» Blog
» How To Sleep Better On An Airplane: Tips From A Physical Therapist
How To Sleep Better On An Airplane: Tips From A Physical Therapist

How To Sleep Better On An Airplane: Tips From A Physical Therapist

If you’re not among the select few who fly first class and get to sleep horizontally at will, then this article is for you. The truth is, the majority of people fly economy, which means tighter sitting spaces and usually less leg room. Is it possible to seek out a few hours of good sleep in such situations? Have no fear, these tips will get you sleeping comfortably in no time!

Choose your seat wisely

  • Take advantage of the airline’s website while booking your ticket to choose a seat that has more or extra legroom. One website called SeatGuru supplies different airplane specifications when it comes to seating and spacing, so you can make a well-informed decision. Whether you prefer the window or aisle seat, the most important factor is leg space. Having ample leg space allows you to stretch your legs and improve your circulation.

Dress Comfortably

  • You can still dress smart but try to avoid tight or constricting clothing. Constrictive clothing can restrict blood flow and could result in a blood clot. Try to wear clothes that are a breathable fabric and can wick sweat away. Avoid socks that restrict blood flow, and if you are concerned about swelling wear compression socks for the duration of the flight. Dress in layers, i.e. pack a sweater or scarf that you can easily put on or take off as needed.

Pack Comfort Items

  • When it comes to sleeping next to hundreds of strangers, what could be more comforting than an eye mask and earplugs? Better yet, packing some soothing music or white noise to block out the sounds of other passengers and help you get to sleep much quicker.

Do not cross your legs

  • Some of us may be in the habit of crossing our legs, but doing so, especially on a long flight, can constrict blood flow (hello blood clot!), and can potentially result in lower back pain. Keep your knees together and lower legs extended. 

Support your lower back

  • Most long flights come with a small pillow perfect for lumbar support. If your flight doesn’t come with one of these, that’s okay. Take that sweater or blanket you packed, roll it up and place it on the arch of your back. If possible, recline your seat to enter full relaxation mode.

Food and Drink

  • At this point in your flight, the flight attendants are probably taking drink orders. Resist the urge to have alcohol and go with plain old H20. Dehydration has been associated with a higher risk of deep vein thrombosis (blood clots). So, drink up, and don’t worry if that means you have to get up to use the restroom, it’s part of your in-flight exercise plan.

Get up and Stretch

  • Remember all that water you drank? Use your bathroom breaks as a time to walk about the cabin and stretch those legs. You didn’t think you could just turn out the lights without exercising, did you? Here are some common stretches you can do in your seat:
    • Foot pumps: Start with your feet on the floor. Keep the balls of your feet on the floor and lift your heels up. Hold this pose for at least a few seconds. Then place heels on the floor and lift your toes up. Hold for another few seconds. Repeat this stretch each way a few times.
    • Ankle circles: Lift your feet up off the floor. Make circular motions with your toes from the inside out. Do this for a few seconds. Then switch the direction of the circles, and do it for a few more seconds. Repeat both directions a few more times.
    • Leg lifts: Lift your foot off the floor, straighten your leg as much as you can while keeping your ankle bent and toes pointed upwards. Relax your leg and repeat with the other leg. Repeat this a few more times.


Flying isn’t always the most comfortable, but hopefully, with these tips, you’ll not only get some proper rest, but you can rest easy knowing that you won’t get a blood clot in the meantime. Safe travels!