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Get a Good Flight’s Sleep the Next Time You Travel

November 6, 2019 by  
Filed under Uncategorized

By Nilong Vyas, MD

For many people, getting sound sleep on an airplane flight is as elusive as seeing a unicorn. For this reason, airlines have spent millions of dollars developing their on-flight sleep environments to help their passengers get some shut-eye on long flights. Still, many passengers turn to medications because they’re available over the counter and are considered an easy fix. However, with a little planning before your flight, it’s possible to have a “good flight’s sleep” without turning to a pill.

First, it’s important to do your research and determine how many time zones you’ll be traveling through and what the time will be when you arrive at your destination. Plan to either sleep or be awake at your destination based on its time zone. For example, when traveling east to India from the United States, many flights arrive during the new country’s morning time. In this case, it’s important to sleep on the flight so you can be awake “with the natives” upon landing. In order to do that, provide yourself with the most ideal sleep environment possible. You may have to go to sleep before your body is ready to sleep. In that scenario, bring along a great eye mask that doesn’t allow any light to enter your eyes and is soft to wear and doesn’t get caught in your hair. Find a great set of noise-canceling headphones because they will drown out the excess noise that is common on planes and will also allow you to listen to quiet music, white noise, or guided meditation through your phone or device to help lull you to sleep. Finally, pack your favorite pj’s and a warm shawl or blanket and make sure to change into them once you board the plane. Being comfortable and at a comfortable temperature will help you get to sleep.

Even if you are unable to fall asleep on the plane, try to rest during the flight. Stay away from alcoholic beverages and drink plenty of water instead to stay hydrated. Finally, limit electronics because the blue light they emit from their screens will stimulate your retinas and cause wakefulness.

When you arrive at your destination, if it’s daytime, make sure that you get lots of light stimulation, either from sunlight or artificial light. This will keep your body from producing sleep-inducing melatonin. Try not to nap during the day, and get to sleep that night at a reasonable time (when the “natives” would be sleeping), which will get your sleep cycle back on track.

Happy sleep and safe travels!

About the Author: Nilong Vyas, MD, is a mom of two children and the founder and owner of Sleepless in NOLA sleep consulting, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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