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Sleeping on overnight flights!!

Does anyone have suggestions for sleeping on long red-eye flights to Europe...from the West Coast USA? My last trip was so miserable I swore never to travel again. BUT...it's off to Italy in 2008!! I can't sleep sitting up anywhere, and have restless legs on the plan. A friend suggested doctor-prescribed sleeping pills, but I don't want to be in a medicated daze when I arrive. I really need some help, here!

Posted by
9363 posts

Over the counter melatonin works for me. It's not a drug, just a substance that the body naturally produces when it's time to sleep, so there is no "hangover" effect.

Posted by
3580 posts

I'd like to hear from flight personnel on this one. I take sleeping medication except when flying. I don't know if I could respond to an emergency if I take my usual sleeping pill while flying. Do you flight attendants have an opinion on sleep-medication for flight passengers?

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you for your responses...our first flight is from PDX to Amsterdam, so that would be a good number of hours for a medication with an appropriate half-life, I think.

I'd love to hear more suggestions, too!

Posted by
61 posts

I have a terrible time sleeping, even in my own bed under the best circumstances. I was concerned about our West Coast flight, two years ago when we flew Sacramento to Frankfurt. We had to change planes in Huston, TX then also in Newark, NJ, then on to Germany. It was a very long day! I had people tell me about Ambien. I asked my DR. and he Rx it for me. I took it in Newark before our overnight flight. Unfortunately, I was so hyped up and excited, I still couldn't sleep! It made me feel drugged, but I was so tired too, from the long flights. But, now I do take Ambien at home, and it helps me a lot when I have trouble sleeping. My plan for our next trip is to take a stronger dose. I don't ever feel drugged in the morning at home, so I think I was just so exhausted from flying (getting up early before our flight) that didn't feel well. I also hope to leave out of SF later in the afternoon with a direct flight. That way I hope I'll be somewhat rested when I begin the trip.

Posted by
11450 posts

I take something from doctor, and frankly, it is not that strong, so if we were about to crash, I think I'd be alert enough to scream like everyone else.
I fly from west coast too, and after ten hours you should have it cleared out of your system ,, unless you are taking too much, or too heavey of a drug. There are ones that are light, and only have short lives .
If you just want to try something over the counter , try gravol regular, you will be fine as that stuff only lasts 4-6 hours( don't get the eight hour stuff, duh) . Just take a little bit, try it at home BEFORE your trip to see how you react.
I also did this with presciption stuff, took it a few times before trip to see how I reacted.

I also like Melatonin, you can get in anywhere, health food stores, vitimin shops, even our Safeways sell it. Doctor recommended it for my child who has trouble sleeping. It does NOT sedate, it will only trigger you to feel sleepy and fall asleep, but it will not KEEP you asleep.

Posted by
11450 posts

There are meds special for restless legs, talk to your doctor.

Ps. If airlines are concerned about pax. ability to respond in emergencys why in heavens name do they serve BOOZE. I hate that.I have seen pax. take more then one or two drinks too, and the airline staff gave it to them,, I think by the time they " refuse service" it is a bit to late for some of the drunks.

Posted by
705 posts

I have real trouble sleeping on planes too. For me it's the combination of the drone and not being able to get comfortable in the seat. Flights to Europe or US for us are generally 22 - 24 hours flying, so after the main meal (no alcohol) I put the seat back and listen to some music and basically try to relax. I generally doze but not that good restful sleep. 5 hours has been my record so far. With sleeping pills do talk to you doctor and get one with a short half life. There are some really good ones around now. As for restless legs tablets with Vitamin K are the suggested thing. There was a product here called Paroven from the pharmacy that was the accepted treatment. Don't know if it is still available.

Posted by
1167 posts

I have found that noise cancelling headsets help a lot. Even though I may not sleep much better I find that I am less fatigued. I agree with the previous post that the unrelenting engine noise is very tiring.

Posted by
1352 posts

I just want to emphasize how important it is to try out whatever you decide to take before you leave home, whether its melatonin, ambien or over the counter sleep medication. Everyone reacts differently to these medications and you don't want to find out on your trip how your body will react!

Posted by
800 posts

Jennie-the prescription sleeping aids such as Ambien are not necessarily the "knock you out" sleeping pills of the past. For my husband this is the ONLY thing that helps him get a few hours of sleep on the plane. He is able to wake up and go to the bathroom or move around if necessary but it helps him to fall back asleep quicky. You DO have to try this out ahead of time - maybe a few times - to be sure you don't have any problems with it and so you feel comfortable taking it. You will have people tell you "horror stories" about how it makes you feel but you will only know if you try it out first, safely at home. For us it has made all the difference in our enjoyment of our overseas trips!

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you all for your excellent advice. I so enjoy the international aspect of this group!

Thank you. I am going to try out your suggestions, and hopefully this trip will be much better than the last!

Posted by
7205 posts

Dramamine always works for me. I may be a little groggy when landing, but at least it's because I've been in a deep sleep...not because I've been SLEEPLESS for the past 12 hours.

Posted by
842 posts

I usually can't sleep when I'm on the plane during our west coast flights to Europe, so I just got into the habit of not worrying about it. I don't want to take drugs, but I do use earplugs and cover my eyes, and then I only can sleep a short time.

I found that the lack of sleep does not bother me: the jet lag was the problem! I don't have a problem with jet lag any more since I cut out the caffiene the day before, the day of, and three days after my flight. Almost the same thing for the booze; none before, or during, but if I stay up until 9 PM on the day we arrive, I can have some wine. Then I sleep like a baby on that 1st nite, and wake up refreshed and ready to go.

After I determined that it was the jet lag that was the reason I did not feel good, I quit worring about trying to sleep on the plane. Now I do everything possible to minimize the JL. I also grab 15-20 minute power naps on the 1st couple of days after we arrive at our destination. This also minimizes any jet lag that I may have remaining.

Posted by
1556 posts

Great advice so far! My most recent long haul flight was to Italy (PDX to Frankfurt, then to Milan). I didn't sleep much on the plane, but I avoided jet lag by easing myself into East Coast time (three hours earlier) over the two weeks prior to departure. That combined with avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and the in-flight movies. Loading up on water also seemed to make a difference (dehydration makes you rummy). I've also heard "No Jet Lag" tablets (homeopathic) work well, but I haven't tried them.

Posted by
1717 posts

Hello Jennie. You said you can NOT sleep sitting up.
Therefore, I can think of three options for you to choose from. All of these are expensive. (1)For the flight across the Atlantic ocean buy airline tickets for business class or First class, to be on a wide seat that can fully become horizontal, with a drapery around you for privacy. (But not all people would get a good night's sleep there). (2). For your flight across the Atlantic Ocean : go on a daytime flight. Sleep at night in hotels. (if your sleeping is usually at night). The most desireable daytime flight that I know of is British Airways from Dulles airport of Washington D.C. (in Virginia) to London Heathrow airport of London. It leaves Dulles airport in the morning, and arrives at London Heathrow in the early evening. Sleep in a hotel at London for two nights, to have a good sleep, and getting adjusted to the different time zone, before flying from London to Italy. Sleep near Dulles airport both directions.

Posted by
1717 posts

..... Option (3): Fly to New York City (in the day time),sleep in a hotel at New York one night, and ride on an ocean liner ship across the Atlantic Ocean (to England ?), and fly the last leg of the trip to ITALY. I have not done that, but I think it could be a good experience (during good weather), and I was told that the total expenses for doing that could be lower than the price for flying business class at night to ITALY.

Posted by
11798 posts

My techniques for getting a good "night's" sleep on international flights are:

I adjust my schedule ahead of time. I go to bed and get up earlier than normal to get closer to my Europe schedule. I also plan my sleep so I will be tired enough to want six plus hours of sleep.

