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Tackling Travel's Biggest Challenge: Sleeping On a Plane

September 12, 2009 at 3:29 PM | by | ()

When I visited Japan a few years back, I was afraid that the 14-hour flight from Newark would leave me so jet-lagged that I'd be a zombie once I arrived in Tokyo, so I did everything in my power to sleep on the plane. It didn't work. I kept my eyes glued shut for hours on end, yet sleep would simply not come. Upon touching down at Narita, I spent the next 48 hours in a daze. If only I had the wisdom of the experts msnbc.com called on for an interesting article on how to sleep on an airplane.

Travel writer Peter Greenberg, for example, eschews food and booze and has spent years convincing his body that it's possible to be comfortable in the middle seat. And a Denver neurologist named Dr. Ronald Kramer suggested taking a sleeping pill like Ambien, as long as you know ahead of time how you'll react to it. This last part is key, as a friend of mine once popped an Ambien at the gate, only to find out that her flight was delayed. She opened her eyes hours later to find herself lying on the floor, surrounded by airport security personnel and medical people who had been called to attend to the girl who couldn't be woken up. Dr. Kamran Rabbani isn't so strict about the booze, suggesting that a glass of red wine might be just the thing to take the edge off and catch some Z's. Just don't get too hammered, or you'll have an awfully rough landing.

Of course, the best way to sleep comfortably on an airplane is to be rich or upgradable enough to fly first or business class. Those lay-flat beds sure beat laying your head on the tray table.

[Photo: gonomad.com]

Related Stories
· How to Catch Some Shut-Eye at 35,000 Feet [msnbc.com]
· Sleeping [Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

Agree about Ambien!

I definitely agree that it's wise to be careful when taking Ambien while flying (I actually just wrote a blog post about this). I was traveling with someone who took it on a plane and woke up a few hours later hallucinating. I've taken it for insomnia and done things like written bizarre emails and not remembered it (until people wrote back confused). I took it on a plane once or twice but only because I was with someone I really trusted. If you're going to take anything, I think it's better to take something more mild like Rozerem (which is just like more intense melatonin) or Sonata, which is short-lasting.