1. Wear A Sleep Mask (Even If You Think They Make You Look Like A Huge Nerd)
“Hey, look at the businessman nerd wearing the sleep mask! Ha ha! Yeah! Let’s make fun of him for looking like a nerd! Except wait: he’s asleep …can’t hear our insults and teasing … hm, it seems to be a pretty deep sleep … relaxed face, breathing calmly … probably already in rapid eye movement sleep, probably getting lots of energy right now … energy he could use for doing business … or having fun … maybe windsurfing … and he looks like a newborn babe, tranquil and beautiful … oh crap, I bet he’s having some really awesome dreams right now, too … probably dreaming about baseball … and babes … or maybe dinosaurs! Oh no! I’m jealous as hell at this cool nerd for dreaming about dinosaurs!!”
Congratulations, in-flight bullies, you’ve learned the golden rule: there’s nothing nerdy about getting a good night’s sleep.
2. No Caffeine
Urban legend has it that teenagers love energy and hate sleeping. When I asked a local cluster of teens about this, they spit mouthfuls of caustic energy drink at me, which is Teen for “Myth Confirmed.” Ergo, if you want to sleep on a plane, don’t be a teen: avoid caffeinated beverages for at least 6 hours before the flight.
3. Fly Direct If At All Possible
Sleeping 2.5 hours then 2.5 hours more after waking up DOES NOT EQUAL 5 HOURS OF SLEEP. Sleep math is different than normal math and I’m not a professor but imagine me “being real” and sitting backward on a classroom chair as I explain this to you in grainy ’80s educational footage: you need to sleep at least 4 hours at a time for it to have any meaningful effect. If you try to string together small naps, you will be a mindless golem the next day, incapable of using anything but the simplest buzzwords at your chosen place of employment/education/bodybuilding. If you are already a golem, then go ahead I guess, save $30 bucks by doing a layover for a few hours in Denver. But for everyone else: fly direct. It’s book smart … and street smart!
4. Burning The Midnight Oil? Make Sure Your Computer Is Charged
Nothing ruins a midnight cram sesh like a computer that does not turn on. Our pals at Virgin America offer outlets in every row, so if you’re flying with them, no sweat. But with anyone else, be attentive and keep your monitor brightness low, or else you’ll have to resort to a pen and notepad to do work, which is fine … if you’re a crazed neo-Luddite serf!
5. Pick Your Seat Wisely
Pick your seat with an eye toward your sleeping idiosyncrasies. Some folks need silence to fall and stay asleep, so they should steer clear of the jet engines. Other people like lots of legroom and sleep sitting up: they should try to get an exit row seat. Still other people are vampires. They can only sleep in coffins, which can be checked at the gate. Ha ha! Just kidding. Vampires are folkloric beings.
6. Go To The Airport Tired
Go to the airport tired. This should be obvious, but if you’re going to fly red-eye and go to work on Monday, the worst thing you can do is have a lazy Sunday topped off with a half-dozen afternoon naps. Get up early the day of your flight, exercise, think about exhausting things (economics, lumberyards) and try to remain active.
7. Make A Good Playlist
If you’re going to listen to music, make a good playlist ahead of time. If you trust shuffle, then don’t blame me when you are snatched from dreamland by the bass cannons of Admiral Dubstep. And if you’re flying Virgin America (Sponsor plug! Hi guys!), they’ve got a pretty fantastic bunch of music you can pick and choose (free-of-charge) with your in-seat entertainment system.
8. Bring Earplugs (Just In Case)
Earplugs are a great backup just in case you’re next to a crying baby. And under normal circumstances, they provide you the greatest level of silence possible. All it takes is two earplugs to create a Zen-like headspace that will allow you to think with the greatest possible clarity about which fellow passengers you’d hit on if you were standing next to them at the baggage carousel.
9. Wear Comfy Clothes & Slip-Off Shoes
Wear comfortable clothes, and shoes that you can take off easily. This is not the time for high fashion, this is the time for the closest socially acceptable equivalent of pajamas. Or wear actual pajamas. Wear a burlap sack. Nothing matters. There are no rules, anywhere. Just remember that I love you.
10. Bring A Pillow (They Are So Comfortable)
Bring a pillow. Yes, they can be bulky, but if the great pain in your life is complaining about the bulkiness of a pillow, please send me a postcard from Heaven, because I want to see what kind of stamps God uses.
11. Have A Drink
When all else fails: have a drink or two. Plenty of fellow passengers will be doing the same, either to relax, or to calm their nerves, or possibly just because they like the taste of gin. Maybe all three! A drink is a great way to start a conversation, too, so don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation with any imbibers within close proximity. And lastly: cheers to you, red-eye flyer! May sleep come easily, and may your dreams be calm and undisturbed by mid-flight turbulence.