Sleeping on planes

Are you able to sleep on a plane? Some people just seem to be able to nod off the minute the flight takes off. Others spend long trans-Atlantic flights watching movie after movie only to emerge at the other end looking like a zombie.

In fact you could find yourself acting like a zombie if you are in the habit of taking Ambien for a good night’s sleep. A report recently on CNN by Sandi LaMotte relates the tale of a passenger on a flight from London to San Francisco who took Ambien on the flight and then spent the entire time “entertaining” the crew and passengers with demonstrations on how to tie a Bedouin turban with an airplane blanket and how to make paper airplanes which he then flew over the heads of his fellow passengers. The weird thing about this was that he actually thought he was asleep at the time and this was all just a dream. How embarrassing. You can read the full story here

A story I heard about a friend of a friend (no names please) made me chuckle. She and her husband got onto the flight and settled into their seats. She always takes a sleeping pill so swigged down some water and her pill, adjusted her eye mask and promptly fell asleep. Problem was the flight hadn’t taken off yet – and yes – it went mechanical. The passengers were all asked to get off. Her sleeping pill was so good that her husband couldn’t wake her up and so they had to get a stretcher and carry her off the flight. Oh my goodness. How embarrassing. I have heard that they both have a good laugh at that story now but at the time it couldn’t have been that much fun.

But getting a good night’s sleep on a long flight is tough – especially if you are in the “back of the bus” and don’t have the luxury of a lie flat bed and a cooing flight attendant supplying you with soft pillows, blankets and eye-masks. If you take a walk around any shop at the airport you will find no end of “devices” to help you sleep sitting up. Neck pillows of all shapes and sizes, some so bulky and inconvenient you just have to wonder where the heck to store them!

This is a weird one

She looks comfy

But this one takes the cake …. it is a device for those who get the middle seat so that you have somewhere to rest your arms….

Geez … don’t they know the rule? Middle passenger gets BOTH armrests!

By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


  1. Leslie, I always enjoy your blog. But I have a question and who better to ask? Recently, my wife and I flew to Paris on WestJet. We splurged this time (uncharacteristically) and flew Premium Economy. We figured the extra room would be worth it. Well, it wasn’t. Getting into and out of the window seat was…um…an exercise. (The armrest is a huge immovable object.) And neither one of us could be labeled L or XL. My wife came up with the idea of buying 3 economy seats together to gain extra space on longer flights. We’re not interested in “gourmet cuisine” or unlimited bar service; we just want to get there. We’ve flown some gruelling routes, especially those to and from Asia and I don’t know why she didn’t think of this sooner. Are airlines receptive to this idea? Given our recent experience, we could have more space for substantially less cost. I’d appreciate your input. Thanks so much, Eric


    1. Hi Eric, oh yes – the extra room on a flight is what we all want – never mind the fancy nuts and drinks. I agree. I have done premium economy before and I agree the fixed armrest is a pain and does take away from the comfort of the seat. A great website to double check your seats is and I always use this. Air New Zealand has what they call the sky couch when you buy an extra seat and get the three seats together that fold down almost like a small bed. Most airlines will allow you to buy an additional seat for the space – here is a handy website that walks you through the procedure

      Also remember to check the equipment (type of aircraft) and be prepared for equipment changes by the airlines so if you get a schedule change double check your seat reservations….. Oh yes – the fun of flying from point A to point B is never ending 🙂


      1. Thanks, Lesley. That was very helpful. I only wish my seatmates on a flight to Atlanta a few years ago had been aware of the Second Seat policy. I would have been able to breathe/move.


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