Travel

Make flying a drowsing success

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FOR some, getting forty winks on a plane comes easily. For others, it can be a downright nightmare. And for long flights, or a red-eye, getting no sleep will give you a nonstop ticket to the funny farm. Just ask Rachel Johnson.

"We landed at 5:15 in the morning at Tampa International Airport after taking the red-eye flight from LAX, and I probably got 20 minutes of sleep the whole way," says Johnson, a frequent flier who lives in Tampa. "The rest of the day I was completely wiped and couldn't concentrate on my work."

Sleeping bolt upright isn't easy, especially when the typical personal space on an airplane measures 17.2 by 32 inches. But you can make catching a nap at 35,000 feet easier.

Here's how:

Skip the coffee: Avoid dehydrating drinks such as coffee, tea, colas and alcohol. In the dry cabin air, such drinks can dehydrate you, making sleep even more difficult. Cabin pressure increases the effect of alcohol on your body. Instead, drink plenty of water, starting the day before you fly.

Accelerate your sleep: As the plane takes off, your body is subjected to increased G-forces. As a result you'll often feel drowsy as the aircraft races down the runway. This is because of decreased oxygen in the cabin at that moment. If you're the sort of person who can fall asleep quickly, take advantage of this short time and try to get your body to retire before you reach altitude.

Listen to your iPod: Create a playlist with at least 20 songs that you find relaxing. Once you're on the plane and ready to catch those Z's, grab your iPod, select the playlist and hit play. Listening to music during sleep has been shown to help maintain normal blood pressure and good circulation throughout a long flight. Consider purchasing a set of sound-isolating canal earphones (Etymotic Research ER-4P Earphones; $165, Amazon.com).

Fasten your seat belt: In turbulence, flight attendants will check to make seat belts are fastened. Put yours on before dozing off so an attendant won't have to wake you.

Wear loose-fitting clothing: The body expands at high altitude, and the temperature in the cabin is not always consistent. Layered, comfortable, loose-fitting clothing is best for sleeping.

Pack a full body pillow: If you have the space, take a lightly stuffed full body pillow, preferably one made of memory foam because it can be packed into a small bag. Once you're in your seat, pull it out, fold it double and place it on your tray table or somewhere you can reach it easily.

Reserve your seat: Try to get a window seat near the front, where it's quieter and not quite as bright. Use an eye mask to block all light. Choose a window seat for the wall and so your neighbor won't disturb you if he gets up. An exit row seat is even better.

Be careful what you eat: Pressurized cabins can have odd effects on your gastrointestinal system. Preflight, avoid gas-producing foods such as apples, apricots, beans, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. Sometimes it's also a good idea to avoid milk. Pack high-fiber snacks in your carry-on. Dried fruit, nuts and whole-grain granola bars are good choices.

Bananas are practically a sleeping pill in a peel. Besides a bit of soothing melatonin and serotonin, bananas contain magnesium, a muscle relaxant.

A handful of almonds can also be snooze-inducing. They contain tryptophan and a nice dose of muscle-relaxing magnesium. Whole-wheat bread also can be beneficial in flight.

And don't forget the most famous source of tryptophan: turkey, credited with all those Thanksgiving naps.

Put a slice or two on some whole-wheat bread and you have what may be one of the best sleep inducers in the sky.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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