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Know it all
The first in a series where we go straight to the experts for their wisdom on traveling well

How to sleep in economy class

December 22, 1998
Web posted at: 11:28 a.m. EST (1628 GMT)

(CNN) -- Diana Fairechild has logged more than 10 million air miles in her 21 years as a flight attendant and in her current career as an author and speaker on aviation health and safety. She has also logged her share of shut-eye, even in the confines of economy class.

Here are her tips on how to land some sleep in the sky:

Prepare yourself to fall asleep immediately after take-off. The process of taxi and take-off has physical effects that make you sleepy, says Fairechild.

"When the plane disengages (from the airport terminal and its air system), there is no fresh air introduced to the cabin until the plane is airborne. It's terribly stifling and it makes people sleepy ... During takeoff, there are G-forces that make you feel heavy, so it's a good opportunity to fall asleep."

Don't wait for the airline meal service. "A lot of people do get sleepy during take-off, but then they rouse themselves for the airline meal. By the time you wait and wait and wait for your drink and your airline meal, you've wasted hours. ... Why not wait for a really good meal once you reach your destination?"

Fairechild suggests bringing snacks from home to tide yourself over and your own bottled water, so that you are not dependent on the meal service.

Create a cocoon, both mentally and physically. "Part of it is just psychologically letting go -- you aren't the one flying the plane," she says.

To create a physical cocoon, Fairechild advises using an eye mask (write "Do not disturb" on it), ear plugs, pillow and blanket. Make sure to buckle your seat belt over your blanket, so that the flight attendants will not have to wake you. Make yourself comfortable before take-off so that you can fall asleep right away.

Choose a window seat, or find two empty seats together. "It's easiest to fall asleep in a window seat because you don't have someone on both sides poking you and you don't have to get up to let anyone out."

If you can find two empty seats together, take them.

"You have the right to take any empty seat in your class and to take a blanket from any overhead bin," she says.

Avoid sleeping pills. "You can't predict how pharmaceuticals will act (in conjunction with jet lag and altitude changes). And whenever we fly ... we need to keep a certain presence of mind. You need your brain to be awake (in case some emergency arises)."

As for alcohol, Fairechild advises drinking more water if you choose to drink an alcoholic drink since it dehydrates you and increases the effects of jet lag.

Program yourself to wake up before the landing announcements. Just the way you might wake up a few minutes before your alarm clock goes off at home, set a mental alarm to wake up shortly before the plane lands so that you can freshen up.

"I program myself to wake up before the landing announcements are made. ... I listen for a change in the engine whine -- it gets a little lower on descent about 30 minutes before landing."

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