Survival Tips for your Next Redeye

Sometimes it’s just unavoidable. Your meeting in L.A. doesn’t finish until five, and you absolutely, positively have to be in the office in New York tomorrow. Which means the only flight that fits your schedule doesn’t arrive until the next morning; in other words, a redeye. And whether the dreaded redeye is the bane of your last-resort travel plans, or the perfect scheduling solution for the career striver, an overnight flight is mostly something to be endured.

With that, here are a few strategies to minimize the discomfort of a redeye, and get as much rest as possible to tackle the coming day.

First of all, if there’s any way to upgrade to a higher class of seat, whether first or business, this is the time to cash in those points or work the system to the best of your shrewd abilities. On larger, newer planes or long-haul flights, business class and above will often have seats that lie flat, or at least offer lots of extra room to recline and find a more comfortable position. If coach is your fate, snag a window seat and use the wall as a bed with a cushion of pillows and a bunched up jacket or sweater. For travelers with small bladders, stick with an aisle seat close to the bathroom; your seatmates will thank you.

On that last point, keep the water and beverage intake to a minimum prior to your flight. This idea may fly in the face of conventional (and medical) wisdom that recommends staying hydrated while flying, but the fewer bathroom breaks needed the more time you can actually rest. That said, as soon as the breakfast bell or wake-up announcement dings, drink heavily from that liter of water you stashed in our carry-on, which will help stave off symptoms of jetlag.

If possible, book a direct flight. Having to land and deplane in the middle of the night, then start a second leg of your redeye, only serves to double the discomfort of your overnight journey. Going through the rigmarole of a connecting flight interrupts precious sleep time, and makes it challenging to fall back to sleep after being fully awakened and marched out of your gate.

Short of donning your pj’s and cuddling up with your favorite stuffed animal, get as comfortable as possible. Wear soft, loose-fitting clothes that stretches with you as you inevitably position and reposition yourself throughout the flight. Climate can vary on a plane, so it’s a good idea to bring layers you can easily pull on or off depending on the temperature in the cabin. Easily packable slippers or warm snuggly socks are perfect sleep accessories.

Head rests are fine for, you know, resting your head. But for sleeping, they’re often less than adequate. Fortunately there are a host of pillows available to fit most any style of sleeper, starting with the ubiquitous U-shaped pillow. You can find long pillows that rest on your shoulder for side sleepers, and a pillow to set atop your tray table if you prefer leaning forward to sleep. Invest in the type of pillow that works best for you, which hopefully helps you fall and stay asleep.

Airplanes are pretty good about creating the right overnight environment, by turning off all but the most essential lights and keeping announcements to the bare minimum. At the same time, you could find yourself in a seat by the bathroom or next to an insomniac who spends the flight typing on their laptop or watching a movie. Bring along some sleep accoutrements, such as an eye mask that will block any and all intrusive light, and earplugs to muffle cabin noises, from coughing to a creaky bathroom door.

Follow your typical bedtime routine as best you can. Before you board, or as soon as you get on the plane, brush your teeth and wash your face. Avoid caffeine (duh) before your flight, as well as heavy foods and alcohol, which can add to discomfort. Reading a book or listening to some soothing music will also help you relax and get into sleep mode.

For light sleepers, sometimes you just need a little help. In that case, you may want to consider medications. Besides over the counter sleep aids, you can also find herbal or homeopathic options, such as melatonin, that can gently nudge you into sleep. Of course, you should be aware of the side effects and know how these medications affect you before experimenting on a plane.

Once you land, and after you’ve rehydrated yourself with plenty of water, set yourself to your destination’s schedule. Eat a balanced breakfast at the appropriate hour, and try to avoid naps during the day. Get as much natural light as you can, which tells your body it’s time to be awake. Caffeine can be helpful, and a must if it’s part of your regular routine, but avoid it later in the day when it can mess with your next night’s sleep.

Photo credits:

John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is an award-winning journalist, travel writer and blogger based in San Jose, California. He has covered the meetings and hospitality industry extensively since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @jcax01

Leave a Comment