I book a flight that arrives in the morning so I'm waking up in Europe after a night's sleep and ready to go.

I change my watch to destination local time when I board and think only in Europe time from that point on ("It's 9 pm in Frankfurt, I should get some sleep")

I take one Excedrin PM to help me get some sleep.

I like the blindfolds British Airways gives you. I bring earplugs but an IPod or noise reducing headphones are better.

My wife needs a pillow and blanket to sleep. If that's you, plan ahead. Either bring a travel pillow and blanket or get them as you board.

I wear comfortable clothes in layers and take my shoes off.

I eat only a little and ignore the in-flight movie option.

Posted by
964 posts

I've made the journey across 'the Pond' many times, and since I got some noise cancellation headphones i experience much less jet lag. I also feel better on the flight. They were expensive but worth every penny.

Posted by
3 posts

myself, i can sleep anywhere, anytime, probably since i've been flyin all over since I was 1, but my mom has trouble. She usually orders a glass of wine when she sits down, and even before takeoff I think. It helps her relax and fall asleep. Also, we usually bring a bit more comfortable pillow and blanket, which helps

Posted by
808 posts

Response for Swan who wanted to hear from "Flight Personnel", and others...
I'm an Incharge Flight Attendant so I guess I'll qualify...
My postion on sedative medication is clear...
Chemical sedation should only be used in extreme cases of Phobia. Many Doctors will prescribe sedatives on demand, which is fine under certain circumstances. The problem arises when sedatives are abused and dosage instructions not followed. The combination of alcohol further impairs judgement. Often the two are used in combination. I see it all the time. It especially troubles me b/c the primary role of F/A is Passenger Safety and Security.

Sedatives will impair your judgement, reflexes and ability to react and preform in an evacuation/emergency.
I'm EMS as well so I've seen what alcohol and sedatives combination can do. Not fun at 37,000ft...

Posted by
808 posts

Perhaps Jennie suffers from "RLS" or "Restless Leg Syndrome".
See your Doctor and he or she may be able to prescribe something non-sedating for that.

Jennie didn't mention a fear of flying so I assume that the use of sedatives were not for that fear. Sleeping on a plane is a challenge even at the best of times. Sorry we can't do much about that.

As for the "over-serving" of alcohol on board...It happens but it clearly should not. Good Crew monitor consumption for safety reasons. This MUST be a team effort. Sneaky Pax ask F/A's from another position for additional drinks. In a hurry some just serve. It's a problem, especially among Juniors...We are supposed to stick to our positions ONLY. S/ts another Pax will ask for a drink and then give it to the Pax who was cut off. That's a problem, too.

It is sold on board b/c it sells and sells profitably. A "dry cabin" wouldn't go over too well. Although, from a safety perspective, it would make perfect sense to me. Our jobs would be much easier without it to compromise safety. Nobody likes having a drunk passenger breathing down your neck or copping a feel in the aisle when your back is turned. If a Pax becomes impaired, the F/A's are responsible. I will not tolerate this this lack of professionalism from my Crew...

Posted by
7 posts

I am reading every word!

I LOVE flying, and have no fear unless turbulence seems out of control!

But I abhor being dead tired and unable to sleep.

I get terrible cranky!!

Thank you all again...this is so unexpectedly valuable.

Jennie

Posted by
1313 posts

I used the No Jet Lag pills on my recent flight from SEA to Rome and worked like a charm. I highly recommend it.

I got about 4 hours of sleep on the way over after changing planes in Newark (all together, not consecutive) using a combination of the No Jet Lag pills, one Tylenol PM, eye mask, earplugs, neck pillow, and blanket. I also got very lucky in not having a seatmate so I was able to stretch out across two seats. Not quite so lucky on the way home, and only got about a hour where I just fell asleep without intending to.

I was tired after both flights, but no jet lag coming or going.