Post image for Knock Yourself Out: How to Sleep on Public Transportation

Knock Yourself Out: How to Sleep on Public Transportation

by Claire on May 10, 2011

Trains, planes and buses may not be the king-sized bed with 300-thread count sheets you prefer, but chances are you’re going to have to spend a night or two sleeping in them.

Such is the life of a traveler.

Traveling overnight can really throw off your schedule if you don’t get some sleep, so in order to savor every minute of your precious vacation time here’s a few tips on how to sleep while you’re getting to your destination:

  • Stay busy during the day. If you are leaving at night, wake up early that day, and don’t take any naps. You want to be tired and ready for sleep once you’re on the train/bus/plane.
  • Exercising during the day can make a world of difference. If you don’t have time for a full-on workout session, then improvise. I usually walk laps around the airports if I have a layover or some time before my plane leaves. Even walking around for 30 minutes can make a big difference. So just stay active. Also try incorporating handstands to your bedtime prep routine. The inversion of heart over head helps with blood circulation leading to an overall calm which helps better ease into sleep.
  • Eat dinner. Not only does most food on airplanes suck, but the airports and bus terminals usually aren’t much better. But at the same time, it can be hard to sleep when you’re starving, so try to eat a (relatively healthy) large meal about an hour or so before you leave.
  • Watch the caffeine. About 4-6 hours before you need to sleep, stop drinking caffeine. While this is a pretty obvious one, it’s sometimes harder than it seems, especially if you work during the day, or had to get up really early to travel in the middle of the night. But do your body a favor, and stick to water. (Hydration is also really important when traveling!)

Water. And lots of it.

  • Be comfortable. You never know if your mode of transportation is going to be really hot, really cold or somewhere in between. The solution: Layer up! I always wear really broken in jeans or leggings, and then layer a few tops, with at least 1 being long-sleeved. That way, you can peel off or cover up as needed.  Shoes are your call, but I usually avoid flip flops, because I can’t sleep when my feet are cold.
  • Invest in a neck pillow.  As much as I feel like a complete dork when I’m carrying my pillow around an airport, I’m always so thankful I brought it.  A neck pillow can make sleeping in a chair a lot more comfortable. And it will help you avoid having to cuddle up against a window, or the stranger next to you.
  • If all else fails, take a sleeping pill. I’ve always been a troubled sleeper, so I am a big fan of sleeping pills to help regulate my sleep/travel schedule. If you have serious insomnia, a doctor can help you get prescription-strength pills. If you just need a quick fix, then head to your local drug store where there are a variety of different aids. Having forgot my sleeping pills en route to Australia, my friend gave me an Advil PM – and I woke up 6 hours later in Sydney. So really, they’re all pretty much the same, just follow the regular dosage. And don’t combine it with alcoholBonus: sleeping aids are a great way to get over jet lag at the beginning or end of a vacation.

What are your tricks for sleeping on buses/trains/airplanes? How do you better ease yourself into time change?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Article by

Claire is a recent college grad turned expat, who is currently teaching English in South Korea. When she's not exploring Korea and writing about it, Claire enjoys fantasizing about future trips, shopping, dancing, and drinking dangerous amounts of caffeine. She plans to move to Buenos Aires in 2012. You can follow her adventures at www.sokogigglygirl.wordpress.com.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Lindsay May 10, 2011 at 11:37 am

There is no way I would have survived my epic flight to Australia without my neck pillow and sleeping aids. I just got annoyed when the flight attendants would wake me up for meal time! Great tips, Claire!

Reply

Claire May 10, 2011 at 11:54 pm

I hate when the flight attendants wake me up too! I generally try to close my eyes and ignore them, so that they will just leave me alone. It usually works :-)

Reply

Megan May 11, 2011 at 1:53 am

Great tips. I actually try not to eat a lot before an overnight trip, because I find it sits in my stomach and makes me feel gross, but that’s usually on buses. I think buses are probably the most difficult mode of transport to spend a night on!

Reply

adventureswithben May 11, 2011 at 5:42 am

I swear by sleeping pills. They are magic!

Reply

Jan Ross May 11, 2011 at 7:40 am

I am traveling so much now, I’m going to have to learn how to sleep on planes. I tried a sleep pillow but it made my neck so hot and forced my head forward, it was worse than nothing. Maybe I’ll give it another shot. I have not tried sleeping pills because I was leery about being that dead asleep, but I guess that’s silly. I’ll give it a try on the next long flight.

Reply

The Travel Chica May 11, 2011 at 7:41 am

I am also the crazy girl walking laps around the airport during my layovers. My favorite airports for this is Atlanta and Miami because they are so huge. Lots of interesting people watching, and you don’t have to walk by the same gates every 5 minutes.

Reply

Krissy May 11, 2011 at 8:41 am

Melatonin is a nice herbal supplement that helps regulate sleep patterns- works wonders!

Reply

Christy @ Ordinary Traveler May 11, 2011 at 10:08 am

@Krissy – Good call on the Melatonin. I just tried that while I was in Nepal and it definitely worked for me. Great tips here!

Reply

Scott - Quirky Travel Guy May 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Good tips… even useful for overnight Amtrak trips (my most frequent reason for overnight travel/sleeping.) Wearing yourself out during the day makes a lot of sense.

Reply

John in France May 11, 2011 at 10:51 pm

Girls sleeping alone on a train – please be really careful here. No problem on a plane, but I’ve heard such terrible stories.

Reply

Megan May 12, 2011 at 2:10 am

I’ve spent many, many nights sleeping on trains alone in North America and across Europe and Asia and have never had a problem (touch wood!). Of course, you need to keep your wits about you and keep your valuables secure. My tip is if it feels like it might be dodgy, pay a bit extra for a higher class :)

If you end up in a compartment full of men and they seem a bit strange, the train attendants will usually be more than happy to move you in with a family or some other women.

Reply

David @ MalaysiaAsia May 12, 2011 at 9:26 am

Great article. When I travel, I sleep easy after an entire day of exploring and even after 2 cups of late night coffee. But when I am at home, I just cannot do it… tried most of the remedies… still searching.

Reply

Christy @ Technosyncratic May 12, 2011 at 10:20 am

Yes to the neck pillow! I have an awful time sleeping anywhere that isn’t in a comfy bed, but when I finally got a neck pillow it was so much easier to sleep sitting upright. Not comfortable by any means, but definitely easier overall. :)

Reply

Emma @ GottaKeepMovin August 12, 2013 at 9:25 am

Definitely agree with the neck pillow! It has to be one of the single most valuable things I’ve ever bought and is now the reason why I can sleep on transport despite being nearly 6ft and definitely not compact. However, my neck pillow is inflatable, so there is always that awkward moment when I have to blow it up and heads turn to see where that odd noise it coming from… I consider it a small price to pay. Sweet post, ladies!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: