Holidays Travel

These are the secrets to getting a good night’s sleep on a long haul flight

Sleeping well on a plane can be problematic (Alamy/PA)
Sleeping well on a plane can be problematic (Alamy/PA) Sleeping well on a plane can be problematic (Alamy/PA)

Once the excitement of boarding a plane wears off and the reality of a long flight sets in, there’s only one way to make the time go quickly: sleep.

Unfortunately, not all of us can drift off that quickly – especially in economy class – but there are a few tips, tricks and helpful products to help travellers snooze at 33,000ft.

If you want to arrive at your holiday destinations feeling fresh and raring to go, follow this advice…

Drink plenty of water

For many people, their holiday starts the minute they set foot on a plane and settle into their seat,  making it all too easy to get carried away with one too many G&Ts while watching the in-flight entertainment. But drinking alcohol actually lowers the quality of your sleep as you spend less time in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage, which can make you feel more tired when you wake up.

If you want a better chance of getting some shut-eye, avoid alcohol and caffeine and stick with water. For even better hydration, drink plenty of fluids before you get on board.

“Start hydrating a few days before departure,” recommends Sammy Margo, sleep expert at Dreams. “Maintaining optimal hydration levels supports the body’s regulatory systems, including hormone secretion and thermoregulation, which play a vital role in the sleep-wake cycle.”

Be mindful of good blood circulation

Sitting still in the same position for several hours can be extremely dangerous, resulting in conditions such as deep vein thrombosis. Poor blood circulation can also cause great discomfort during long flights, making it harder to sleep.

Our bodies inevitably swell on flights, so remember to take off your shoes to allow greater freedom of movement. It’s also worth investing in a good pair of compression flight socks.

According to experts from Bed Kingdom, sitting cross-legged limits blood flow on one half of your body, which places extra stress on your lower spine. Over extended periods of time, this can make you uncomfortable and wake you up. Instead, make sure to keep your legs parallel with your knees slightly bent.

Also, consider wearing comfortable slip-on shoes or travel socks on your flight instead of shoes with laces to provide more freedom for your feet while you sleep.

Sleeping on planes is an age-old problem (Alamy/PA)
Sleeping on planes is an age-old problem (Alamy/PA) Sleeping on planes is an age-old problem (Alamy/PA) (Universal Images Group North Ame/Alamy Stock Photo)

Try taking CBD oil

Derived from the non-psychoactive part of the cannabis plant, CBD (cannabidiol) interacts with receptors in our body that regulate our sleep-wake cycle.

Natural health expert and chemist, Dr Tim Bond, from Dragonfly CBD, says: “CBD oil helps you to sleep by causing moderate sedation through an action at the CBD receptors (small structures on body cells) which are found throughout the body, including the brain.

“Interacting with this receptor influences electrical transmission in the nerves and dampens down nerve stimulation. CBD also interacts with the serotonin receptor, which is linked to anxiety – and this may also contribute to sleep. The hypothalamus (a part of the brain) plays a role in sleep and CBD works with the hypothalamus to regulate stress and temperature control contributing to sleep.”

Although classified as a food supplement in the UK and accepted in the EU, CBD oil is not legal in all countries, so check both destination and airline rules before flying.

Take a deep breath

One of the main culprits for disrupting sleep is anxiety. Clinical research psychiatrist at Stanford University and founder of self-hypnosis app Reveri, Dr. David Spiegel, recommends ‘cyclic sighing’ (or deep breathing) as a way to calm down your nervous system and make you more likely to fall asleep.

“Take a deep inhalation through your nose by extending your belly (diaphragmatic breathing) until you feel your lungs are halfway full. Take a second, deeper inhale, by expanding your chest and sipping additional air until you feel your lungs expand to their maximum capacity. Very slowly exhale through your mouth, releasing all the air you previously inhaled.”

He suggests this should be done two to three times for maximum benefit.

Three products for your in-flight sleep kit…


Designed to encourage a better, slower breathing technique, this compact, hand-held device can ultimately help you sleep better. The set-up is simple: it expands and contracts in your hand to set an appropriate breathing rhythm. A sensor tracks your heart rate and feeds the data into a mobile app, but it can also be used without a smartphone for flights. Free trial for 30 days, then €179/£153 to purchase, Moonbird.


Praised for its use in pillows and mattresses, TEMPUR material forms the foundation of this lavish face mask. Fitted perfectly around the face with an adjustable strap, it provides total darkness and is padded beneath the eyes for a soothing, sleep-inducing effect. £39,



Dragonfly CBD oil

Along with reducing stress and anxiety, CBD oils can also improve sleep. Using a pipette, drop the oil under your tongue and hold for two minutes before swallowing. Peppermint flavour is ideal for those who don’t like the taste of CBD oils. Check that your airline allows CBD oils. £29.50,

Dragonfly CBD