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How to Actually Get Some Sleep on Your Flight

Ready the neck pillows, CBD tinctures, and leggings covered in Steve Buscemi eyes—and pray you don't get a middle seat.
woman on plane sleeping
Photo: Getty Images

You know when you’re on the phone and another person calls, and you have to do some confusing finger dancing to keep/reject/put the call on hold and none of it makes sense? That’s how it feels when we try to sleep on planes: It’s like we can see all the buttons we need to push, but never seem to get there in time. We always end up re-watching Paddington 2 (worth it), landing, and feeling like slime.  


But as with many unjust things in life, there are the haves and the have nots—and I am referring to those who have the magical ability to drift off to Dreamland before takeoff, versus the have nots: those of us who remain blearily, miserably conscious even through the most brutal of red eyes, longing for slumber and never quite making it there. The haves arrive at their destination refreshed and primed, while the have nots lose the following hours or days to the cruelest form of jet lag.

How do you fall asleep on a plane? Casper doesn’t make planes yet, but we can rely on the humble sorcery of neck pillows, CBD tinctures, and leggings covered in Steve Buscemi eyes to feel supported, relaxed, and a little horny. 

Pick your seat ahead of time


Which day of the week is the best day to buy airline tickets? Which are the cheapest days to fly? How can I get a cheap, last-minute flight? For sifting through this kind of flight-savvy information that people just inherently knew before the internet existed (like the Farmer’s Almanac), Expedia is your Magic 8-Ball (except it doesn’t have a weird vendetta against us). Expedia does the untangling and ranking of all the confusing flight stuff, so you can just think about whether you’re an aisle person (daddy long legs) or window person (you’d rather be in the womb). And if you favor the middle seat, you really shouldn’t be allowed on a plane, IMO. 


Book a flight (and seat) via Expedia

Swap out your morning latte for something less caffeinated


Mentally, emotionally, and existentially, we’re just not ready to give up our morning cup of coffee just because we need to crash on a plane later. MUD\WTR (pronounced mud water; it’s not a techno band) is the viral coffee alternative that looks like, well, mud, but only has one-seventh the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee per serving. Jamie Steidle, coffee-lover but (now) non-drinker, reviewed the stuff for VICE, and found it to be a jitter-free way to get out of bed without turning the rest of your day into a roller coaster. “There’s not a ‘high’ like the surge you might get from coffee or espresso,” he wrote, “but there’s a steady, low-grade buzz that feels on par with a cup of black tea. I actually found the caffeine to be the perfect amount for both getting started in the morning and providing a pick-me-up in the afternoon.” Have a cup first thing in the AM, snooze on the plane, and then make another mug when you arrive at your destination.

Starter Kit, $60 $40 at MUD\WT

“Melatonin, hormone of darkness”

Solimo Melatonin 5mg

Not making any doctorly claims here, but there’s a reason some Science Folk call melatonin “the hormone of darkness.” It naturally comes out of that pretty little pinecone-shaped part of your brain (pineal gland) at night to make you sleep and gives you more vivid dreams, which is fun. Some people produce more melatonin than others, however, which is where these gummies come in. “Melatonin therapy is quite reassuring and is largely superior to other sleep-inducing agents,” explains one study, “[and] with regards to the actual administration of melatonin, it has been shown that the timing, and not so much the actual dosage, is crucial in producing the best results [...] when small doses of melatonin were administered to patients about 2 to 4 hours before bedtime, it was shown to be effective in decreasing sleep latency.” Try popping one once you’re en route to the airport. 


Solimo Melatonin 5mg, $9.89 at Amazon

A CBD sleep thing for beginners and Phish-heads

S/O to the FDA hottie reading this (have you tried CBD tinctures? They’re kind of great for fast absorption). We’re making no medical claims here, but studies show (again, and again) that CBD can ease anxiety for some people. This tincture has notes of cedarwood and California pine, so it’s basically like getting a hug from a tree. Just put a few drops under your tongue, and liftoff. 

