Think sleep­ing on planes is im­pos­si­ble? Check out th­ese strate­gies and gad­gets.

The Washington Post Sunday - - TRAVEL - CHRISTO­PHER EL­LIOTT El­liott is a con­sumer ad­vo­cate, jour­nal­ist and co-founder of the ad­vo­cacy group Trav­el­ers United. Email him at chris@el­

The rum­ble of a jet engine is a com­fort­ing sound to some air trav­el­ers, mak­ing it easy to sleep on vir­tu­ally any flight. For oth­ers, just the thought of be­ing trapped in a pres­sur­ized alu­minum tube is enough to send mas­sive doses of adren­a­line into their blood­streams, en­sur­ing alert­ness for days.

Pamela Wag­ner falls some­where in the mid­dle. Though not a white-knuck­led flier, she says the noise makes rest im­pos­si­ble.

“I’m used to su­per si­lence when I’m sleep­ing,” she says. “Not ex­actly what you get on a flight.”

True. The in­te­rior of an air­craft is any­thing but silent, with noises rang­ing from chatty pas­sen­gers to scream­ing chil­dren and, of course, the con­stant whine — of the en­gines. It’s also un­com­fort­able, even if you’re in one of those lie-flat busi­ness­class seats, which don’t al­ways lie all the way down. Try fall­ing asleep in a sit­ting po­si­tion, even when you’re not on an air­craft, and you’ll know why sleep­ing on a plane can be a pipe dream.

Hav­ing a snooze on a plane is not get­ting any eas­ier. You don’t have to be a pas­sen­ger on a long­haul or overnight flight to know that. Flights are op­er­at­ing at ca­pac­ity, and ev­ery­one seems to be a lit­tle more anx­ious th­ese days.

For­tu­nately, there are ways to rest amid the pan­de­mo­nium. The lat­est meth­ods in­volve a com­bi­na­tion of sen­sory de­pri­va­tion and re­lax­ation tech­niques. If they don’t put you to sleep, they’ll at least make you a lit­tle calmer in the air.

Wag­ner, an ad­ver­tis­ing con­sul­tant who lives in New York and often flies long dis­tances, fig­ured out the best way to block the noise. “I in­vested in a noise­can­cel­ing head­set,” she says. She also loaded her smart­phone with calm­ing mu­sic, which can in­duce sleep.

Head­sets are a key com­po­nent to un­rav­el­ing the sleep mys­tery on com­mer­cial air­craft. The in­te­rior of a plane is about as loud as a diesel train pass­ing you at a dis­tance of 100 feet. That sus­tained noise can be cut with earplugs or noise-can­cel­ing head­phones. Wag­ner prefers Bose Qui­etCon­trol 30 wire­less head­phones (, $299.95) with a spe­cially de­signed head­set that re­duces the pres­sure and aches often caused by con­ven­tional in-ear head­phones.

If you don’t toss and turn, on­ear head­sets can of­fer even more pro­tec­tion and noise can­cel­la­tion. The AKG N60 NC (; $249.95) of­fers up to 30 hours of bat­tery life and weighs a bit more than 5 ounces, so it won’t clut­ter up your car­ryon lug­gage. Li­bra­tone’s Q-Adapt On-Ear head­phones (li­bra­; $249) fea­ture four lev­els of noise can­cel­la­tion and a soft ear­piece, which is use­ful for extended wear, but has only 20 hours of bat­tery life. But if you sleep on your side, you should prob­a­bly con­sider a pair of Sleep­Phones (sleep­; $49.95) flat speak­ers em­bed­ded in­side a plush, ma­chine-wash­able head­band. The unit is de­signed to be used by trav­el­ers who are sleep­ing on their sides.

Ei­ther way, if you’re plan­ning more than one long-dis­tance flight this year, a noise­can­cel­la­tion head­set should be at the top of your wish list.

