Sleeping like a horse and other red-eye flight tips

Last month I took quite a few red eye flights and I have to say I am getting much better at it.  I used to always have a few days of messed up sleeping patterns and low-energy after my flight.  The last red-eye flight I took was a week ago, and it went very well.  I actually did not need any recovery time to get back into shape and start functioning business as usual.  Here is how I did it:

  • Before the trip, don’t dwell too much on it.  Don’t make a big deal out of missing out on sleep.  A day without sleep is not that big of a deal.  You will get over it.  This mentality is key.  Because the worry of the red-eye flight and its effect adds up to the stress of the experience.  A Double Dhuka some call it; where you are stressed over being stressed.  So, tell yourself that this is a “piece of cake” and that you will get through it no problem.


  • Also before the trip, make sure you check in online as early as possible, so you can get an exit row seat for more leg space.  Or get a window seat so you can rest your head on the side of the plane. If you are flying first class, online check in is also helpful as it reduces the time you have to spend at the airport, queueing, which takes a toll on your legs and muscles.

They say horses sleep while standing.  So do humans on red-eyes…

  • During the trip, take a lot of short naps, as many as you are able to.  I always thought I would never sleep on planes or without proper sleep gear and a decent bed.  You need to get over that and be ready to adapt.  So, take every opportunity you get to take a short nap, even if it is one minute long.  Also, accept that a nap does not have to be perfect.  Meaning, it might be noisy around you, you might not actually sleep, etc.  Regardless.  Do it.  They say horses sleep while standing.  So do humans on red-eyes.  Take every opportunity to close your eyes and pretend you are sleeping.

For example, during my last trip, I took naps: on the Uber to the airport, at the lounge, on the plane, and even in the queue at passport control.  I was napping standing up! In line!  Remember this helps your body relax a bit, and loosen up your muscles a bit, even if actual sleep does not really happen.

  • On the plane, take the window seat.  Unless you take many nature calls (to the bathroom).  Then you have to settle for the aisle seat.   But if you can go through the flight without having to move, take a window seat, grab a couple of pillows and rest your head on the side of the plane and sleep.  This is much easier if you are traveling first class of course.  Also, if the seat next to you is empty take advantage of that, lucky you!  Personally, I move every five minutes or so into a different resting position in my seat.  Leaning on the seat in front of me, resting my head on the tray, and resting my head in the palm of my hand.

Don’t do anything out of the ordinary…

  • When you arrive, to your destination, there are a few things you can do.  If you arrive at a time when sleeping is not possible, then get into the gym and do some exercise.  Yes exercise!  It will help your body adapt.  Don’t do anything out of the ordinary.  You do not want to pull a muscle.  It will help you adapt faster and get over jet lag.  If you arrive at a timewhere you can still sleep for a few hours do it.  Do not over do it though!

For example, on my last trip, I arrived at my hotel room at 5 am.  I left home at 10 pm the previous night.  So I went to bed and slept till 9:30 am. I could have slept until 11 am before I had to leave, but I decided to wake up at 9:30 am  so I do not mess up my sleeping pattern for future nights.

I try to avoid red-eyes but sometimes you cannot.  So if you do end up on one, try these tricks and tell me how it goes. Safe travels!



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