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How Do You Induce Sleep on Planes?

by on September 30, 2011 · 62 comments

in General TPG Business, Travel Health

If you follow me on Twitter, you would know that I had a mini crisis last night: I ran out of my trusty Lunesta and was forced to buy over the counter sleep aids for my flight to Amsterdam.

Since I’m going to Europe for a long weekend, I really didn’t want to risk not getting any sleep on the outbound portion, because I do not function well without sleep and I want to be able to maximize my time in Budapest.

For me, I’ve found that Lunesta works like a charm. I take half a 2mg pill on short transatlantic flights and I’m able to drift into a nice sleep shortly after dinner and wake up at landing. A full pill on 9+ hour flights puts me down like a baby for nearly 7 hours. I normally have no issues sleeping on terra firma and I never take them when I’m not on a plane, but for some reason my body just can’t get comfortable enough on planes to naturally fall into a state of sleep – even in business or first class.

When I popped the, “What sleep aid should I buy at the airport?” question I got a ton of responses from the Twittersphere – most involving alcohol and Nyquil. I’m not necessarily a health nut, but I know that can’t be good for you, but I caved in to Tweer pressure and got some Nyquil pills and planned to have a glass of wine with dinner.

Crisis averted
However, I remembered that I put half of my Lunesta pill from my recent Star Mega Do trip to Frankfurt on the Lufthansa A380 in the little pouch in my Bose QC15 headphones case. Lo and behold, the mini pill of good sleep was indeed there so I didn’t have to resort to my “poor man’s sleep aids” in the end. However, I did get a Tweet from my friend Steve that got me thinking maybe I should try some more natural options:

SteveSiegelSteve Siegel
@thepointsguy lunesta is so bad for you. Next time, try all natural valerian root capsules! ForestRx.com #health #wellness
Has anyone had experience with more natural sleep aids? I’m a skeptic at heart, so I have a hard time believing that they’d be potent enough to give me the sleep I need on a plane. However, I’m open to parting with my drug-addled methods in order to try something that might work.
I’m also open to any suggestions, so what say you, sage TPG readers?

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  • GoKingsGo!

    When valerian root is combined with melatonin it makes a good replacement for prescribed sleeping aids. About two weeks ago my wife replaced her prescribed pills with the natural stuff and she says it helps in both helping fall and stay asleep.

  • Benthelefty

    I can fall asleep anywhere without any issue, so for the most part I’m not any help. But I remember getting some pills from my doctor for traveling, and while I don’t remember the name, theyhad me drooling on the seat in 15 minutes! Or I stay up later the night before so I’ll be tired when I leave.

  • Jeff

    I’d say just watch TV shows on the AVOD. A three episodes of soap or sitcom will put you into sleep. It’s all natural!

  • TPGirlFriday

    melatonin is my personal favorite – take it about an hour before you’d like to fall asleep and just make sure you have 6-8 hours to snooze. No groggy feeling when you wake up and non habit forming!

  • Gene

    I suggest alcohol + Lunesta / Ambien, that natural non-FDA approved stuff is what’s bad for you.

  • http://www.awardtravelconsulting.com AwardTravelConsulting

    Ditto…I use this semi-regularly to help me sleep better.

  • JP2

    melatonin works for me. I use it on all my long haul flights for sleep.

  • http://www.ipbrian.com/ IPBrian

    Give melatonin a try, works pretty well for me.

  • Bmichel

    If you would like to go the all-natural route, I recommend Snooze-In with Melatonin from the Vitamin Shoppe. It includes Valerian and Chamomile, amongst other natural herbs that aid in sleep. At around $12 for 100 pills it is a great bargain. I typically one just after meal service on the SFO-PVG or SFO-NRT route. I must admit though that a couple of glasses of adult beverages never hurt though!

  • burdender

    Xanax is my personal fav….but if going the natural route melatonin will help

  • AJ

    This may be another topic to discuss. Many years ago, I took a “direct” internation flight. Well, I thought it was a nonstop and took sleeping pills right after taking off, but it stopped at ORD and changed plane. I had the two hours walking like a zombie at the ORD transit waiting area. Anyway, I never took sleeping pills during the flights or staying in a hotel alone since then. Lesson learned.

  • Anonymous

    I also have a horrible time trying to sleep on planes. And I generally eschew pills as much as possible because I typically have problems with side effects and don’t want to be messed up. But I may try these melatonin supplements on my upcoming trip to Asia…

  • Pzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Pzizz- it is uncanny how this works
    http://pzizz.com/
    Here is a review- http://www.sleepwarrior.com/pzizz

  • Swedishprince

    One warning on melatonin: it’s what your body produces naturally to fall asleep. Taking it often will result in your body producing less of it. If your body starts producing less then you’ll have trouble sleeping without supplementing it

  • Mark

    yep, melatonin is the way to go. 45 min or so and your out. like others said zero groggy feeling when you wake up

  • tivoboy

    Alcohol can always work, but I find I don’t get a complete sleep with that method. Tylenol or Advil PM are the best choice if one doesn’t have an ambien like product. I think their active ingredient is some form of anti-hystamine/benadril class product. Works for me for about 8 hours un-cut. Half a tab is all I need.

