How to Sleep Comfortably in Economy Class

Going on the vacation of your wildest dreams is both fun and exciting. However, the long-haul flight towards your destination can be a complete nightmare!

This is most especially true if you are like most people who can only afford to fly economy class — you know, where seats are smaller and squeezed closely together.

While it’s true that you can forget about sleeping like a baby out of the window, there are, in fact, certain steps that you may take to catch some shut-eye so that you will land looking fresh as well as feeling refreshed.

So how can you sleep comfortably in economy class? Picking the right seat, which is one that is next to a window, is one of the best moves that you can make. Following are the reasons why doing so can allow you to enjoy a trip to dreamland:

  • First, it provides you with a place on which you can rest your head.
  • Second, it lets you enjoy full ownership of an armrest.
  • Third, it spares you from being bumped by someone who wishes to use the bathroom.

There are so many other things that may be done if you would like to spend the whole flight snoring even in an economy class where sleeping can be quite impossible, especially if the flight is jam-packed.

Below you will come across some of the most effective tips for sleeping comfortably in economy class, so don’t stop reading now if you are about to have the vacation of your life that’s preceded by a long-haul flight.

This article will also talk about some of the most commonly encountered issues faced by people who travel by air with regard to time zone changes — we will answer all kinds of related questions and also share some tips on how to keep jet lag to a minimum.

Prepare If You Want to Sleep Like You Don’t Care

Someone once said something like if you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Well, this applies to so many situations in life, and that includes taking long-haul flights.

There are so many unfortunate events that may take place while you’re on an airplane with hundreds of other passengers. One of those is the failure to get some much-needed Z’s.

Just like what’s mentioned earlier, picking the right seat for the job is important. If part of your itinerary is to sleep as soon as the plane leaves, then it matters a lot where you sit.

It is a good idea for you to book your flight as early as possible. Not only does this allow you to enjoy a great price, but also pick the best seat.

Generally speaking, you should book anywhere from three weeks to four months ahead of time. And if your goal is to spend several hours in the nicest seat possible, check which airline offers the most favorable seating experience in economy class.

For instance, economy class seats on United Airlines are different from those on, say, for example, Qatar Airways and Japan Airlines. Needless to say, you should conduct some research before booking.

Perhaps no other seat on a plane is more suitable for a passenger who would like to take a beauty sleep in preparation for a grand vacation than a window seat.

By going for it, you can rest assured that there’s a place against which you can lean your head the minute the telltale signs of sleepiness kick in, and that’s none other than the window.

For added comfort, placing a pillow right between your face and the window is highly recommended.

And this takes us to another very important tip to keep in mind when taking a long-haul flight, and that’s none other than stashing a small pillow in your carry-on luggage.

Travel pillows these days come in all shapes and sizes. Some people prefer to take with them neck pillows while others choose to bring with them rectangular or square pillows with memory foam. When choosing, pick one that you find super comfortable to use.

Check That You Have These on Your Checklist of Things to Pack

Have you already heard about a product called BedBox?

Put simply, it’s luggage designed specifically for kids 6 to 7 years of age, and it also works as a ride-on suitcase and even a bed!

Unfortunately, there is no available BedBox for adult passengers, and that is why you should make do with stuff that can help you get some sleep while seated for hours in economy class on a plane.

The good news is that there is really no need for you to get your hands on a BedBox for adults, which does not really exist if you would like to deal with stress and fatigue by having a trip to dreamland while flying.

Just before you pack your bags, it’s a wonderful idea for you to have a checklist of certain things to pack that can help you sleep comfortably while sitting in a tiny economy class seat.

See to it that you place in your carry-on luggage the following items if you are considering having a restful and restorative sleep while waiting for the plane to land:


You should never step foot inside a plane, especially if the flight is the long-haul kind, without a pair of earplugs in your pocket or one of the compartments of your bag.

There are simply lots of things that can keep you from sleeping on a plane, from engine noise, chatty passengers to crying babies.

When shopping for earplugs, check that the product you are eyeing can actually reduce noise and is comfortable to wear.

Read several different customer reviews on the web or ask for the suggestions of your family members and friends who tend to fly a lot.


Listening to music, podcasts, audiobooks, guided meditation, or binaural beats can help lull you to sleep when on a plane.

This is especially true if you are stuck in the economy class, where it’s usually cramped and noisy. If getting lots of shut-eye when traveling is always a priority, consider investing in a high-quality pair of noise-canceling headphones.

You can choose from a couple of types: active and passive. Active noise-canceling headphones are more expensive because they are capable of producing a sound that can cancel out — hence the name — external noise.

Needless to say, these headphones operate on batteries, which make them heavy. Passive noise-canceling headphones, on the other hand, are easier on the pocket and lightweight, too.

However, they work just like earplugs, except for the fact that they generate sound from your smartphone, tablet, or pocket music player.

Eye mask

Earlier in this article, we mentioned the importance of getting a window seat if you would like to sleep comfy while flying from one point on the globe to the other.

The problem with being seated right next to the window is that lots of light can bombard your eyes during the daytime, which is something that can keep you from falling asleep.

This is when the importance of putting on an eye mask steps into the scene. Wearing an eye mask is also a subtle way of telling your seatmate that you would like to rest and that having a chat is not welcome.

Travel scarf

We all know how low the temperatures in a cabin can get. And that is why one of the things that you should place in your carry-on luggage before your flight is a travel scarf.

What sets this apart from any other type of scarf is that it’s large enough to also serve as a small blanket. Rolling a travel scarf into a ball also instantly turns it from a fashion accessory to a pillow.


Nothing can keep you from having some Zs more than cold toes. Needless to say, it is a good idea for you to bring an extra pair of socks, and the kind that’s out of wool is the best one for the job.

