7 ways to get a better sleep on your next flight

It's time to tackle one of those age-old problems - how on earth are you supposed to sleep on a rock-hard economy seat during a long-haul flight?

I was unsurprised to see that new research from Skyscanner Australia found that nearly four in five Australians struggle to get any sleep on long-haul flights.

Why do we find it so hard to sleep on planes?

A problem that is surely more common in economy class than in business is getting yourself into a comfortable enough position to actually rest. 65% of people surveyed said that finding the right posture was the biggest challenge to them getting enough sleep on long-haul flights.

14% of people felt too guilty to recline their seats, meaning they were stuck in an upright position for the duration of the flight. While I am not one of those guilt-ridden passengers, there have been reports of several planes being diverted after passengers engaged in seat-reclining wars.

According to the travel app Skyscanner, there is a certain etiquette to follow when it comes to seat reclining - don't recline during meals, check behind you before you recline (in case they have a child on their knee or laptop on their tray table) and always recline your seat slowly.

Another major problem for passengers hoping for some shut-eye is the loud noise in the aircraft. 11% of people surveyed revealed that they struggled to block out the sounds of the plane - the loud engine noise, people talking, crying children and the occasional incessant snorer can all make it difficult to drift off.

Chasing your dreams

While there are a couple of tried and tested methods of falling asleep - 39% of respondents reported that they watch movies until they fall asleep and 34% use sleeping supplements or alcohol to help them drift off - some forward-planning will give you a much better shot at realising your dreams, literally.

1. For those thoughtful passengers who feel too guilty to recline their seats, book your seat in advance and nab a seat just in front of the bulkhead, so there will be nothing behind you but the wall, or an emergency seat. Or, just follow the seat reclining etiquette and let go out that guilt - you paid for your seat and deserve to use it as it was intended.

2. SeatGuru is another great tool to help you find and book seats that will be a little quieter. You can use it to spot the location of toilets, bassinets and galleys and avoid them, if possible, as they tend to be the noisier areas of the aircraft.

3. Silicone earplugs are an easy way to block out the loud hum of the aircraft's motor or use noise-cancelling headphones and play relaxing music to enable you to fall sleep.

4. To help you sit as comfortably in whichever seat you end up in - given a lot of airlines now charge premium prices for seat selection - a neck pillow is invaluable. You can also spin the pillow around, if you're finding your head falls forward a lot, so that it supports your chin.

This lightweight Trtl neck pillow is scientifically-proven to support your head and neck in a better ergonomic position than a regular travel pillow.

Trtl Travel Pillow, $54.95 from Trtl

5. When sleeping upright, keep your legs straight with a slight bend in your knees, rather than crossing them. Keeping your legs crossed can contribute to deep-vein thrombosis, which is already at a much greater risk when you're flying.

6. Natural sleeping supplements, like melatonin and magnesium, and a dab of lavender essential oil can also make a big difference in creating a calmer and more pleasant environment on a packed plane, and these natural remedies won't leave you with a hangover when you arrive at your final destination.

7. Finally, an eyemask is a long-haul travel essential - invest in one made from a natural fibre that fits comfortably over your eyes and you'll be able to sleep even when the well-meaning crew are serving breakfast at the ungodly hour of 4am.

If you happen to be flying to somewhere fabulous in the near future, I hope you're able to celebrate with a peaceful flight and a long, uninterrupted sleep.

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