Even if you have a coveted seat in first class, it can be hard to fall asleep during a flight. Most airline cabins are either too cold or not quiet enough. Also, where do you rest your head? The struggle to snooze is real.
As a travel writer, I'm always flying — racking up 100,000+ miles a year and earning status on several major airlines. So believe me when I say, I know how hard it can be to catch some rest while in the air.
It took me years to perfect the art — or is it a science? — of sleeping on planes. But now, within 20 minutes of take-off I know I can nod off. It all comes down to the arsenal I keep in my carry-on. Each product is designed to help travelers catch up on rest, especially at cruising altitude. (Don't worry, they're all TSA-compliant.)
From a bestselling eye mask one TODAY writer uses to combat "resting zombie face," to a popular pillow spray I can't sleep without, here are several products to help you sleep on a plane. And if you find yourself seated next to me in the friendly skies, don't be a stranger. Say "Hi!"... unless my eye mask is on. In that case, I only want to be woken up for food.
Travel writer-loved products for sleeping on a plane
At 2.5 ounces, this popular pillow spray is well within the TSA's 3.4-ounce limit for carry-on luggage. That said, it's also available in 1.2 full ounces for $20. According to the brand, nearly 90 percent of users report falling asleep faster with the help of this "superblend" of lavender, vetivert and chamomile. Still skeptical? "Can’t even travel without it!! Calms my body, mind and heart preparing me for sleep" reads one verified five-star review on Amazon.
According to the Sleep Foundation, light exposure prevents our brains from producing melatonin which is crucial when it comes to crashing. There are a lot of sleep masks on the market, but this bestseller (it has a 4.6-star average rating from over 33,000 reviews) stands out because it's made of 100 percent hypoallergenic silk. Plus with its full coverage (no light sneaks in through the nose area), it's like having blackout curtains for your eyes.
If you're one of those people who can't sleep without white noise, this handheld device with earbuds can certainly help. It's pre-loaded with 24 relaxing tracks developed by doctors, the brand shares, and features a removable SD card, so you can add your own tracks, too. With up to 15 hours of run time on one charge, it even lasts on long haul flights. Of course, the built-in "sleep enhancement timer" that automatically shuts the device off after 30, 60 or 90 minutes helps, too.
Made of dual-density memory foam, the doctor-recommended Cabeau Evolution S3 makes every other travel pillow feel flimsy at best. It's also different from other travel pillows because it has straps you can use to attach it to your seat. Meaning, you don't have to worry about it sliding to one side. It also features a convenient stuff sack (it packs down to be half its size) and a washable pillow cover.
Instead of packing a pillow that takes up more space, why not make a pillow using the clothes you have to bring anyway? That's the premise of this stuffable pillow case from the brand behind the bestselling Rumpl blanket. Made of recycled polyester and polar fleece, it's 11 inches by 16 inches in pillow mode. Pack it to your desired firmness. When not in use, it folds flat and takes up about as much space as a postcard.
These earbuds may be pricey, but they're a personal favorite of "The Sleep Doctor" — Dr. Michael Breus, PhD. "I love these because they have the famous Bose sound masking technology," he tells Shop TODAY. While you can't listen to your favorite podcast with them, you can choose from 50 curated sounds designed for maximum relaxation. The earbuds, which can hold a charge for up to 10 hours, are made of silicone and designed to not feel as invasive in the ear.
Sleeping well starts with being comfortable. These super soft modal and spandex pants come from the woman-founded brand best known for its bra-less tops. The pants, which are made in Los Angeles, feature a slimming ribbed fabric and a slightly flared bottom that makes legs look longer. The four-inch wide waistband is designed to help tuck in the tummy and there's no dangling drawstring to get in the way.
According to the Sleep Foundation, it's important to stay hydrated if you want high-quality sleep. This reusable "anti-bottle" holds .5L of water, yet it lays completely flat when empty. When rolled up, it is about the size of a credit card. It's made of BPA-free plastic and is dishwasher-safe, making it a breeze to clean.
Editor-loved picks for sleeping on a plane
These travel-sized eye gels are loved by senior SEO editor Jess Bender because they helped turn her flight into a "mini spa session," despite looks from the flight attendant. Multitask during your flight and de-puff while midair, helping to make the skin under your eyes look refreshed upon landing. This vegan and cruelty-free cosmetic comes in a four-pack, ensuring vacation-ready skin for many flights to come.
Aptly named, this five-piece set includes hand sanitizer, face mist, hydrating pads, a hydration mask and a zipper pouch to store it all in. Production coordinator Camryn Privette loves this set because "it has everything you need to keep your skin clean and hydrated in the air!"
Self-care comes in multiple forms, and Bender loves opting for a crossword to help her snooze during a flight. (No offense to crossword connoisseurs.) "Give me a crossword puzzle and I'll be out of commission in less than 15 minutes," she says. This 'strictly medium' level gives Bender the satisfaction of a completed grid with a little bit of a challenge.
SEO associate editor Fran Sales assures that looks can be deceiving with this product, ensuring that it genuinely does work. Instead of resting your head on the shoulder of the stranger sitting next to you, simply situate this pillow around your neck and dream on! Available in four colors, this pillow also helps to prevent kinks in your neck that often come with uncomfortable sleeping positions.
For only $5, give your face the refreshing boost it needs before a long flight, as recommended by market assistant Audrey Ekman. Ekman also loves this spray because it's "really great for combatting that in-flight dry air." The chamomile and lavender scent is her favorite because it can help you fall asleep.