What kind of flights leave between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.? The budget-friendly kind, of course. If you’re rocking the red-eye, you may be worried about having a bummer of a time on that plane. But it doesn’t have to be tortuous. Here’s how to make a red-eye flight tolerable — because, at the risk of sounding harsh, it’s never going to be a sleeping-on-clouds experience.
1. Wear comfy clothes
Don’t wear jeans on the red-eye. Trust us on this one. You want something stretchy, something that won’t bite into your beltline if you want to sit in some sort of conglomeration of yoga poses to get cozy in your seat.
Sure, the flight happens at bedtime, but that doesn’t mean you should wear your pajamas to the airport. Athleisure is your answer, so you can look chic and be comfy without looking like you literally rolled out of bed.
2. Bring warm accessories
It may be breezy tropical beach weather where you’re headed, but on the plane, it’s going to get icy. Frigid plane temps are notorious and not all long-haul flights give you a blanket anymore. We’d suggest bringing a nice thick pair of socks (yes, even if you’re heading somewhere that only requires sandals) because when your feet are warm, the rest of you stays warm.
Also, bring a scarf. It makes a great blanket or pillow substitute if you don’t wear it as a wrap for some extra heat.
3. Pack some melatonin
Hormone supplement melatonin is a sleep aid popular for those who want a little boost to sleep. It’s not a knock-out like ZzzQuil, but it sends a signal to your brain that it might be time to wind down and get some snooze time.
You don’t need more than 5 milligrams (the usual drugstore dose), and you should only take melatonin if you have a flight long enough to hit at least one full sleep cycle. That’s at least a couple of hours solidly in your seat. Otherwise, you might wake up groggy and unhappy that you can’t keep sleeping.
4. Think critically about alcohol
You know your body best. Think about your reaction to wine, beer or any liquor you might sip in a plane. Do you get crabby after one pale ale? Do you get sleepy after a glass of pinot? For some people, alcohol can ease their travel anxiety. For some, it nudges them into a deep sleep. But for others, it makes them wake up after a restless catnap with a wine headache and serious anxiety.
Try to think about what late-night drinking has done to your body in the past and then add the pressurized atmosphere of an airplane. You’ll know what’s best for you.
5. Download a great podcast
If you want to fall asleep, don’t turn on the in-flight entertainment on the seatback. That blue light is going to keep you up. Instead, download one of your favorite podcasts before boarding. Start with “Serial” if you’re a newbie to the pod-world, while long-time podcast geeks will like “Reply All” and “Anna Faris Is Unqualified.”
You can listen to an episode or two without getting the wake-up effect of the screen. And then, when you’re ready to sleep, turn on an episode of “Sleep With Me,” where the podcast host deliberately uses his most monotone voice to drone on about assorted randomness until you fall asleep. It’s rarely failed us.
6. Bring a breakfast snack
You might not get a meal on a red-eye flight if you’re not flying between continents. You might not even get pretzels, depending on your airline. But our favorite food plan for a red-eye is to bring a late-night snack and breakfast onto the plane with us.
Packing a breakfast food will help remind your body what time it is after being jolted off your normal internal clock that signals waking time and sleeping time in the comfort of your own bed. Eating breakfast before disembarking sets you up well for the day (because we all know it’s the most important meal).