7 Ways Airplanes Are Helping You Get To Sleep

27 January 2017

Catching a few Zs on the plane seems to be the holy grail of long haul travel. With plenty of frequently flyers citing it as a number one challenge of taking to the skies, scores of products have been created in the name of helping passengers fall asleep. But, for those hoping to forego the likes of the Snazzy Napper, some of the world's biggest airlines are rising to the call with innovative sleep-friendly additions ...   

Virgin Atlantic's cabin ambient lighting Virgin Atlantic's mood lighting encourages passengers to drift off naturally

Ambient Lighting

Almost all major carriers feature ambient lighting on long haul flights. If you're not familiar, it's the mood lighting that slowly fades through the flight to mimic the rising and setting of the sun. These days, the lighting systems have gotten so sophisticated that the new Boeing Dreamliners feature lighting specifically designed to control the body's circadian rhythm with multiple settings to illuminate the cabin in shades of purples, pinks and yellows. These new lighting systems also transition from dark to light at a slower pace to be less jarring for waking passengers.

Woman sleeping wearing headphones Forgot your headphones? No problem, many premium cabins have introduced noise cancelling versions

Noise Cancelling Headphones

If you've ever had to suffer through a loud flight, be it engine noise or surrounding passengers, you can appreciate how hard it can be to fall asleep. Airlines such as Virgin Australia have taken note and have started integrating quality noise-cancelling headphones throughout their business, first and even premium economy classes. Pop these babies on to drown out all the atmospheric buzz and listen to something that will help you drift off.  

Virgin Australia's The Business class lie flat seat Lie flat seats were a huge stride forward in passenger comfort and inflight sleep

Lie Flat Seats

Perhaps one of the biggest innovations in cabin comfort is the lie flat seat. Reserved for the pointy end of the plane, these seats can be converted into lie flat beds that allow passengers to stretch out their legs and lay down in a more natural sleeping position. Some airlines have even upped the ante by offering plush bedding such as cushy pillows and designer duvets. Taking it even further still, many (including Qantas) also offer business and first class long haul travellers designer pyjamas to change into for a more restful sleep.  

Foot Rests

If flying in a business or first class lie flat seat is out of the question, you don't necessarily have to miss out on kicking up your feet ... sort of. Airlines such as Air New Zealand have integrated premium economy cabins that feature cushier seats with foot rests. Coupled with increased leg room, these rests fold out from below the seat and allow you to stretch your legs just a little bit more. It can mean all the difference when it comes to falling asleep.   

A flight attendant serving a passenger a drink You choose when you want to eat with some airlines, allowing you to more effectively control your sleep cycle

Dining on Demand

Another addition to the premium cabins of many airlines, this new feature allows passengers to control when their meal service comes. Emirates and Etihad are just two examples of major airlines that have integrated this system. Passengers can choose when they'd like their meal(s) served, which means you can tailor your time on the plane around your sleep schedule. Gone are the days of trying to sleep through meal service or trying to force yourself to stay awake so you don't miss your meal.

While economy cabins are yet to see this added extra, plenty of airlines allow passengers to put a 'do not disturb' sign on their seat and/or entertainment screen so flight attendants know not to disturb sleeping passengers during meal service. Plus, some airlines, including Air New Zealand, allows passengers to order nibbles and drinks through their seatback entertainment system at any time during the flight when seated in premium economy.

The Air New Zealand amenity kit Inflight amenity kits have upped their game in recent years, including integrating some sleep-friendly products

Amenity Kits

Airline amenity kits are getting more and more sophisticated with each passing year. Many now integrate world-class designer skincare products, eye masks and comfy socks. Upping their relaxation game, both Etihad and Virgin Atlantic have added essential oils and aromatherapy sprays in the name of helping passengers get some shuteye. The former airline, known for going the extra mile, provided passengers with Le Labo pulse-point oils and pillow sprays designed to increase relaxation, while Virgin Atlantic's High Altitude spray is infused with eucalyptus and lavender to encourage restfulness. 

A seatback entertainment system Some airlines have started adding sleep-friendly videos to their inflight entertainment systems

Inflight Entertainment

Along with all aspects of inflight services, inflight entertainment systems have been steadily upgraded over the last ten years. It was only a matter of time before someone thought to include 'entertainment' aimed at promoting relaxation and sleep. Virgin Atlantic, Delta and British Airways have all integrated meditation videos that provide short guides on how to relax the mind and body when flying. These new videos are also great if you're a nervous flyer, with snippets dedicated to helping you tame your fears.  

Carlie Tucker

Travelling is for discovering the unexpected. From fantastic meals in ramshackle joints to stumbling upon a best kept secret, I love those fortuitous travel moments that couldn't be planned if I tried.
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