How to Sleep on a Plane—Even If You’re in the Middle Seat

There’s nothing more irritating than watching your seatmate snooze effortlessly next to you while you queue up another in-flight film and fall further into sleep debt on a red-eye. As a frequent traveler, I know all too well that catching up on deep sleep certainly isn’t feasible for everybody—especially nervous flyers or those with insomnia—but trying to get in at least a few extra hours, even if it’s not a full night’s sleep, is the key to enjoying a better vacation.

“The best bet to feel your best while traveling and at your new destination is to go into your trip with low sleep debt,” says Jeff Kahn, sleep expert and CEO of the sleep tracker app Rise Science. “The less sleep deprived you are, the better chance you have of weathering insufficient sleep on the plane, as well as quickly adapting to your new time zone.”

Although getting a good night’s sleep in economy might seem like a bit of an oxymoron for those of us who have spent many a red-eye trying to get into a comfortable position, it’s not impossible to sneak in a few hours of quality rest if you’re willing to prepare a little bit in advance. Below, we tapped into our network of sleep professionals and frequent fliers to decode exactly what the secret is to resting well at 30,000 feet, whether you’re in first class or are short on legroom in economy. As it turns out, figuring out how to sleep on a plane isn’t overly complicated after all.