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Sleeping on the plane?

I'm considering taking a pill to help sleep on the flight over. (We leave at 6:30 PM and arrive 6:30 the next morning) Just curious if any of you ever do this and your recommendation.

Posted by
3789 posts

Your profile doesn't have a location. Your time indicators don't provide the number of time zones. for RX sleeping pills, discuss with your doctor. Most require at least 6 hours potential sleep time. Some may use melatonin. I have used both..but not together. It does help me.

Posted by
684 posts

I thought of doing so years ago then started seeing "Ambien zombie" stories on the internet. Nephew took too much melatonin on a long haul and woke up having a nightmare. I'm sure some people take a pill with no problems but since I don't normally take anything stronger than a 10 mg melatonin or an over the counter sleep aid, thats all I've ever done.

If you have a prescription and know how you're likely to react - go for it.

I use my sleepyfeet foot rest and a good neck pillow to get comfortable then watch a boring movie with noise canceling headphones. Can usually get a couple of hours that way.

Posted by
6567 posts

There are many frequent flyers that take pills to sleep on airplanes.
Ambien is the most common prescription, and it only works on me for a couple of hours before quickly wearing off.. Melatonin is also a very popular substance for sleep in a gummy form, and it's all natural.
I have sleep apnea and can sometimes snore loudly when asleep. Therefore I try to stay awake on flights. I'm used to staying up late at night anyway, so I have no sleeping problems on airplanes.

Posted by
69 posts

We will be flying from Detroit to London.

I sometimes take 5 mg of Melatonin at home, so that is what I was considering taking on the flight

Posted by
684 posts

I had been taking 5mg melatonin and a Zyrtec but was still having sleep issues at home. PCM said up to 10 mg was safe so I found a timed release version at Target that seems to do better.

Since I seldom sleep much on planes I make an effort to get out in the daylight walking around at my destination and not take more than a short nap then get out and about again. You'll want to take melatonin again for at least the next couple of nights til your body adjusts.

Posted by
2785 posts

I take a tylenol PM several hours before I want to sleep so it will have worn off by the time I get up.

Posted by
324 posts

This may not be of much help, but I finally just stopped trying to sleep on planes. It was too stressful, and that relaxed me enough that I was able to let myself nod off.
Maybe just sitting with your eyes closed and earplugs in might help. Medication just leaves me groggy.

Posted by
12326 posts

Hi,

When I fly over, I never get to land so early,. When I land, it's usually between 9:30 and 10 am; in Paris or Frankfurt between 10:00 to 10:30 am. I take a non-stop flight from SFO or OAK lasting ca 11 hours. I fly out between 3-4 pm.

The key is to sleep on the plane, which is no problem with no pills at all. I never take any OTC or prescription pills to induce sleeping on the plane or after arrival.

I would not advise taking any sort pills.

Posted by
7473 posts

DTW-LHR is 7.5 hrs flight time. If you catch a tail wind a bit less.

You are likely to be awakened about an hour before landing to make landing prep.

If you choose to have a beverage service after take off or before landing , or both you have maybe 4 hrs of sleep time.

Can you take your melatonin at the 'right' time, so you can sleep the magical middle hours of the flight and arrive awake and alert?

I think dozing as best you can ( unmedicated) on the flight may be the best option.

Posted by
503 posts

Take Ambien CR every time I fly on an overnight flight, otherwise I'm a mess when I arrive.

Posted by
1938 posts

We've relied on Ambien since our days as professional business travelers many years ago.
Just used it again on our flight from Denver to London and my wife and I each managed to sleep for about 6.5 of the 9 hour flight.
We recommend it highly, but do check with your doctor (it'll require a prescription anyway) and try it once at home to ensure that you aren't one of the 1% that may have a bad reaction to it.

Posted by
4866 posts

I have been advised not to take melatonin. Apparently, if you take it, your body stops producing it creating more problems for sleep in the future.

I never sleep very well on flights, since we always fly in tourist. I have never taken ambien. That is my choice, just talk to your physician.

Posted by
897 posts

I have tried various sleep aids on the way to Europe and none of them have helped me. The only time I’ve been able to sleep was the time we got upgraded to first class back in 2006. Now no one gets upgraded anymore and I can’t afford to pay for first class, haha! Our strategy the next time we go is to take the day flight to London and see how we like it. There are day flights from Boston and JFK.

Posted by
3789 posts

Melatonin generally only lasts for about 5 hours, so should work, but whether to up to 10mg needs some trial at home. Plan to forego beverage service. Take it right before boarding, add earplugs and mask and focucs on sleep. This is assuming you have a seat arrangement that doesn't require getting up for another person. If that is the set up, then things need to be delayed a bit. Ensure seatbelt is visible for the flight attendant and even let them known you do not wish to be disturbed.
Last flight, Toronto to London, was my shortest scheduled flight. I did as described except the let them know you do not want to be desturbed part. I was not amused, however, when I was asleep and woman beside me poked me to let me know they were serving dinner. She soon got the message to leave me be.