There are a few other es­sen­tials to sleep­ing, in­clud­ing the right at­tire and a few ac­ces­sories. Think soft and over­size. A good ex­am­ple is the One Man Com­muter Jacket (one­manouter­; $189), an all-weather, light­weight jacket with a hood, which gives you a lit­tle ex­tra pri­vacy on a long flight and dou­bles as a cover. Only it doesn’t look like a cover and can be worn for the rest of your trip.

The right eye mask is im­por­tant, too. The Mid­night Magic Sleep Mask (; $19.99) is about as com­fort­able as it gets. It ad­justs to your face and of­fers a full black­out, so you don’t have to worry about light leak­ing in and in­ter­rupt­ing your rest. You can also try the Wrap-aNap, a multi-use com­bi­na­tion travel pil­low and eye mask (; $24.99). It looks like a fuzzy snake and it wraps around your head.

In the travel pil­low cat­e­gory, the Trtl (the­grom­, $29.95) of­fers lots of com­fort plus neck sup­port with­out the bulk of those in­flat­able pil­lows. The Swiss Army knife of travel pil­lows is the new Face­cra­dle (face­cra­, $49) which ad­justs to sev­eral po­si­tions and is cre­ated specif­i­cally for sleep­ing in econ­omy class seats. I’ve been fol­low­ing this cam­paign on Kick­starter, and think this one shows a lot of po­ten­tial.

Per­haps even more crit­i­cal than hav­ing the right pil­lows or head­sets are th­ese sleep strate­gies that ex­pe­ri­enced air trav­el­ers use:

Plan ahead: Choose the right seat for sleep. In econ­omy class, that would be the win­dow seat. “It’s ideal for sleep­ing,” says Robert Oex­man, direc­tor of the Sleep to Live In­sti­tute, which con­ducts sleep re­search. “Use a sweater or jacket against the wall as a pil­low, which can help cre­ate a makeshift sleep­ing sur­face.”

Med­i­tate be­fore you fly: “Any­one can med­i­tate al­most any­where by sim­ply prac­tic­ing a tech­nique that uniquely works for each in­di­vid­ual,” says Jef­fery Martin, a med­i­ta­tion and sleep ex­pert at Sofia Univer­sity in Palo Alto, Calif. He rec­om­mends a mantra, or silently re­peat­ing “love,” “peace” or an­other word or phrase for 20 min­utes while wait­ing at the gate.

Stay hy­drated: Avoid alcohol and pack a re­us­able wa­ter bot­tle and fill it up at any wa­ter foun­tain. “To make it more in­ter­est­ing, add a pep­per­mint teabag in room-tem­per­a­ture wa­ter,” ad­vises Tieraona Low Dog, an in­te­gra­tive medicine spe­cial­ist and chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer of Well & Be­ing, a re­sort spa. “It im­parts a lovely mint fla­vor to the wa­ter, while gen­tly set­tling the stom­ach and any travel nerves, help­ing to calm the body and mind and in­duce sleep.”

Take deep breaths: One of the best ways to fall asleep with­out pills is to quiet the mind with deep-breath­ing ex­er­cises, says sleep re­searcher Craig Sim Webb, au­thor of “The Dreams Be­hind the Mu­sic.” “In­hale as deeply as you can with­out be­ing un­com­fort­able,” he says. Hold the in­hala­tion as long as you can com­fort­ably and then fo­cus your at­ten­tion on parts of your body, start­ing with your feet. “Breathe out nor­mally. Do not pause or hold the ex­ha­la­tion at all, but breathe in again im­me­di­ately and re­peat steps,” he says.

Of course, there are also phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal meth­ods of en­sur­ing sleep, in­clud­ing an Am­bien pre­scrip­tion and an over-the-counter so­lu­tion such as Good Day Cho­co­late sleep sup­ple­ments (good­day­choco­late; $36.99).

I’m not mak­ing that up. Cho­co­lates that make you sleep — they’re a thing. Each piece of the milk cho­co­late contains one mil­ligram of mela­tonin, the hor­mone that reg­u­lates sleep.

And, if none of this works? Well, don’t feel left out. En­joy the in­flight movie and get some sleep when you ar­rive, like the other half of the pas­sen­gers on your flight.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.