  • Athan

    B- melatonin is great, but it adjusts your circadian rhythm which in my opinion is bad for outbound short flights. If I am only somewhere for a weekend, e.g., I don’t want to adapt to their time zone, but rather manage with it. Therefore, I find melatonin far better for when I arrive home to readjust my clock to “normal” time and highly recommend the same.

  • Kris

    I’ve always just used tylenol PM. For over a year I had a work schedule that required me to work a normal 9 to 5 half the week, but then switch gears and get up at 3 am and work til 1pm. tylenol pm was the only thing that could force me to sleep. i try to make sure i have something to eat with you, and also drink lots of water. definitely not ‘natural’, but certainly reliable!

  • Anonymous

    What works best for me is Benadryl (diphenhydramine). While it was originally developed as an antihistamine scientists quickly discovered it has a ton of other features, most relevant to this conversation would be that it makes an awesome sleeping pill. Many companies sell Benadryl as a sleeping medication, including Unisom, and it’s the PM in a lot of sleep-inducing pain relievers. I find that the usual adult dose does me in for 5-6 hours. Any less and I wake up groggy. This is another “best-not-combine-me-with-whisky” by the way.

  • http://twitter.com/david_adams david_adams

    Something to remember about sleep aid drugs and supplements: results are highly variable depending on your personal physiology. For example, I tried Lunesta, and all it did was leave me stone cold awake for four hours with a metallic taste in my mouth. But Benadryl works great for me, and doesn’t leave me groggy like it does for other people. I’ve tried Melatonin but I’m not sure if it had much of an effect. So you can get advice from people, but unless they’re your identical twin, what works for them may not work for you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Kenney/1289533100 Bob Kenney

    Here is my favorite……… http://thepeopleschemist.com/product/631/. Try to stay away from big Pharma as much as possible.Your body will thank you for it :)

  • Keith Crowe

    I don’t sleep on planes for fear of being incepted.

  • mylifenomadic

    I usually bring a few bags of Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Extra tea on the flight. The tea has valerian in it to help you sleep and relax and it’s of course relaxing in itself to have a warm cup of tea with meal or beverage service. After that, I will try to watch a movie on the in-flight entertainment and will usually fall right to sleep. The only time I can sleep is when I’m trying not to.

  • Colin

    I take a cocktail of Melatonin and Benadryl (or Dramamine). Dramamine works the same as Benedryl except it also is for motion sickness and you’d take twice the dose (25mg Benedryl = 50mg Dramamine). Melatonin also has the added benefit of helping you adjust to jet lag, and is a natural hormone your body produces every night. 1 mg Melatonin is sufficient for me, 3 mg if necessary, and the time-released formula is good for an especially long flight to Asia or Australia.

    Valerian root is a natural remedy that works very well, HOWEVER it smells terrible and the smell will come out of your pores much like garlic does. Personally, I can’t stand smelling bad, and I think it’s disrespectful to other passengers on the plane if you’re smelling bad and negatively affecting the quality of their journey. But it does work well as a sleep aid…

  • http://twitter.com/travelingiraffe Crissy

    I usually take one Simply Sleep (Tylenol PM without the Tylenol). Unless I have a headache or something and then I take 1 Advil PM. I’m a slim woman so that’s enough for me and when the plane lands (usually East Coast to Western Europe so 7-9 hour flights) I’m not groggy.

    If you want to try something different why don’t you try it one night when you’re at home and see how your body reacts. It’s not the same as on a plane but you’ll get an idea of how your body reacts to it.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with this one. I take 1mg and am able to fall asleep much quicker than normal.

  • guest

    i recently saw something called “jet pax” that has an am and pm formula, and is supposedly natural. anyone tried it?

  • milkygirl

    An Ativan and a glass of wine always does the trick.

  • Simon

    +1 for Melatonin

  • Sfasdasd

    Isn’t having a few drinks or glasses of wine and a nice meal way more pleasant than popping a pill?

  • Mpohl

    Easy. Diphenhydramine, 25 mg. Pop two and a glass of wine, and you’ll be knocked out within 30 min.

    Diphenhydramine is an OTC allergenic, but also doubles as a sleep aid. 400 tablets sell for $5 at Costco.

  • Anon

    Valerian Root works great, and I’d put that in my body long before I touched a bunch of synthetic chemicals. At home I’d typically take one pill an hour before I need it (though it can kick in sooner). It’s a powerful drug and it does slow down your heart rate, and it’s possible to take too much, and it’s also possible for it to have side effects if you’re taking other meds. Also, it’s not supposed to be taken after drinking. Like anything, see a doctor beforehand. That said, people have used it for a long time, and it does work.

