills and herbal remedies may have a strong effect that lasts for the coming days. I've taken natural supplements and ended up being more tired the next day. Know what you are taking and do a trial run if possible. Let someone know where you are, in the off-chance you oversleep and miss a meeting.
5. Exercise in the morning.
If you can, sneak in a morning workout, preferably outdoors. This will reset your clock and help you to naturally follow the hours in the day. By the time you are ready to fly, you will be tired and ready for some shut-eye.
While you might not get five-star quality sleep on a red-eye flight, you can still get some sleep and feel well-rested when you land. It's not always easy, but it is possible. Planning ahead will support sleep so you'll be ready to take on the next day.