13 Hacks To Make A Red-Eye Flight A Little Less Miserable

by Natalia Lusinski
Tired blonde casual caucasian woman sleeping on seat while traveling by airplane on long distance tr...

While the idea of taking an overnight flight may be appealing — you can save time and money by spending the night in the sky and arriving at your destination early the next morning — it’s not for everybody. However, there are ways to make a red-eye flight better and more manageable. So if you’re the type of person who’s not a fan of them — maybe you’ve never been able to sleep on a red-eye — you may just become a convert.

“The most dreaded flight for some travelers is a red-eye one,” Suzette Brathwaite, who’s been a flight attendant with a major airline for four years, tells Bustle. “But for travelers who can power through them, there is hope.” She says there are several ways to make the experience less daunting.

“The important thing is comfort. … Even if you only sleep for two hours, it’s important that you sleep," Brathwaite says. "There’s nothing more disorienting than getting off an airplane first thing in the morning and needing to function, but only thinking of needing to sleep.”

That said, red-eyes don’t have to be unpleasant experiences. By following some tricks that travel pros abide by, you, too, can master a red-eye flight.


Wear Comfortable Clothes


Although it may seem like a given, dressing comfortably is essential to having a good red-eye experience. “Comfortable clothes are an absolute must, whether it’s sweatpants, leggings, or joggers, so make sure you’re wearing something soft and cozy,” Samantha Rosen, editor at The Points Guy, tells Bustle. “If you need to run to a meeting right after you land, pack what you need in your carry-on so you can get some well-deserved shut-eye during the flight.”


Bring Along Sleep Accessories, Like A Blanket

Rosen says that an important thing to do when you take a red-eye is to BYOA (Bring Your Own Accessories). “I won’t travel anywhere without a pillow, blanket, eye mask, and even a foot sling so I can elevate my feet,” she says. “Being prepared will make you feel more relaxed and ‘at home’ as much as humanly possible.”


Have A Good Eye Mask

John E. DiScala, founder of travel site, tells Bustle that making sure you have the right eye mask — not just any one — is important. “An eye mask helps travelers create an ideal sleeping environment by blocking out all the light,” he says. “Instead of using the cheap, scratchy eye masks that the airlines sometimes pass out on long flights, I bring my own fluffy one (my favorite one is made by Lewis N. Clark). I might look silly in it, but it feels so good and does the trick.” He also says that booking a window seat and using earplugs help, too.


Bring Noise-Cancelling Headphones


Brathwaite says that if you have noise-cancelling headphones, don’t forget to bring them along. “Also, don’t blast your music,” she says. “Even if wearing headphones, your neighbors can still sometimes hear your music. They may want to sleep, too.” If you don’t have noise-cancelling headphones, Brathwaite says you can always ask a flight attendant for earplugs.


Try To Get A Seat With More Leg Room Or Get An Upgrade

Brathwaite says even if it will cost you, it might be worth it to upgrade your seat. “Sometimes, it’s worth the extra money to upgrade to more legroom, especially if you’re tall,” she says.

Travel Channel’s Oneika Raymond, host of Big City, Little Budget and One Bag And You’re Out, tells Bustle that she uses to choose the best seat ahead of time. “You can also use status and/or miles to upgrade to the most comfortable seat,” she says.


Choose The Window Seat


Courtnie Nichols, founder of TravelBash, a boutique travel company, tells Bustle that the seat you have can make a big difference when it comes to your red-eye flight experience. “I am always telling my clients that the best red-eyes are those late-night flights back to your destination — because most of the time you will just go straight to sleep and wake up and be ready to go,” she says. “With that said, I love the window seat — preferably, the bulkhead or exit row.”

She says that when flying late at night, the worst thing is if someone were to come bump into you while walking through the aisle. “If you are in the window seat, you are out of the way and won’t be bothered,” she says.


Don’t Sleep Too Long Before Your Flight

Saurabh Jindal, CEO of TalkTravel app, tells Bustle that it’s important to be tired for your red-eye flight. “Do not sleep for a long time before your flight,” he says. “This will help you sleep on the flight.”


Bring Your Favorite Pre-Sleep Food Along

Experts suggest eating before your flight, or bringing food along with you, so you don't have to wait around for in-flight service and miss out on sleep time.

“Make sure you eat or bring food and snacks,” Brathwaite says. “Sometimes on red-eyes there is limited food.”


Don’t Drink Alcohol


You may think a glass of wine may help you sleep, but the truth is, alcohol often disrupts sleep. “Avoid alcohol and drink a lot of water,” Rosen says. “Alcohol can make you warm, dizzy, and uncomfortable, especially while flying, so you’ll definitely want to avoid it during a red-eye. Instead, drink a lot of water before you board so that you’re well-hydrated, and can hit the hay once you’re all settled.”


Take A Natural Sleep Aid, Like Valerian Root Or Melatonin

If you don’t want to take a prescribed sleep aid, you can always try a natural supplement. “If all else fails, there’s always melatonin, which is a natural supplement that can help you fall asleep,” Rosen says.


Buckle Your Seatbelt Over Your Blanket So No One Wakes You Up

During your flight, there are times that the cabin crew will walk around and make sure everyone has their seatbelt fastened, whether they’re sleeping or not. To prevent being awakened, make sure you’re prepared. “Before you attempt to get some shut-eye, don’t forget to buckle your seatbelt over your blanket, scarf, jacket, or shawl,” Krista Canfield McNish, founder of FoodWaterShoes, a lifestyle and travel blog, tells Bustle.


Avoid Connecting Flights

After a red-eye, all you want to do is probably find your lodging and take a nap. In any case, Canfield McNish says to avoid connecting flights after a red-eye. “The only thing worse than feeling like a zombie after an overnight flight is feeling like a zombie twice because you have to wake up and catch another flight before you land at your destination,” she says.


Freshen Up Right When You Land


Canfield McNish recommends having wet wipes or towelettes on hand. “If you’re going to have to head straight into a meeting or know you won’t be able to check into your hotel until the afternoon, they’re a great way to try and feel a bit more refreshed before you tackle your day,” she says.

Even though taking a red-eye flight may not be ideal, once you master it, it may become your new preferred flight time. And it definitely has its pluses, like maximizing your time in the air, as well as maximizing your time on the ground to explore your travel destination.


Suzette Brathwaite, flight attendant

Samantha Rosen, editor at The Points Guy

John E. DiScala, founder of

Oneika Raymond, host of Travel Channel’s Big City, Little Budget and One Bag And You’re Out

Courtnie Nichols, founder of TravelBash

Saurabh Jindal, CEO of TalkTravel

Krista Canfield McNish, founder of FoodWaterShoes