Posted by
16 posts

As mentioned, we found it a great to fly from the East Coast early in the morning, arriving in London early evening. Wander, go to sleep after dinner, wake up when the locals do--refreshed! But only a few carriers offer this.

Posted by
4697 posts

I've tried various OTC pills and they don't seem to help much. Melatonin is probably the safest and least likely to leave you groggy. I've never heard the idea that taking it makes you stop producing it, but if true that wouldn't apply to a single dose.

Some people say not to drink alcohol, I'd say a glass of wine could be helpful (unless you don't drink at all). It may dehydrate you but you can bring some water along. There are as many recipes for sleep-on-plane as there are passengers. Arriving at 6:30 AM without much sleep gives you a long jet-lagged day to get through, but do your best to stay active and awake as long as you can, at least till after dinner.

Posted by
1682 posts

Whatever you do try the sleeping pill first to see how it affects you. Rick Steves, myself, and many others do just fine with an Ambien or half an ambien, and others don't.

Other than that stay well hydrated and limit or forego alcohol. Assume you will sleep little or not much at all, and if you do get a couple or more hours, then congratulations!

Posted by
12326 posts

"...forego the alcohol." That depends, normally I do that on a flight, mainly due its cost, but if the flight offers red wine and it's French and free, I do not forego this treat, and take some with the dinner, plus a cup of coffee afterwards. Then it's time to sleep.

I would much rather arrive at 6:30 am than close to 11 am or later.

Posted by
600 posts

I take a benadryl sometimes, and that does seem to help a bit. But like someone else mentioned, I mostly just stopped trying to sleep on the plane because I could never get comfortable and it stressed me out more. Now that I'm not trying to, I'll often fall asleep during a movie. I have worked both night and day shifts, so I am kind of used to skipping a night of sleep here and there, and while I am awfully groggy the first afternoon, I sleep well my first night in Europe and wake up the next day pretty ok.

Posted by
3173 posts

We will be flying from Detroit to London. I sometimes take 5 mg of
Melatonin at home, so that is what I was considering taking on the
flight.

My one concern is that you've never taken the 5 mg of Melatonin at 35,000 feet. You may find yourself sick. Ask your GP about this and see if he/she advises you take the Melatonin.

Posted by
1938 posts

Another note regarding Ambien: we've found that it's helpful not only for sleeping on the plane but also for acclimating to new sleep schedules once we're at our destination ... Europe in this case. The 8 hour time difference between Colorado and Italy is normally an issue for us - with bedtime of 10 PM being only 2 PM body time - but using Ambien for the first night or two to sort of force us onto the new schedule seems to resolve all that and settle us back in to a normal schedule pretty quickly. That's what we've done on our current trip (arrived in Pisa on the 13th) and it's worked fine. Might help you to ease the transition too.
Might add that we've used Ambien for about 15 years on our travels and have never had an issue with it. No drug hangover like we used to get from using the various OTC medications but rather about 6 hours of quality sleep, then waking alert and ready to hit the road running at our destination.

Posted by
31289 posts

In my case, I never take sleeping pills on flights. One reason is that I like to enjoy the experience, since I don't get to fly often, and that includes "enjoying" the airline food and watching a few movies. More importantly I prefer to be alert during flights in case any emergencies occur (I've had to assist with a couple of those). Those who sleep and leave their seat belts unfastened could get an unpleasant (and possibly painful) surprise!

I try to nap a bit during flights and that takes the edge off. I'm usually quite tired on arrival day but a short power nap takes care of that. I tend to adjust fairly quickly on the trip to Europe, but it takes longer to adjust after arriving home.

Posted by
4866 posts

Fred,
perhaps you can drink coffee after a meal and go to sleep, but I would be too wired to sleep, even if it was decaf.

Posted by
2157 posts

If I want to sleep undisturbed I would book a window seat, otherwise I’m pestered by seatmates wanting out and bumped by people in the aisle. I take melatonin regularly but also decided I want to arrive fresh & relatively perky, able to hit the ground running as it were, so I just hope for a couple of hours and that’s worked for me. Last Sept I arrived in London at 8 am and was able to visit the V&A and the Tower before collapsing in a heap around 7 pm. No sleep on the flight as it was incredibly chilly.

Posted by
2785 posts

Ken, thanks for making me laugh. Your desire to "enjoy the flight" is a reminder that no two people are alike. I guess I'm spoiled but I don't even consider a flight in business class to be "enjoyable"-it's still 8 hours confined in a metal tube, although I will admit that the meals in business class are good.

