I have done a lot of flying with my job. That's involved a lot of trying to sleep on flights. It’s not easy to get your head down for a decent kip. You can’t legislate for being seated next to a noisy child (unless of course it’s your own) but you can take precautions for other factors that are in your control.
So here’s what I’ve learned so far…
1. Get a Good Seat
Ideally you want a seat away from the predictable sources of noise such as the loos, the galley and the bar (if they have one). Having an aisle seat is marginally better as you don’t have to disturb other people to go to the loo. Snooze zones can be helpful. Remember that bulkhead seats are often given to potentially noisy families.
2. The Flatter the Better
Plane seats come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The main factor I have found that determines how well you sleep is whether the seat goes flat or not. So Virgin Upper class and BA Business for example both have good flat seats.
3. Dress Comfy
Wear something warm and loose with a bit of give. The sharp Paul Smith suit can travel in the hold. Though personally I would think twice before boarding in trackie bottoms.
4. Stay off the Sauce
Some folks swear by a night cap to help them drift off and I think in moderation it probably helps to relax. But too much of the old falling down water and you’ll be dehydrated and uncomfortable. Watch out.
5. Cut Out the Stimulus
A good pair of earplugs and a sleep mask are vital. Freebie earplugs on flights are generally okay but the sleep mask is usually poor at cutting out the light, so consider investing in a decent one before you go.
6. Do not Disturb
Be clear about whether you wish to be woken for meals or not. Eating before departure in the airport cuts out this potential disturbance.
7. Avoid the Lag
Jet-lag is a miserable condition. Avoid the effects by getting into the destination time zone as early as you can. I always reset my watch as soon as we take off.
If all else fails sleeping pills can help – but beware the grogginess factor and try them out beforehand to check what kind of effect they have on you. It's not a good idea to be landing in a strange place feeling groggy.
9. Kids and Babies
Some young children just don’t like flying and I’ve been on flights where they will not stop crying. After eight hours of that anyone’s saintly patience is going to be tested. Spare a thought for the parents. Getting angry with them or their kids won’t solve anything.