How to sleep on long flights

January 30, 2020

Whilst writing What’s in my travel bag (updated) I realised that most of what I pack into my carry-on is geared towards getting the best sleep I can on a flight. Sleeping on flights will do two major things for you: it will keep you well rested for your adventure ahead and most importantly it passes the time, especially on long haul flights.

So let’s start this off with what’s in my in-flight sleep kit and the routine I have for getting a decent amount of in-flight sleep:

Hair tie

To tie my hair back when I go to wash my face and brush my teeth.


Toothbrush & toothpaste

To brush my teeth before sleeping, after waking up and after meals. I switched to bamboo toothbrushes a couple of years ago so that it naturally biodegrades unlike plastic ones which stay on our planet for 400 years! As for toothpaste, I have a few travel sized ones that I need to finish before making the swap to toothpaste tablets so that I can eradicate packaging.


Makeup remover 

On the topic of no packaging and biodegradable bathroom products, the in-flight makeup remover I use is the 7 to 3 cleanser wipe from Lush. It’s biodegradable, you can get multiple uses out of one pad and you simply store it in a small round tin from Lush. You just need water.

I used to take travel sized wipes onboard with me, but I don’t like that they’re not biodegradable, so I switched to taking my magic cloth but I would have to put it back into my bag damp and it would go smelly so this is the perfect alternative. Another idea is to use one of Lush’s solid cleansers which fit into the round tin.



Another Lush product? You bet! I use Lush’s Vanishing Cream because it’s a responsible product, it’s super hydrating and it contains lavender which helps me sleep. Plus if you take five clean pots back to Lush, they will give you a free face mask!


Eye gel

If you’ve been reading Postcards from Hawaii for a while now, you’ll know that Anatomicals is one of my favourite brands. This eye gel in particular is one of my favourites because it works wonders on my dark circles/puffy eyes.


Lip balm

Sticking with Anatomicals here, they have a minty lip duo that includes a tingling lip balm and a lip scrub to keep your lips extra soft and hydrated. I pack the scrub into my checked luggage. It’s just as important to keep your lips hydrated as it is for your whole body so that they don’t split.


Olbas oil 

I recently started flying with my Olbas Oil inhaler which I picked up a while ago when I had a nasty cold. I noticed despite blowing my nose, I was struggling with a congested nose whilst flying, but with a sniff of this inhaler my nasal passages clear in moments and I can breath easy again. You can thank me later.


Lavender sleepy time gel

If you’ve read 10 lavender products for more relaxing travels, you’ll know the benefits of using lavender products to sleep and why I am obsessed it whilst travelling. I have three different types of gels: sleepy time, headache and stress – all of which work a charm. I apply the sleepy time gel to my temples and the back of my neck to soothe myself.


Lavender linen spray 

I get the best sleep when I use a lavender linen spray. To travel I either decant some of my Norfolk Lavender linen spray into a smaller travel bottle or I take Anatomicals’ lavender pillow spray (which is 50ml and the perfect size). I spray it onto my travel pillow and it always puts me into that perfectly relaxed and dozy state before I nod off.

Eye mask

The only two things you will need to shut the whole plane out to go to sleep are noise cancelling headphones (see below) and an eye mask. With an eye mask you don’t know if it’s daytime or night, and that’s just peachy. Plus it gives you a sense of privacy which is welcomed on a flight packed full of strangers.


Noise cancelling headphones

My Bose noise cancelling headphones are quite possibly one the greatest gifts I have ever been given. No more sniffing, snoring, baby cries or white noise! It’s just me and my movie of choice or my own playlist. These are a vital component for shutting out the rest of the plane to get a decent sleep.


Water bottle

Never go anywhere without a reusable water bottle but especially not on a plane! Fill it at the airport once you’re past security either at a fountain or in a café/lounge. Water is scarcely served onboard so this will save you a lot of hassle and plastic waste.

I particularly love my Dopper bottle because it converts into a cup which is perfect for your in-flight drink as it prevents you from using a plastic or paper cup!


Travel pillow

I find it nearly impossible to imagine the time when I used to not travel with a pillow, the thought seems utterly absurd to me now. I think if I could only pick three things from this entire list to fly with, my travel pillow would be one of them. It’s imperative to support your neck as much as you can whilst sleeping upright. My favourite is a memory foam pillow, you can read all about why in my blog post Travel pillows – who you should be sleeping with.

PFH top tips

Ditch the screen

Only watch the in-flight entertainment whilst you’re enjoying your drink or eating your meal. Yes I know the films are enticing, there’s probably that one that you wanted to see in the cinema but didn’t get around to it, but limit yourself because the screen is your worst enemy for getting a good night’s sleep; it’s a distraction worth avoiding. 

No boozin’ whilst cruisin’

If you can’t go without a drink then limit yourself to just one. I know what you’re thinking, “I paid for this seat I want to drink the cost of it in miniatures that make me feel like a giant”, but really it will save your body from some serious dehydration. Michael is not a fan of this rule, never listens to me, drinks a few glasses of red wine then can’t sleep when he wants to and when he does it’s pants and complains about it.  (I kid you not, just as I finished writing this blog post Michael came in and I said I bet you won’t adhere to any of this and he said, not if you tell me not to drink…)

If you understand that it’s what’s best for your body but don’t want to miss out on a round, there’s nothing stopping you from ordering your drink and then stashing the mini bottle in your bag for later in your hotel – just make sure you recycle it! 

Water you talking about Willis?

