In-Flight Experience

The Best (and Worst) Places to Sit for Sleeping on Planes

As someone who is literally the worst airplane sleeper ever but has two upcoming red-eye flights, I need to do some research on how to sleep better on planes. No matter which methods or products I try, I can never relax enough to fall asleep. Perhaps it’s time I splurge on first class … but until then, I will be referencing The Sleep Judge’s Hacking Sleep While Flying study.

The study’s results are based on 981 responses from travelers who recently (within one year) slept on a flight. Turns out, the middle seat isn’t that bad, depending on which part of the plane you’re sitting in, of course.

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The Best Place to Sit on the Plane for Sleeping 

Based on the study’s results, it appears that your positioning on the plane (front, back, or middle) outweighs whether you’re in a window, middle, or aisle seat. And with many airlines now charging for seat selection, you may want to consult this list and spend the extra money, as where you sit on the plane can affect how well you sleep.

Here’s the breakdown from best to worst places to sit on the plane for sleeping:

  • Front of the plane, window seat
  • Middle of the plane, middle seat
  • Front of the plane, middle seat
  • Middle of the plane, aisle seat
  • Middle of the plane, window seat
  • Back of the plane, window seat
  • Front of the plane, aisle seat
  • Back of the plane, aisle seat
  • Back of the plane, middle seat (read our tips on how to survive this spot)

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Interestingly enough, an aisle seat near the front of the plane is in the top three worst places to sit. This is most likely because flight attendants and passengers often pass through and are more likely to cause a disruption. Not surprisingly, the middle seat on the back of the plane is the worst, and the window seat at the front of the plane is the best. 

The Best Way to Position Yourself for Sleeping on a Plane 

If you walk down the plane aisle a few hours into a red-eye flight, you’ll see passengers in all sorts of strange positions. And while getting an extra seat, or sometimes even a whole aisle to yourself definitely helps, it’s obviously not guaranteed (although you could buy out the row).

According to this study, leaning forward and using your tray as a flat surface is best for sleep quality, and leaning to the side while reclining is the worst.

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Surprisingly, sitting straight up is second in sleep quality, followed by reclining back. Take note for the next time you’re trying to sleep on a red-eye flight and mix up your sleeping position.

The Best Products to Help You Sleep on a Red-Eye Flight 

According to the study, the below seven products provided the best-quality sleep aid when used in flight.

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You Tell Us: Where do you like to sit when traveling on a red-eye flight?

How to Make Sleeping on a Plane More Comfortable

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Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

By Ashley Rossi

Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

After interning at SmarterTravel, Ashley joined the team full time in 2015. She's lived on three continents, but still never knows where her next adventure will take her. She's always searching for upcoming destination hotspots, secluded retreats, and hidden gems to share with the world.

Ashley's stories have been featured online on USA Today, Business Insider, TripAdvisor, Huffington Post, Jetsetter, and Yahoo! Travel, as well as other publications.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A reusable filtered water bottle—it saves you money, keeps you hydrated, and eliminates waste—win-win."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "A week in a bamboo beach hut on India's Andaman Islands."

Travel Motto: "Travel light, often, and in good company."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window—best view in the house."

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