Posted by
1398 posts

Also: remember if you sleep too long on a flight, that means you are not moving your legs and preventing blood clots.
Try to nap for only a couple of hours at a time, and then get up and move around regularly.
A long flight is only one night's bad sleep....then you're on vacation! :)

Posted by
6714 posts

I just let myself sleep naturally when it's time to sleep, no pills of any kind and no alcohol (because it actually prevents me from sleeping). If you choose to experiment for the first time on a flight, you may find some unexpected side-effects that could exacerbate jetlag.

Posted by
12326 posts

@ geo...If it's Br Air then I take a cup of tea or two after the meal. If it's United or Lufthansa, then I take a cup of coffee (regular) unless none happens to be available at the moment, then it's decaf. Regardless, I'll sleep anyway.

True, not all airline food in Economy is equal on the average.

Posted by
106 posts

Nobody mentioned going to bed earlier in the nights preceding your flight. I have found this to be the best method. About a week before departure start going to bed and getting up earlier. Perhaps 30 min a night; 1 hour if your schedule permits it. Sure, you will be rising at 3 am, and going to bed by 7, but every hour that you adjust really does help! I swear by this method, along with lots of fluids (beginning the day before the flight) no naps on arrival day and lots of walking in the daylight.

Posted by
317 posts

I routinely fly out of Detroit to Amsterdam, London and Paris which usually only requires 7.5 hours. It might make more sense to take half of an 10mg Ambien and opt to sleep 4 hours or less. I wouldn't want to go into a long deep sleep on this flight in the main cabin. It would be less risky for your circulation if you were in first class. I would rather save the Ambien for setting a new sleep routine once I arrive. Melatonin triggers headaches for me so it's out.

Posted by
3768 posts

My husband takes a melatonin. I try to be very active the day before a flight and then put on my headphones with calm, soothing jazz. I’m a stomach sleeper, so after using the Trtl pillow (sort of a head support wrap around scarf) I noticed that I really slept instead of the short bursts of napping, so that’s my main method now.

Posted by
31289 posts

cala,

It's nice that you enjoyed my reply. I also don't like being stuck inside a metal tube for 10-12 hours, but it's a means-to-an-end so I tolerate it. I'm always much happier when the flight lands.

Some years I only get the opportunity to take one flight to Europe so I do enjoy it, despite the hassles of flying these days. I always meet some interesting people, get a chance to watch a few movies that I haven't seen and eat some meals that I didn't have to cook. I've only been able to fly business class once in my life, and that was only because someone else was paying for the upgrade. Over the last few years I've been paying for Premium Economy and that's almost as nice. Given my current budget, I may have to start using Economy class again.

Posted by
7 posts

On my trip last October, I took the Delta flight departing DTW around 6 PM, and arrive LHR around 6 AM, so I can tell you what I did.

Immediately after takeoff, I took the recommended dose of diphenhydramine (which I think is Tylenol PM without the Tylenol and the old type of OTC allergy medication). I drank a carton of milk with dinner, talked to the flight attendant working my section, and afterwards got myself as comfortable as possible with my blanket, pillow, eye mask, and earphones. I booked a window seat, and no one was sitting next to me.

I slept (more or less), and I was rested enough to function the first day. I worked the night shift frequently, so in this respect I had an advantage.

Posted by
95 posts

No one has mentioned motion sickness pills, so I want to share my experience. I normally try to avoid motion sickness and therefore take one or two pills of Dramamine 1/2 hr. before flight. I find that by the time I am in my seat I already feel drowsy. Most times I have fallen asleep with Dramamine. So, was advised to take the non drowsy Bonine. My latest flight in May I took Bonine and found that I still felt drowsy and slept most of my way from DTW to LHR. But, was still able to wake up to walk around for restroom stops. So, for me, motion sickness pills work doubly well. No bad side effects.

Posted by
166 posts

Every flight from US to Europe I've taken in the last several years, I've taken Ambien and had good luck with it getting at least 3 or 4 hrs of sleep. But I have been lucky enough to fly Business class. However, if you are sitting in Coach vs Business Class, may not make any difference, as the seats are so close and uncomfortable, and so many more people getting up and knocking seats when they do, may not be worth it to you. I always fly into Amsterdam non stop (8 hrs), and luckily has worked for me. But I get where you are coming from. You don't want to start your trip exhausted and out of sync with the 6 hr time difference. I would suggest a week before your flight, getting your body used to UK time. That should help a bit

Posted by
317 posts

I've discovered that Unisom's doxylamine works much better for me than Benadryl's diphenhydramine. Benadryl seems to put me in a never never land that's between sleep and awareness - it's not really sleep but unable to function. I have some friends who are unable to handle Ambien including one who must hide his car keys before sleep.

Posted by
556 posts

An eye mask and neck roll / pillow is key. And hopefully passengers will keep their window shades closed as you approach London.