  • Amitdelia

    As a clinical pharmacist, stay away from xanax, lunesta, ambien – all are controlled substances for a reason because they are habit forming and next thing you know you will “need” it to have a good sleep. Try taking sleep Md– has passion flower, valerian root and melatonin in it — melatonin tAkes a while to work And helps with your naturAl sleeping patterns — like jet lag; passion flower and valerian help with nerves and helps anxiety.

    My suggestion avoid all rx drugs when possible – one of themain reasons why people go to the hospital are adverse effects of drugs

  • Scott

    Drugs are great. I’d take Lunesta + booze + Nyquil before I’d touch some strange root.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SF5B3YJDFARDSW6PHEBHYVM24Y DrStils

    Woodford on the rocks!

  • Scot

    valerian root puts me out like a light, but it does stink to high heaven…..

  • http://traveltostlucia.com/st-lucia-resorts-east-winds-inn-review/ Tai

    As so many have stated. Melatonin works great!

  • JNyc

    Melatonin is your best option. It’a non-habit forming and helps you to reach the stage 4 of sleep much quicker, hence, you will feel more rested when you wake up. It also has no known side effects except for vivid dreamings or nightmares when used in higher quantities than 3mg. The good thing with melatonin is that if u sleep 3-4, u still wake up very rested and energized because you reached such deep levels of sleep. As someone who works night shifts and whose partern of sleep have become very disruptive, this is the best option.

    Someone mentioned bendaryl (dyphenhydramine) but that is not a good option. It will make you extremely drowsy if you wake up before 4 hrs. And not to mention the massive headaches it will cause you. Benadryl has also been found to cause brain damage, hance the headaches it causes. So, stay away from it.

    Melatonin is the best option as it is not habit-forming and there are not dangerous side effects, or potential side effects identified with it’s use.

  • Jnyc

    This has been found to cause brain damage. Hence the massive headaches it can cause.

  • JNyc

    How is alcohol in combination with narcotics better for you? This is why we get so many patients in respiratory failure at the ER. People combine these narcotics like it’s a joke. And then add alcohol to the bunch! Your advice is very alarming! I hope no one follows it!

  • Klaiklai

    god don’t type sensationalist, generalizing shit like that and not link sources. indicated doses of benadryl is fine as a temporary sleep aid in most people.

  • Klaiklai

    although i would recommend not mixing sedating drugs with alcohol.

  • Antonio

    Do you all know that you can spend more time without water and food that without sleep?

    With that in mind, the best that works for me is just not sleeping (or sleeping very little) before a flight.

    I am currently in Singapore after a +7hr flight from Doha, and the day before I slept only 4 hrs. I managed to get 5 solid hours of sleep on the plane, flying coach!

    Another flight, this time Doha-Frankfurt-Miami of 16 hours mad me sleep 9 (again, by sleeping only 4 hours the day before)

    A coach flight cannot stand a fight against a tiring body!

    Good luck in Bucharest!

  • JNYC

    Sensationalist “shit”? How mature the way you express yourself…
    Every Drugs book and dictionary indicates the damage that benadryl and many other sleeping aids can cause to brain cells. 1 out of and average 15,000 people will have massive brain damage from use of bebadryl, hence the FDA warming released this years to all medical personnel.
    Here is another research in the cognitive damages caused by use of bendryl from the journal of neurology.
    As someone who works in the medical field, I have seen many of our patients suffer from cognitive side effects of bendryl.
    So, there is your “sensationalist shit.”

    http://m.neurology.org/content/75/2/152.abstract.

  • JNYC

    Sensationalist “shit”? How mature the way you express yourself…
    Every Drugs book and dictionary indicates the damage that benadryl and many other sleeping aids can cause to brain cells. 1 out of and average 15,000 people will have massive brain damage from use of bebadryl, hence the FDA warming released this years to all medical personnel.
    Here is another research in the cognitive damages caused by use of bendryl from the journal of neurology.
    As someone who works in the medical field, I have seen many of our patients suffer from cognitive side effects of bendryl.
    So, there is your “sensationalist shit.”
    http://m.neurology.org/content/75/2/152.abstract.

  • Anonymous

    We’re educated people, so we have to cite our sources (which you didn’t do in your original post). I wish politicians had to cite their sources too.

  • Rob Perelman

    I used a ton of sleep aids for regular sleep problems off of planes. Nothing worked as good as taking the very natural Melatonin supplement. Give it a shot. Well, no, give it a pill.

