Having traveled over 700,000 miles in the last 20 years, I realize the importance of sleeping on a plane. Over the years, I developed tips and tricks on how to sleep better when flying.
1 - Wear an Eye Mask
Proper sleep requires a nice dark environment but your 200 close friends may not agree. Bring your own Eye Mask and bring something soft, plush and comfortable. If your airline does provide one, it will be cheap and extremely uncomfortable.
Most of us need a quiet and peaceful environment to sleep and you know know that talkative couple will be right behind your seat.
3 - Noise Cancellation headphones
Sometimes earplugs just aren't enough (think crying baby). Noise cancellation headphones are a great way to drown out noise earplugs can't remove. When trying to sleep, play some soft soothing music or some guided meditation tracks.
4 - Wear Comfortable Clothes
This may seem obvious but many people forget this basic rule. Planes have temperature swings and you have to be ready to go from cold to hot and back. Dress in layers. Make sure your clothes are comfortable.
Many executives I have traveled with go on board with a suit but change into sweatpants or pajamas for those long transatlantic/transpacific flights.
5 - Wear your seat-belt
If you don't want to be woken up or bothered, always wear your seat-belt and make sure it is visible. Remember that flight attendants have a duty to perform safety checks and they will wake you if they cannot easily determine if your belt is attached.
6 - Bring your own food and drink
Sure airlines provide crappy food (unless you are flying business or first class). My recommendation is to bring your own food (which would likely be healthier and better tasting). In addition to the health benefits, this frees you from the flight attendance service schedule.
You notify the crew that you do not want to be woken up and then doze off. When you wake up, you have your own meal waiting for you.
7 - Get a window seat
For short flights, I want an aisle seat (in case I want something from the overhead compartment).For longer flights, I want a window seat. This gives you something to lean on when trying to sleep and makes sure you won't be woken up by a seat mate with a peeing problem.