They very best thing you can do for your body above everything else is to keep it hydrated. Recirculated air and low oxygen levels in the cabin will dehydrate you and leave you feeling grotty whether you sleep or not, so the best way to combat this is to drink as much water as you can throughout your flight. Don’t forget to travel with a reusable water bottle!

Ain’t nobody got time for that

This is a tip for avoiding jet lag, change the time on your phone and/or watch to the time of your destination so you can get used to being in that time zone instead of worrying about what time it is where you came from and how messed up your body clock is. For more tips on avoiding jet lag, take a read of How to recover from jet lag with Anatomicals.

Getting comfortable 

What to wear

Be prepared with a comfortable outfit. Long gone are those glamorous days where you were expected to dress up for your flight, nope, these days you can acceptably slob around the airport and board your flights in trackies/sweats and let me tell you something… I am HERE. FOR. IT!

For an idea on how to dress for your long haul flight, take a look at My most comfortable and practical travel outfit.

To recline or not to recline, that is the question

Of course reclining your seat is a must for getting comfortable but NEVER recline your seat during any food or drink service, not only is it rude but it is likely to get you a big kick in the back. Either do it with a good amount of time before the cart comes around or about 20mins after the trays have been collected. When you do it, do it gently.

Blessed art thou with an empty row

If you are blessed by the plane Gods and have an empty row then I implore you to lay across all of the seats to sleep. To do this:

  • Fold up the arm rests in the middle leaving the end ones to prevent your pillow and feet falling out either end.

  • Grab the spare pillows and lay them over where the seatbelts protrude from the seats to prevent them from poking you in the hip or back.

  • Extend out a middle seat seatbelt and wrap the longer side underneath you and the shorter over you and fasten them together so the seatbelt is still around your waist. Make sure it is fastened over your blanket.

  • Lay your travel pillow flat and align the hole with your headphones so they don’t dig into the side of your head whilst you sleep, that way the rest of your head is level and supported.

This is the best way to get the absolute best sleep than you can in-flight, so take full advantage of it you lucky dog!

How to not get woken up:

Location, location, location 

If possible go for a middle isle seat at one end. This way when you’re sleeping your fellow row passengers will have another exit option if they need to get up. Unfortunately this isn’t failproof as the other end may fall asleep too, but fingers crossed the piggies in the middle would rather wake them up than step over you.

Blinded by the light

If you end up with a plane seat, don’t leave the window blind open if the sun is beaming in. It might not be affecting you, especially if you wear an eye mask to sleep (which you should) but someone less prepared or in the line of light might be, so to avoid a nudge or worse, someone leaning over you, pull it down.

Blanket etiquette 

Make sure you fasten your seatbelt over your blanket so you don’t get woken up by cabin crew who can’t see if you’re safely strapped in. Try to have it tucked in too, especially if you’re in the aisle seat. One time the lower corner of my blanket was sticking out into the isle and I got woken up as it got caught in the trolley cart when they tried to get past. Still not as bad as the time a flight attendant dropped a whole cup of breakfast smoothie on me whilst I was sleeping, but unfortunately I don’t have advice for how to prevent that from happening. 

Keep it to yourself

Make sure you don’t have any loose items on you that can fall into the aisle and prompt someone to wake you to give it back – of course that’s better than someone pinching it, but just try to avoid that by tucking your phone for example into your trousers or seatbelt. 



When I’m ready to sleep I transfer (because some are in my liquids bag) the following items into one cosmetic pouch to take to the bathroom: 

  • Hair tie

  • Toothbrush 

  • Toothpaste

  • Makeup remover

  • Moisturiser 

  • Eye gel

  1. I use the toilet in the hopes that I don’t have to get up and pee again until I’m awake.

  2. I tie back my hair.

  3. I brush my teeth. This fairly insignificant practice is very important as it gets your body towards sleep mode as it is part of your routine at home. You wouldn’t go to bed at home without brushing your teeth, so why do it on an aeroplane? Make sure you rinse the sink afterwards.

  4. I remove my makeup with a 7 to 3 cleansing wipe from Lush. It’s tiny, you can get numerous uses out of it plus it’s biodegradable and packaging free unlike most travel-sized makeup removers, you can just store it in a round tin from Lush. Just like brushing your teeth, you wouldn’t go to bed without taking your makeup off, so stick to this routine.

  5. After removing my makeup I rehydrate my face with a moisturiser then dab some eye gel under my eyes to reduce the inevitable puffiness.

  6. Once I’m done I return to my seat making sure that my cosmetic pouch is on full display with my toothbrush sticking out the top so people in line know that I was brushing my teeth and not pooping!

  7. Back in my seat I pop my blanket on – making sure the seatbelt is done up over the blanket) then I apply my sleepy time lavender gel to my temples and the back of my neck, dab some lip balm on and take a deep breath of my Olbas Oil inhaler to clear congestion so I can breathe easy.

  8. Then I spray my travel pillow with lavender linen spray before putting all those products back into my travel bag.

  9. I take a big swig of water to keep myself hydrated whilst I sleep.

  10. Ready to sleep I put my eye mask around my forehead so I can still see what I’m doing next, pop on my noise cancelling (very important) headphones with a soothing playlist that includes a lot of Frank Sinatra, I pull up my hood (it gives me a sense of security/privacy), place my travel pillow around my neck and then I tuck my phone into the front pouch of my hoodie, pull down my eye mask and tuck my arms into my blanket.

  11. Sleep!


Ok so there you have it, all my tips, products and secrets for how to sleep on long flights. Sweet dreams!

Aloha, Gabriella

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