Could your way of falling asleep on a plane be potentially life-threatening?
WHAT’S the best way to fall asleep on a plane? That’s the question.
Because there’s nothing worse than sitting through a long-haul flight where you’re quite literally boxed into your uncomfortable and cramped economy seat.
You board the plane with the purest of intentions: To get as much rest as humanly possible so that you’ll arrive at your destination fresh-faced, bright-eyed, and ready to take on whatever the day throws at you.
Some travelers can sleep sitting upright, some can probably sleep standing up, but for the rest of us, it takes some planning and strategy to restfully and adequately snooze in the skies.
To add on, not all of us are lucky (or rich) enough to enjoy the luxury of business or first class. So how can you get the best sleep on a plane no matter where you’re seated?
Travel Wire Asia asked a handful of its Twitter followers for their personal tips on the best way to fall asleep on a plane and the answers may surprise you.
41 percent of the respondents voted for “Read or watch a movie” while 28 percent said they’d drink alcohol to help them doze off. Meanwhile, 21 percent revealed they’d simply not sleep before a flight, and 10 percent admitted they’d “Take a sleep aid” to ensure some shut eye.
Are these the best ways to get some much-needed rest while being confined in a metal tube for long hours, though?
Read or watch a movie
Reading, especially on a smartphone or tablet-like gadget or watching a movie on a tiny screen with lousy sound quality and frequent interruptions (such as in-flight announcements) is hardly an immersive experience.
And depending on the in-flight selection, some movies will leave you feeling more disturbed than others, with stories that grip you hard enough to prevent you from a restful sleep.
To add on, every avid reader knows that if a story they’re reading is engaging enough, chances are they won’t be falling asleep for a while. Who isn’t all too familiar with the “Just one more chapter” excuse?
Furthermore, tablets and screen emit a bluish hue that messes with your body’s natural sleep hormones. “Essentially what blue light does is interfere with melatonin production in our brains,” smartertravel quoted New York Montefiore Health System director of behavioral sleep medicine Shelby Harris as saying.
“Melatonin makes us sleepy but needs darkness to work. And blue light reduces melatonin even more than plain old full-spectrum white light.”
Upon landing, no one wants to spend their first 24 hours or so recovering from a flight. So if alcohol is your way of getting sleep, you may want to rethink that choice.
While the sedative effects of alcohol are well-known, the low levels of air pressure can amplify the effects of alcohol and the hangover it produces the next day.
Telegraph travel health expert Dr. Richard Dawood suggested avoiding alcohol and caffeine-laced drinks on a flight. “Try drinking a herbal tea,” he recommended. “It’s a good idea not to eat a full or heavy meal too.”
If you absolutely have to drink, limit yourself to just a glass of red wine or whiskey, or whatever your chosen “poison” may be one hour before you intend to get some shut-eye.
Just don’t overdo it and slip into the drunken territory or you’d have quite a bit to deal with when you land.
Don’t sleep before flying
You can try not sleeping before a long-haul flight to make it easier for yourself to completely zonk out on a plane, but that’s not the best way to go about it.
You wouldn’t want to later drag yourself sluggishly down the aisle, unable to perform even the simplest of tasks such as answering border control questions or using the passport machine at security.
Furthermore, consider what the outcome might be if you were to land in the complete opposite side of the world where your body clock is operating at mid-day while in reality, it’s sometime in the middle of the night where you are.
Try not to deprive yourself of sleep before a long flight and reduce yourself to a barely functioning mess for at least 24 hours. After all, you’d be wasting an entire day’s worth of your long-awaited trip.
Take a sleep aid
If reading, watching a movie, drinking alcohol, or sticking earplugs into your ears isn’t going to help you fall asleep, chances are you may consider turning to a more heavy-duty fix: a sleep aid.
But some pills are stronger than others and depending on your body’s tolerance; some may have wonkier side effects than others.
Yes, it’s always good to know what you’re taking. Even better if it’s something that you’re already familiar with, i.e. Ambien, Melatonin, Tylenol PM. However, this might also increase your risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), caused by a blood clot in a deep vein and can be life-threatening.
When you knock yourself out with a pill, you don’t move around as much, which leads to lower oxygen levels in the blood and therefore, an increase in the risk of DVT.
On the milder side of things, taking a sleep aid could leave you groggy and unable to function properly for a couple of hours upon landing, and nobody likes being in a state of blur.
So what’s the best way to fall asleep on a plane then, you ask?
Prepare for bed the way you would at home as this would make you physically and psychologically ready to sleep.
Making sure you’re in sleep-ready, comfortable clothes (clothes you would lounge in and socks or slippers) and operate as usual such as brushing your teeth and washing your face. Heck, slap on a soothing face mask if you want.
These actions will “signal” to your brain that it’s bedtime and in that relaxed state, you’d find it easier to doze off.