If you have a hard time sleeping on airplanes, you're not the only one. I have a 14-hour flight tomorrow, and I'm already anxious about arriving at my destination sleep-deprived because I have never been able to sleep on a plane. Same? This trick to falling asleep on a plane might turn your awake-all-night long-haul flight into a snooze fest, and I am totally going to try it. From taking medication to staying up all night before your flight, there's a ton of advice about how to sleep on a plane. But for most of us, packing essential oils or medication is easier said than done.
Instead, this one trick can be accomplished even if your melatonin is trapped in the overhead bin. (Just maybe don't forget your eye mask and noise-canceling headphones for your best shot at success.) As it turns out, the trick to sleeping soundly on a plane is both easy and really good for you, and it's so obvious that it never occurred to me. Using breathing exercises and meditation — the same way you'd do in your bed at home — can help you sleep on the plane, The Sleep Coach's Cheryl Fingleson, a Sydney, Australia, based sleep expert told Honey Travel. Fingleson noted that deep breathing is important because most people have more travel anxiety than they realize, and breathing can help calm down your nervous system and make you more likely to fall sleep. "Inhale to allow your lungs to fill completely, briefly pause, and exhale fully, pausing before your next breath begins," she explained. "Repeat this breathing until you feel yourself relax."
She also suggests downloading a meditation app or repeating a mantra in your head while breathing. For example: "Inhale, silently 'I am comfortable.' Exhale slowly 'I am safe.' Inhale saying silently 'I am relaxing.' Exhale slowly 'I am secure.'" Rinse and repeat as often as necessary. If you need a little extra support, there are tons of sleep meditation apps you can use to increase your chances of slipping off to sweet mid-air slumber.
Fingleson recommended the Muse meditation app and headband, which measures your brainwaves to analyze focus, relaxation, and mind-wandering. "Muse offers you a glimpse into your brain's activity while you meditate and offers a completely different way of engaging with your practice as you explore how your brain responds to each session," Muse explained in its FAQs.
Personally, I love to listen to sound and gong baths when I'm anxious and tired, and it almost always helps me fall asleep. However, it never occurred to me to try it on a plane. According Sound Gong Bath, the experience produces alpha and theta brainwaves. Alpha brainwaves are present when you feel relaxed, and theta brainwaves occur during dreaming sleep. The gong bath will initially activate your alpha brainwaves and quickly transfer you to a theta state.
"Theta brainwave frequencies are most often where the gongs will take you," Peter Whitehart of UK-based Sound Gong Bath explained on his website. "You will most likely enter a dreamlike, deep meditative state. Some people might enter the delta brainwave state (deep sleep frequency)." You can download the Gong Bath Meditation Timer app for both iPhone and Android so you're ready for your next flight.
Skeptical? Give it a try before you fly and see how it affects you. You can probably even find an in-person sound bath class near you to see how you like taking an auditory bath. What's more, the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine found that sound or gong baths are especially useful in decreasing tension. And, if meditation is not your jam, sound baths might just be the solution because they require nothing from you. All you have to do is listen. You're probably going to use your earbuds anyway, so why not use them to help you fall asleep?
"The results provide promise for a form of stress reduction that does not require the individual to learn a disciplined form of meditation," the study reported. "In fact, the participant may even fall asleep if desired. At the very least, participants generally express feelings of deep relaxation and inner peace following the sound meditation." I am absolutely going to try this tomorrow, and I'm hope that it will end my mid-air insomnia once and for all. Stay tuned.