Rare is the businessperson who actually enjoys taking red-eye flights, but sometimes they're a necessary evil. Employer demands, the opportunity to travel without missing a workday, lower fares, calmer airports, and the chance to network with other business travelers can all create the siren song of the red-eye flight.

You may not have a choice regarding whether you take a red-eye, but you can choose how you approach it. By taking steps to maximize your sleep during the flight , you'll increase your odds of performing at your best after you disembark. Here's how to make it happen.

Prep for sleep

Before striking off on a red-eye, there are several ways to increase your chances of catching some ZZZs once you're on the plane.

For starters, try to avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol in the hours leading up to your flight and once you've boarded, because both of these substances can interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep. Instead, consider drinking some chamomile tea to help set the stage for sleep.

Next up, dress for sleep by wearing comfortable clothing--fashion be darned. Soft pants and layers will help keep you cozy and allow you to regulate your body temperature so you remain comfortable throughout the flight.

Finally, it's a good idea to pack a travel blanket and pillow so you can further maximize your comfort on the plane. While you're at it, toss an eye mask and noise cancelling headphones (or ear plugs) into your carry-on. They may be one of your best lines of defense in the quest for sleep.

Choose your flight carefully

If possible, opt to take the latest flight available. Departing in the wee hours of the morning will increase the odds that you'll be extra sleepy, which will make it easier to drift off en route. It's also a good idea to avoid connections at all costs, since they'll only disrupt your sleep and reduce the number of consecutive hours you're able to snooze.

Pick your seat thoughtfully

Plan to check in early so you have your pick of the litter when it comes to seats. Then, employ a few strategies to maximize your seat choice:

  • Try to avoid sitting near the very front or back of the cabin, as these areas tend to be spaces where people might congregate near bathrooms or flight attendants may be prepping meals and drinks.
  • Opt for a window seat so you have multiple places to rest your travel pillow. This will enable you to shift around and find the position that's most comfortable for you. It will also mean you're less likely to be awakened by seat mates getting up to use the restroom.
  • If you're really concerned about falling asleep, consider splurging on a lie-flat seat.

Make yourself as comfortable as possible

As soon as you've boarded, set up your sleep space by breaking out your travel pillow, blanket, eye mask, and headphones or ear plugs. Utilizing these accoutrements will signal to other passengers and the flight crew that you're not in the mood to chat. Additionally, blocking out light and noise will help signal to your brain that it's time to sleep.

Have a backup plan

If you're struggling to fall asleep, it's natural to start feeling anxious about how little sleep you're getting--but that anxiety only further precludes rest. So it's a good idea to have a backup plan in the event that you're having trouble falling or staying asleep.

To that end, bring along a few activities that will help you stay calm, such as relaxing music, a favorite book or movie, or a journal. If you can't sleep, engaging in these activities will at least keep you relaxed, which will be more restful than stressing out for the whole flight.

Snoozing on a red-eye is never going to compare to basking in your bed at home. But employing these strategies will still increase your odds of catching some shut-eye during the flight. And that can make all the difference when it comes time to disembark and head to an important business engagement.

Published on: Apr 14, 2018
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