Mineral Sleep Tincture, $85 at Standard Dose

This brand name eye mask is almost 70% off


You probably know Parachute for all its sexy linen bedding, but the brand also makes luxurious sleep and lounge accessories that we, for the first time, don’t want to lose in our bed-frame crack or in the plane. I mean, this merino wool eye mask looks like it was repurposed from a Welsh sheep farmer’s cardigan or something (although, leave that to Bespoke Post, the internet’s best aesthetic-outdoor-life retailer), which makes it perfect for crying, sleeping, daydreaming, and general dissociation. The headband part is also knitted, which means it won’t dig into your head like other stringy eye masks.    

Merino Eye Mask, $49 $15 at Parachute

Take the weight off your shoulders

Screen Shot 2021-06-01 at 3.42.27 PM.png

We’ve said it before: Did you know that every inch the head moves out of vertical alignment adds 10 pounds of pressure on the neck? Once upon a time, we looked at neck pillows and went, huh. Now that our body is less young and gelatinous, we get it. 


Evolution Cool Neck Pillow, $59.99 at Cabeau 

Run cold? Bring a heated neck wrap

Screen Shot 2021-06-01 at 3.42.19 PM.png

Damn. This is kind of like the equivalent of having a weighted blanket just for your spine/neck/back, but one that heats up to relax your body.  

Heated Neck Pillow, $23.99 at Amazon 

Get an intense scarf from an outdoor store


Think about it. Stores like REI make stuff for you to brave the elements and feel comfortable, so just imagine how comfortable you’ll be in an air-conditioned, non-camping environment with a wooly scarf?

Smartwool North Divide Scarf, $60 $44.73 at REI

These headphones were made to cancel out plane engines


… And so much more. They come in classic, creamy, millennial-bait shades that we dig, and feature wireless charging, touch controls, and a long battery life.You can also get refurbished noise-cancelling headphones on eBay by brands including Sony for a fraction of the price. Or, if you’re more into the low-key look, these wireless headies are a reliable, space-saving option. 

Calm Headphones $249 at Know

Sleeping in a jumpsuit is so freeing


Passing out in a jumpsuit or romper is great, because you can squirm and scrunch your body like a human accordion without having to worry about showing your buttcrack to the rest of the plane. This cotton number by Everlane feels like being in one giant sentient sock, in the best way. It also has a flattering tie situation around the center, pockets, and can get thrown in the Whatever laundry pile. Layer a psychedelic hoodie over it for general misdirection/enhancement purposes, such as this designer one that’s on sale at Black Owned Everything, or this skiing (?? Yes.) Grateful Dead skeleton hoodie at Teton Gravity Research.  


Get lost in thoughts about what numbers taste like 

thinking in numbers

What if you could touch the number six? Taste it? Daniel Tammet is an author and savant who experiences synesthesia, which means his relationships with people, words, and numbers across languages and cultures is rooted in a sensory understanding most of us will never experience. (He’s also recited pi for five hours straight, according to NPR.) Thinking In Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math is an invitation into his brain that’s accessible, entertaining, and likely to help drift you into a deep slumber. 

Thinking In Numbers: On Life, Love, Meaning, and Math, $12.90 at Amazon

Or listen to a Carl Sagan’s Contact audiobook

Contact by Carl Sagan

For the love of Jodi Foster, get an Audible subscription. We often feel like we can’t find the time or attention span to read for extended periods these days, and don’t really want to carry a book we just won’t end up reading. Contact, however, is such a Daddy Sagan classic (turned cult 90s movie). Be warned: You may just wake up on a beach in space. 

Contact by Carl Sagan (audiobook), $15.84 on Amazon

Speaking of eyes, here are hundreds of Steve Buscemi’s eyes as leggings


Leggings are always a plane staple for comfort, especially when they wrap you in the protective gaze of Steve Buscemi and his thousand spider eyes. Love this season of American Horror Story for you. 

Steve Buscemi's Eyes Tiled Leggings $39.99 $31.99 at Society6

Sweet dreams, and don’t forget all the other stuff you’ll need in your carry-on

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