How to get a good nights sleep while travelling across time zones, even if you’re in economy

Julian Munsey
Julian Munsey
Last Updated: 13 December 2022

Travelling across time zones can be exhausting but if you can manage to get a good chunk of sleep on the plane it can really help combat jet lag. So how on earth do you get a good nights sleep whilst 30,000ft in the air, in an unfamiliar environment, surrounded by people you don’t know? There isn’t a single answer but focusing on controlling your environment and creating a sense of relaxation through the 5 senses can make a big difference.

These are our top tips to help you get a good nights sleep while travelling across time zones, whether you are in first class or economy:

Sound: Control what you listen to

Being able to disconnect yourself from the noises, people and situation around you can be key to making you feel relaxed and able to sleep.

Buying some good noise-cancelling headphones can be a game changer (TechRadar has done a round-up of the 10 best noise cancelling headphones if you want some recommendations), as well as some effective ear plugs!

What to listen to?

Relaxation is key so if you list watching films, the in-flight entertainment is perfect. However, if you take a little time to prepare beforehand, there are some brilliant options to help encourage sleep.

The app Calm, Headspace and Insight Timer all have offline options to listen to sleep stories, mediations or relaxations.

Make a playlist of relaxing songs on an app like Spotify or Apple Music.

Download a podcast or audiobook you enjoy to help you relax.

Sight: Create a dark environment

Depending on the time of day, getting a dark environment can be really difficult, especially if the meal service is taking longer than expected. Most frequent travellers I know will always travel with their own eye mask and swear by it for making sure they get the rest they need.

These 10 best sleep masks for travel will give you a good place to start if you want to make sure you get one that will actually do the job. Our favourite? The GoSleep Travel Sleeping System uses adjustable elastic straps which you loop around the wings of your headrest, and when you have the sleep mask on, it will keep your head from bobbing forward. Genius!


Taste: Think about what you are eating and drinking

It probably goes without saying that what you eat and drink can be really important to how you sleep, both on the flight and once you arrive at your destination.

Caffeine – it can be easy to use coffee to stay awake and force your body into the new time zone but it will catch up with you and hit you even harder. Really keen to feel your best? Ask the cabin crew for a camomile tea – it will help you sleep and is one of the best remedies for an upset stomach, a common side effect of travelling.

Water – staying hydrated is key to recovering quickly from a longhaul flight. Research has shown that men can lose up to 2lts of water in a 10 hours flight and women 1.6lts.

Alcohol – if you have access to a lounge or enjoy tasting the complimentary champagne selection in business class, it can be easy to get a bit carried away. By all means, have a few but just remember that alcohol can interfere with your body clock so if you combine that with a time zone change and dehydration, you might be in for a tough few days!

Touch: Make sure you are comfortable

Whether you want to get onboard in smarter clothes and then get changed, or you are happy to be casual whilst in the airport too (think about lounge dress codes) you should definitely think about what you want to wear to sleep in. Some airlines provide pyjamas in the premium cabins but if you take a pair with you, you’ll know you are going to be comfortable and able to relax.

And if you usually sleep in your underwear (or naked) and feel most comfortable in that… I’m afraid that isn’t an option (yes, it has been done and the customer was asked to put their clothes back on after complaints from other customers of blankets slipping off…!).



Planes have a certain kind of smell and it’s not always one that is particularly pleasant, especially while everyone is eating. Smells like lavender and chamomile can be really calming and relaxing whilst also helping you feel sleepy. If you’re wondering how on earth you would take lavender and chamomile on a plane with you, this hand cream by Neom is amazing and is under 100ml so can be carried in your hand luggage.


A word of warning though, whilst all this advice might make you sleep really well while you are travelling, if you have anything to hide from the person you are travelling with, you might not want to sleep so deeply that can use your fingerprint to check your phone while you sleep like and end up causing a diversion like this couple… don’t say we didn’t warn you!


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