Are you prone to ending up with swollen ankles and feet when flying?

Do you suffer from a medical condition that can increase your risk of developing a blood clot that can lead to deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism?

Then consider packing compression socks in order to fend off complications.

OTC sleep medication

Not all people are blessed with the ability to snooze just about anywhere, including in economy class, where conditions can be harsh.

If you are one of those unfortunate individuals who cannot sleep rather easily, consider popping a pill in your mouth that can help you get some sleep.

No matter if it’s an antihistamine, a motion sickness drug, or a full-fledged sleeping pill, make sure that you get the recommendation of a doctor.

Essential oils

Worry not if you’re not a fan of medications. That’s because you may simply count on some essential oils if you want to spend much of the flight dead to the world.

Vanilla, lavender, geranium, rose, sandalwood, jasmine, bergamot, and lemon balm essential oils are some of those that can help you have some sweet dreams.

And by the way, you may also rely on essential oils if your seatmate doesn’t smell nice!

Try to Get a Seat Upgrade Without Shelling Out Any Money

Everyone knows that seats in business class or first class are wider and more comfortable than those in economy class.

It’s common knowledge, too, that getting a business class or first class seat does not come with a cheap price tag.

For most people who can only afford an economy class or premium economy class seats, being able to fly in style as well as comfort is just a dream.

Did you know that you can, in fact, get a seat upgrade to business class or first class without paying any dime?

Below you will come across some of the things that you may do in order to increase your chance of enjoying a cost-free upgrade. Successfully pulling it off ensures comfortable sleep at any time you want during the long-haul flight!

  • Ask for an upgrade. Sometimes something as simple as asking the flight attendant to give you an upgrade is more than enough if there are available business class or first class seats.
  • Volunteer to take the next flight. If you’re not in a rush, help the airline out by showing your willingness to be bumped to the next flight, which may entitle you to nice stuff such as discounts and upgrades.
  • Be a frequent flyer. Some of the best seats on an airline are given to loyal customers, and this is why you should join a frequent flyer program and fly as often as you can to be treated like royalty.
  • Look the part. It will definitely seem like you deserve to be given a business class or first class seat if you look like a million-dollar, so consider dressing to impress if you want to fly in style.
  • Pick a massive plane. Larger aircraft such as the Boeing 777 200 have plenty of business class or first class seats, and the odds that the tips and tricks stated above will work can increase considerably.

Keep these simple tips in mind, and you will have a better chance of getting a business class or first class seat for free — and ultimately enjoying a very comfortable sleep!

Limiting Your Sleep is Sometimes a Much Better Idea When Flying

Other than having a comfortable sleep in economy class, there is another sleep-related problem that is much bigger and more serious than this. And that’s none other than a jet lag!

Put simply, a jet lag can come into being whenever you cross at least a couple of time zones. The more time zones you cross during a flight, needless to say, the worse the jet lag.

Crossing lots of time zones usually happens during long-haul flights in which it can be very tempting to sleep most of the time.

But if you are more concerned about battling a jet lag than not getting a comfortable kind of sleep in economy class, then it’s a good idea to limit the amount of time you spend in dreamland while waiting for the plane to arrive at your destination.

Jet lag is all about having your body clock ruined. The problem with catching some shut-eye on a plane each time you feel bored is that it leaves your body clock in shambles even more.

This is why spending the entire flight snoring is not really recommended if you are crossing multiple time zones.

Of course it will help deal with stress and fatigue that normally come with taking a trip, but it’s something that can cause a nasty bout of jet lag as soon as you set foot on your dream vacation spot — everything may seem like it’s just a terrible dream because of the typical symptoms of jet lag such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Exhaustion
  • Weakness
  • Digestive problems
  • Mood changes

Definitely, suffering from a jet lag can turn any grand escapade into a nightmarish experience!

Keep Jet Lag to a Minimum

The good news is that it is very much possible to keep a jet lag from wreaking havoc on your vacation. To get started, it is recommended for you to gradually get used to the new time zone.

A few days before you leave, start going to sleep and waking up the next day an hour earlier. Keep on adjusting your sleeping and waking times an hour per night until such time that you are sleeping and waking up following the new time zone.

Following the tip above entails adjusting your clock and wristwatch to the other time zone days in advance. A lot of people who travel a lot swear by it. However, you may have to make some adjustments to your everyday schedule while you’re still in your hometown in order to be able to follow this trick.

And when you’re already flying, do not go to sleep when you feel like it. If it’s nighttime at your destination, then catch some Zs.

If it’s daytime at your destination, then do anything and everything you can to stay awake — you can watch movies, listen to music, read a book or chat with your seatmate who is also fighting off the urge to sleep because he or she is well-aware of the fact that it’s something that can lead to a nasty jet lag later on!

Experts say that the following are some other steps that you may take in order to fend off a jet lag:

  • Drink plenty of water because dehydration can, in fact, worsen the symptoms of jet lag
  • Say no to coffee and alcohol as they can leave your body dehydrated — go back to the entry above.
  • Steer clear of unhealthy snacks due to the reason that they can contribute to jet lag-related digestive issues
  • Avoid arriving at night — there are more things that you can do during the day to stay awake than at night.
  • Stay outdoors during the day at your destination as plenty of sun can help to adjust the body clock

When it’s time to go to sleep according to the new time zone, feel free to have some sweet dreams.

It is very much possible for you to enjoy a restful and rejuvenating kind of sleep even if you are seated in an economy class seat if you follow the tips we have been mentioning from the start of this article!

Reed Harris

Reed is a traveler and blogger. He's planning to visit all states in the USA. He's been in 31 states so far.

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