  • Andrew Hws

    Every single person I know have said this worked very well for them (people that always had trouble sleeping):
    http://www.youngliving.com/natural-health-supplements/SleepEssence

  • Margaret Boerner

    I am terrified of airplanes and Xanax works like a charm. I have been using it for years and have gradually lost the fear of being afraid on airplanes. One mg an hour before the flight and one mg more upon boarding. I use it only for airplanes and an occasional night’s sleep (1/4 mg) and in the whole ten years I have been taking it, I have never needed more. In fact, as I grew less afraid of being afraid of planes, I have needed less. I don’t know if Xanax is habit-forming for addicts, but it is certainly not for me.

  • Margaret Boerner

    I am terrified of airplanes and Xanax works like a charm. I have been using it for years and have gradually lost the fear of being afraid on airplanes. One mg an hour before the flight and one mg more upon boarding. I use it only for airplanes and an occasional night’s sleep (1/4 mg) and in the whole ten years I have been taking it, I have never needed more. In fact, as I grew less afraid of being afraid of planes, I have needed less. I don’t know if Xanax is habit-forming for addicts, but it is certainly not for me.

  • Margaret Boerner

    I am terrified of airplanes and Xanax works like a charm. I have been using it for years and have gradually lost the fear of being afraid on airplanes. One mg an hour before the flight and one mg more upon boarding. I use it only for airplanes and an occasional night’s sleep (1/4 mg) and in the whole ten years I have been taking it, I have never needed more. In fact, as I grew less afraid of being afraid of planes, I have needed less. I don’t know if Xanax is habit-forming for addicts, but it is certainly not for me.

  • JNYC

    Lol.

  • tivoboy

    I’ll just add a bit of information here since I think we are merging the streams. My father, the neuro surgeon and circadian rhythm specialist doesn’t use melatonin as he describes the lack of ANY research and any scientific testing into the consumer dosing of melatonin as not only lacking but reckless. “we just have ZERO information about the medium to long term effects of external dosing of melatonin on the body/brain” There is simply NO research and study of the either positive or possible negative effects after short term or long term use. So, I wouldn’t simply dose with it and think that everything is going to be fine with one’s bodies ability to self-regulate or possible negative effects. Granted, many people report positive results as a sleep aid, but as he says “that doth not science make”.

    I don’t know of any studies that show that benadryl causes brain damage? can ANYONE here point to any research that supports that? I mean, just how right (right of center) and anti-science can one be?

  • Pob312

    If I need to sleep fast, I read your posts.

  • Anonymous

    Totally agree with you. I have used Benadryl for years, love it and I haven’t suffer any brain damage (at least I haven’t notice it ;) ) Tried Lunesta once and hate it!! Got me drugged for the whole day and hated the taste. Have tried Melatonin and it is worked very mild on me. Everyone is different!!

  • Guest

    Ok, that study pertains to elderly people who were taking Benadryl on a regular basis to help sleep. It is generally not recommended for elderly people, so it is on the “Beers List”. For someone under the age of 50 who takes it occasionally to sleep on a flight, there is little chance of damage. Benadryl is taken by millions of people daily. In some people there are bad reactions, but in the majority of people it is fine. “Cognitive side effects”…. yeah, that’s not a side effect, that’s the point of the drug. It makes you sleepy and you have trouble thinking. BTW it is also in every “PM” medicine (Tylenol PM, etc.). If it gave me headaches, then I would not use it; but it doesn’t, so every once in a while (3-4 times a year?) I take one if my allergies are acting up or if I need help sleeping. If there were big problems with it then there would be much more written about it than this one study among an elderly population.

  • Dewhit6959

    I still subscribe to the old tried and true method of a couple of stiff drinks. It’s one less thing to pack and keep up with. Pharmaceutical claims are now in the same league as financial advisor talk… great until something goes wrong. Just rememeber the old adage…don’t take a sleeping aid and a laxative at the same time.

  • GuestQuest Vacations

    To induce sleep, consider listening to meditations or sounds of nature. Deep breathing exercises will also help you to relax.

  • Janetgold77

    “fear of being afraid on airplanes” or “fear of airplanes”?

  • saralee143

    when i fly i always use 5 stage sleep shot, its a 2 oz little shot and i get a nice relaxing sleep and when i land im really rested. p.s. and it works in like 30 minutes. Good Luck

  • Thunderpup

    I would be extremely weary of any and all prescription medications when taken along with flights. Altitude has a large effect on the effects of medications; it is best to take them well before a flight, or take small doses on board is what I was told by my pharmacist. I am not a licensed pharmacist or doctor, but I would strongly encourage everyone to consider this, and speak with a medical professional before flying.

    Sadly, I witnessed someone lose their life on a flight immediately suspected as being a direct result of taking a usual sleeping pill dose, and having one small glass of white wine. Traumatic, to say the least.

  • lozenges

    There are lots of things that can cause brain damage including alcohol!! Taking 25mg of Benadryl will not cause brain damage!

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