What to Pack to Help You Sleep on Planes

packing list for sleeping on planes

Having a good night’s sleep – it’s one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. But, sometimes sleep evades us, especially while flying.

I have trouble sleeping on planes. If you’re like me, you’ll need a few aids and strategies to help you relax and rest in the air, so that you have a better chance of actually falling asleep. It’s essential that I pack items to reach this goal, and I’ve found a few that have done the trick.

Create a “bed time” environment

bedtime environment for plane
1 – Sleep eye mask; 2 – Ear plugs; 3 – Bose Noise-cancelling headphones; 4 – Turkish Towel; 5 – Cabeau neck pillow

At home I love a dark room and absolute silence, and I do my best to mimic this on a crowded plane. While some airlines provide eyes masks and ear plugs for long-haul flights, I prefer to pack my own. Ear plugs don’t drown out all of the noise, but they help reduce the sounds of the screaming babies, coughers, talkers, and frequent lavatory goers.

As much as I need silence, others need background noise from music or the TV. If you prefer something different to the constant hum of the plane and noise from fellow passengers, put your favorite movies, shows, or tunes on your media player. Replace ear plugs with ear buds. Try some noise-cancelling headphones for the ultimate upgrade.

Economy seats won’t remind you of your mattress at home, but a pillow and blanket may help you feel more at rest. Use the ones the airline provides or consider bringing your own. Travel pillows vary from ones you inflate, those stuffed with various materials, U-shaped neck pillows, to mini “regular” pillows. If you don’t want to pack an actual travel blanket, consider a large pashmina or Turkish towel for added comfort.

“Sleepy time” picks

sleepy time picks for plane
1 – CALM Sleep Mist; 2 – Sleepytime Tea; 3 – Badger Sleep Balm; 4 – Bath and Body Works Sleep Lotion

I love herbal teas and Celestial Seasonings has my favorite herbal and fruit flavored teas. There’s even a Sleepytime tea with chamomile, spearmint, and lemongrass! Pack a tea bag or two for the plane and ask for hot water when the flight attendants make their rounds. Tip: As natural herbs can affect us differently, you may wish to research teas and speak with your doctor first.

In addition to tea, consider lotions, sprays, and other body products that can help you relax and sleep. Bath and Body Works has an aromatherapy line and offers a variety of products to help with sleep.

I own their “stress relief pillow mist spray” and “sleep lotion” and love them both. The “sleep” products are made with lavender and vanilla or lavender and chamomile, and they offer easy-to-pack lotion, body mist, and pillow mist (among other choices).

Oral sleep aids

oral sleep aids for sleeping on plane
1 – Melatonin; 2 – Unisom; 3 – Tylenol PM

Whether you choose a natural sleep aid, one that’s available at the pharmacy over the counter (no prescription needed), or one prescribed by your doctor, an oral sleep aid can help you find a multi-hour sleep on the plane (and once at your destination). As with any medicinal aid, speak with your doctor to learn what’s best for you.

Melatonin is one of the body’s naturally occurring hormones, which helps regulate our sleep and wake cycles. After recently hearing several friends rave about taking Melatonin supplements, I’m going to speak with my doctor about a recommended dose.

If you choose an oral sleep aid, be sure to test it before you leave home to see how it affects your body.

Personal sleep comfort

personal comfort for plane
1 – Tunic top; 2 – Leggings; 3 – Visine eye drops; 4 – Aveeno lotion; 5 – Burt’s Bees Lip Balm

The perfect plane outfit will be comfortable, cozy, versatile, and ultimately allow you to sleep. Stick to loose and stretchy bottoms (unless you really, truly love your jeans), and layerable tops so you can adjust for temperature variations.

Planes have a way of drying you out: your skin, your eyes, and your mouth. It’s not like we need any more physical discomfort than we’re already in (thanks, economy seats). Think about preparing a DIY flight amenity kit with some lip balm, eye drops, and hand lotion.

>> Also check out our post on what to pack for sleeping anywhere.

Are you one of those travelers I envy, who can fall asleep anywhere at any time? Or are you more like me and need one (or more) tricks and tools to help you rest? Tell us your favorite item to pack to help you sleep, whether it’s from the list above or one I missed!

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what to pack for sleeping on planes
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Written by Heather

Heather Rudd Palmer is a 30-something with a love for travel, food, and healthy living. After short trips to Europe in her 20s, Heather left her job at 30 to live, work, and travel in Australia for a year. She visited every state and territory, embarked on two road trips, worked at an organic food store, and ate her way through Sydney. She's now a career counselor for university students. You can find Heather at There's No Place Like Oz and Healthy Life Heather.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. chamekke says

    For sleeping on long-haul flights, I swear by my lightweight Roots travel slippers. Feet tend to swell when you’re flying, and slippers are the ultimate snuggly comfort solution to that. I always take them in my carry-on luggage for any flight longer than an hour or two.

  2. Molly says

    Great tips. Some of them I already do myself when travelling. I use the herb Valerian (in tablet form or teabags) this can be great to calm jangled nerves (it´s natural)
    I also like to always take a pashmina/shawl with me (whether it´s hot or cold weather) this can be a great thing to cover yourself if cool air con system is on or for comfort

  3. Jess says

    Bringing a personal item such as a stuffed animal or even your own blanket will help greatly in feeling more comfortable. I take my stuffed animal with me wherever I go.

  4. Anna says

    Definitely will be using these tips on my next flight. The first flight of my life was to study abroad in Korea, which meant a 26 hour trip (2 layovers, 1 4.5 hr one in Tokyo). I didn’t really think about how difficult it would be to sleep on the plane. I usually need dark and quiet to sleep. For the 17 hour flight from Dallas to Tokyo, a couple a few seats over talked loudly the entire flight. I felt like hell when I arrived in Tokyo, but luckily I discovered they had an hourly bed/shower rental in one of the terminals, so I could freshen up and take a nap for an hour. It worked out in the end though – since I arrived at 11 pm and went to bed right away. I do have an herbal sleep aid that helps with my insomnia that I’ll likely be bringing on my next flight, along with some ear plugs.

  5. Barb Julian says

    You pretty much nailed my travel sleep set. Sometimes I wear a disposable germ mask as well as the eye mask. It blocks not only coughing neighbours but their nasty perfume (or other aromas).. Why must people try on every perfume in Duty free and then board a plane?

  6. Rachel says

    Some good tips! If you’re looking for a cheaper option than the Bose headphones, I’ve bought the same pair of Monoprice earphones for the past decade (they’re THAT good). They’re not 100% noise cancelling, but they block out almost everything anyways. https://www.amazon.com/Monoprice-Premium-Isolating-Earbuds-Headphones/dp/B00AJHCJ2Q/ref=sr_1_26?ie=UTF8&qid=1550630140&sr=8-26&keywords=monoprice+headphone

    Also, as someone who is INCREDIBLY allergic to scents- please do NOT spray scented perfumes or put on scented lotions on planes! It’s hard to get away from it in a closed environment. I’m always terrified the person next to me is going to put something on and I’ll have to break out my epi-pen.

  7. Nicole says

    An inflatable lumbar pillow is essential for making economy seats tolerable! Also I like to pack little luxuries like for my skin like makeup remover wipes and undereye patches (which work great under an eyemask and ensure you wake up with no dark circles!) 😉

  8. Cassie says

    I NEVER sleep on flights! I stay up so I can sleep when I get to my destination. I never have jet lag that way.

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