As someone with family in a galaxy far, far away (or, as it’s more usually called, “England”), I’ve spent a lot of the holidays on transatlantic flights — and if you don’t get at least some sleep on these 12-hour monsters, you are dooming yourself to spend the first two days of your visit  in a miserable jet-lagged haze.

Luckily, over the years I’ve developed a (personally) foolproof system for being an absolute champion sleeper on flights like this that enables me to wake up on the runway and waltz into London Heathrow Arrivals like a well-refreshed boss. And I’m sharing it here with you, dear reader.

giphy (5)

You will need in your carry-on luggage:

  • A big soft scarf (like, big)
  • Noise-canceling headphones
  • Pajamas
  • Benadryl
  • Face moisturizer
  • Vicks VapoRub or generic equivalent
  • Neck pillow
  • Facial wipes
  • Water bottle full of water from the Departure lounge

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And here’s the patented Méthode de Carly:

  1. Get on the plane, fire up a movie, eat the dinner they give me or that I’ve brought aboard (strongly recommend the latter here). Have a glass of red wine with my dinner, accompanied by a good amount of water. (Plane travel dehydrates you super-fast and I do not want a “plangover” because they are the absolute worst.)
  2. When finished with the above, take Benadryl (anti-histamine that also makes me sleepy). I am not going to tell you the dosage I take because I am not a doctor and you should read the back of the box.
  3. Go to the restroom with carry-on bag and do the following:
    • Change into PJs. Yes, I am that person in PJs on the flight. Deal.
    • Take off all my makeup with facial wipes and apply inch-thick layer of moisturizer (remember: plane travel dehyrates!)
    • Fill water bottle because I don’t want to have to get up again when thirsty and disturb my slumber
    • Apply Vicks VapoRub to nose, because planes can smell and menthol makes me feel zen
  4. Go back to seat and make self as comfortable as possible on 10+ hour economy flight: pillow, noise-canceling headphones (to block out the sound of jet engines next to my face) and — this is the weirdest part — arrange big scarf over head like a drape on a canary’s cage. (And you thought the PJs were going to make you look weird.)
  5. Ensconced in sound-proof, light-resistant tent of comfort, and already sleepy from Benadryl, fall asleep for many hours and wake up refreshed and capable of dealing with a vastly altered time zone.

And there you have it! A version of this guide appears in this episode of The Cooler, a podcast you really should be listening to:

What tricks do you have for making plane travel bearable? Leave a comment!

How to Sleep on a Very Long Flight 25 November,2015Carly Severn

  • Laki Sarah

    This is great Carly. I’ll have to add Vick’s and face moisturizer to my routine. I usually have lip balm, compression socks and the “no jet lag pills” from Whole Foods (who knows if they actually work) on hand when I fly. While I usually hide my face with a hood, a large scarf is even smarter!


Carly Severn

A Brit now living the Bay Area , Carly Severn enthusiastically consumes food and pop culture, then writes about both. By day, she is KQED's Social Media Manager dedicated to spreading the word about public media, and the co-host of KQED Pop's The Cooler podcast.

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