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How to get beauty sleep at 35,000 feet

By Claire Brennan, for CNN
updated 1:00 PM EST, Mon November 5, 2012
Failing to get some much needed sleep while flying could have a negative impact on a business trip
Failing to get some much needed sleep while flying could have a negative impact on a business trip
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Drowning out passenger noise with audio rather than video will make sleeping easier
  • Try sleeping on the tray table rather than reclining your seat
  • Don't forget to pack a blanket, eye mask and ear plugs
  • Too much caffeine is a bad idea - avoid tea, coffee and alcohol

Editor's note: Business Traveller is a monthly show about making the most of doing business on the road.

(CNN) -- There aren't many things more pleasurable than climbing into bed after a long distance flight.

The murmuring passengers, crying children and engine noise are gone. There are no over zealous flight attendants or intermittent updates from the captain. The cramped cabin is now a distant memory and you are in horizontal heaven.

Sadly this peaceful picture isn't a reality for everyone. If you're a business traveler, the bumpy arrival of the aircraft often merely signals the start of a working day.

It's therefore important to get as much rest as possible while airborne. However, being able to get some decent sleep on a plane is a privilege of the lucky few.

"We all know it's incredibly challenging to get the rest you need. We're not designed to sleep while sitting," explained Sammy Margo, sleep expert at the Physiotherapy and Pilates Practice in London.

"It depends on whether it's short or long haul or whether you're in economy or business. But there are some things you can do to prepare yourself," she added.

Here is the experts' five step guide to helping business travelers achieve some elusive shut eye.

1) Take control:

Passengers are powerless when it comes to controlling the noise and temperature of a plane. But there are a few ways of creating a more comfortable environment that could enable a better sleeping standard.

"Wear suitable clothes. Too many people dress inappropriately for a flight," said Margo. "If you're too warm and you can't get cool, you're not going to be able to get any rest."

It's also tempting to drown out the noise of a screaming child or snoring neighbor by watching a film or television program. Again -- that's not a good idea.

I've seen more and more people sleeping on the tray table. It keeps you in your own space and allows you to spread your arms out
Bobby Laurie, flight attendant

Margo said: "Audio is a million times better than video. The blue lights of a TV can affect the quality of sleep and are really unhelpful.

"It's best to listen to an audio book or a radio program. It keeps your mind off things and will help you to relax."

2) Lean forwards not back:

Sleeping while sitting upright is a difficult task, and the taller you are the more difficult it can be to stretch out and find the ideal position. It's therefore important to make the most of the space around you.

Most passengers think the best way of doing this is to recline their seat and lie back. But Bobby Laurie, a flight attendant with a major US carrier, has another suggestion.

"If for unforeseen circumstances you end up in the middle seat, it makes getting comfortable really difficult with your arms in an awkward position.

"I've seen more and more people sleeping on the tray table. It keeps you in your own space and allows you to spread your arms out."

3) Pack your creature comforts:

Not every airline provides the blankets and pillows passengers require to trick their bodies into believing its bedtime. Laurie suggests passengers bring their own.

He said: "Even if they are provided, you often don't know where they've been previously. Blankets can end up on the floor, and flight attendants can just pick them up and make them look nice again."

Earplugs, eye masks and neck supports are also helpful tools, according to Margo. "Find a pillow that suits you. Just because it's expensive doesn't mean it will work for you.

"You might nod off with your head crooked in one direction or the other and wake up with a sore neck, which isn't good if you have an important business meeting later."

4) Avoid the minibar:

Certain food and drink can make nodding off even more difficult than normal. Keeping your body hydrated at all times during the flight will make it easier to sleep.

There's no harm in one glass of wine as it could actually relax you. But don't go too crazy
Sammy Margo, sleep expert

"Plenty of fluid is often a great remedy," said Margo.

"Avoid the temptations of the mini-bar. There's no harm in one glass of wine as it could actually relax you. But don't go too crazy. You'll end up dehydrated and that prevents you from getting into the deeper realms of sleep."

Choosing the right foods and when to eat them is important too. If possible time your meals around your normal sleep pattern. Avoid sugary foods as they are a stimulant.

"Turkey, milk, oats and honey are great sleepy foods," Margo added.

5) If all else fails...try a sleeping aid:

"Sleeping tablets for some people can be helpful," said Margo. Natural remedies like magnesium are also good.

"Some business travelers have it down to a fine art with their own regime. If you're not an habitual user then you're going to be more sensitive, so be careful."

Laurie also warns of the dangers surrounding dosage. "Sleeping tablets are the easiest way to ensure a good rest. But be mindful of how long the flight is.

"Plenty of times I've had people passed out at the table, trying to wake them out because we've landed an hour early.

"If you have a shorter flight then be sure to half the dosage."

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