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Get the best sleep on your long-haul flight

It’s that time of year again. The mass exodus of Aussies who’re already fed up with winter, and jumping on long-haul flights to anywhere hotter than here. P.S. The Aussie dollar is holding its own at the moment, so it’s a great time to get booking.

This article is for the jetsetters who are already buying money belts and planning where they’ll take their perf Instagram shots.

If you’re stuck in this land of extreme weather while seething with jealousy, then you’re welcome here too. We can think about the trip of a lifetime we could’ve had.

Our country’s isolation means that travel is simultaneously the best and the absolute fricking worst. The reason there’s at least one Aussie in any backpackers is because we’re all keener than beans to see more than just the island nation we know, but the major downside is the sheer amount of flying time you need to commit to in order to get anywhere.

Tips on how best to sleep on a plane are like families – everyone’s got one, but there’s no guarantee they’re actually any good. So we’ve compiled the best advice, which’ll ensure you have a great time from the time you get on the plane to the time you walk onto the runway of a brave new world.

Preparation is key

Set your body clock

You’ve gotta be prepared early if you want to avoid the cursed affliction of jet lag. It comes down to your body clock, or circadian rhythm.

There are a few things we’ve been able to narrow down, but trying to be the boss of your own body is hit-and-miss.

You should try to adjust to your destination’s clock a few days before flying over. We’ve actually written about this before:

To fly east, take melatonin in the afternoon and use the light box every morning to wake up earlier. For a west-bound trip, use the light box to stay up later and take melatonin each morning.

These remedies are designed to aid in speeding up the process of synchronising the internal clocks and the body’s natural circadian rhythm.

Neuroscientists have discovered that the body’s master clock is located in the brain’s hypothalamus, and targeted therapies have been successful in supporting the ‘clock genes’ that regulate our circadian rhythms. The idea is that the more support you can provide to resynchronising those rhythms, the less the effects of jet lag.

The two biggies mentioned are light boxes and melatonin. A light box is exactly what it sounds like; a bright light which mimics daylight that can be used to wake you up, or prolong your waking hours. They’re the same boxes used to treat SAD, and could be a good tool if you’re having trouble tricking your brain into following a new schedule.

Then there’s melatonin, which occurs naturally in our bodies to make us sleepy when it starts to get dark. It is easy to buy as a vitamin supplement and can be used as a sleep aid for travellers in small dosages of 0.5mg up to 5mg.

As with any extras that you haven’t used before, and particularly if you’re already taking medication, talk to your doctor about it first.

If you want to tire yourself out in a super natural way, try to fit in a workout before you leave. Your body will be tired out and ready to recuperate. Obviously have a shower before you get on the plane though.

Eat right

If you’ve ever experienced that special queasiness that comes after a day full of plane food, you’ll appreciate a game plan for eating.

Eat easy-to-digest foods like nuts, yoghurt, fruits and veggies. I know it’s hard to believe, but processed foods might not make you feel too crash hot.

Lunch - plane food

With your mind and sleeping pattern already operating in your destination’s time zone, get your eating patterns on board too. If possible, fast 12 hours before your destination’s breakfast time, so you’re already eating in sync. This jet lag calculator will help you out with that.

For the record, it’s completely understandable if you want to stress eat while on the plane, or wander aimlessly through airports, because it is actual purgatory.

Pick your side

You should tailor your seat to your sleeping habits. If you usually sleep on your right side, then a seat on the right side of the plane will give you a better sleep, and vice versa.

Your best bet in terms of which seat is the window seat. You can control the blinds, you get a little bit extra room to snuggle into the window nook, you can turn your back on those idiots sitting next to you, and you get the best views.

The last place you want to sit is the middle seat between two chatty people, with a seat that refuses to recline. Try to avoid seats near the toilet, because they’re be a constant queue and a questionable stank.

Check out Seat Guru to choose the best seat on a particular plane. You can find out exactly which model of plane you’ll be on, and figure out which are the best and worst places to park your behind.

Flying high

(Not recommended that you actually fly while high. Airports might not be too cool with it.)

Be that person

It looks stupid, we all know that, but a neck pillow might actually be your unexpected saviour. Airlines will give you thin blankets and lumpy half-pillows, but they’re only OK if you’ve got no other option.

If you bring a neck pillow along, you’ll get some looks in the airport, but you’ll be sleeping like a baby. Instead of wearing it in the most common fashion (behind your neck), swing it around and wear the largest part under you chin. Then you’ll be able to rest your precious head on the seat behind you, and the neck pillow will do a great job of propping it up. Add an eye mask if you’ve got light streaming through the window or from within the plane.

Plane Neck pillow

You can also wear PJs if you want to get some really intense looks. Or just go for loose, comfy clothes.

Oils are essential

This trick works well at home as well, but drops of lavender oil on your wrists, neck pillow and maybe under your nose are supposed to be great at relaxing you.

Once you’re properly chilled out, and smelling like potpourri, you’ll drift off to dreamland.

Don’t go hard

Especially if you’ve already dosed up on melatonin, you really don’t want to add alcohol to the mix. Alcohol generally gives people an anxious sleep, but it’ll give you a hangover too (we’re learning so much here). Why would you want to add a hangover to general travel sickness and drowsiness?

Stick to water or tea. Steer clear of sugars and stimulating drinks too, you’ll make yourself more nauseous. You don’t want to end up like this:

Safe travels and sweet dreams!

About the author

Larissa is Techly’s Assistant Editor. She watches so much Youtube that she’s narrowed down her favourite categories – goats, innocent dads getting pranked, and toddlers falling over.

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