Most Of Our Favourite Sleep Positions On Planes Aren't Very Safe

Sleeping while flying in an plane is one of life’s greatest challenges.

A rare few are blessed with a natural ability to overcome the cramped conditions, constant noise and random turbulence but most of us need a little more help to catch some zzzs.

Just like in our beds, getting the right sleeping position is key, yet some are safer than others when you're in the air.

Speaking to 10 daily, Dr. Delwyn Bartlett from Woolock Sleep Clinic said there are certain factors you need to consider when trying to get comfy in your seat, particularly if you're in economy.

“The safest positions include ones that incorporate a way to protect and support the neck and making sure you keep your feet up to prevent swelling feet,” she said.

It seems though, after asking some Aussie frequent fliers, many of our favourite plane sleep positions may not be all that safe or even all that comfortable for that matter.

Position 1: Head On The Plane Wall

This position involves using the plane wall to lean against, either with or without a pillow, blanket or jumper as a buffer. For this sleeping position, booking a window seat is a prerequisite.

Jade, who uses this as her position of choice while flying, said that preparation is key if you're keen on sleeping against the plane wall.



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"You need to choose your seats carefully because if you choose a window seat in the centre of the plane, it is often too far for your head to actually be properly supported," she said.

"Choosing a seat which has access to the wall in between the windows is essential.”

Position 2: The Head Bobble

While the head bobble definitively not supportive of the neck, it is often the choice of the unsuspecting nappers who inadvertently drift off in their seat.

Those who most likely find themselves in this position (let’s be honest -- many of us in economy), usually begin with their head rested against the head rest. But as you drift off, you will often find your head falling forward, rolling around and bobbling, causing you to have a disjointed sleep.

It's probably not the best position for getting some sleep or doing it safely, though if you're in the middle or a row, you often don't have another option.

Matt, a frequent flier who often drifts off to sleep before the plane has even taken off said: "it is not my position of choice, but the position I most often use and can spend large parts of the flight doing."

"It isn't great because I often wake with a sore neck."

Position 3: Side Sleepers

Often utilised by the bed side sleepers variety, this position often finds the passenger maneuvered into a side position on their seat.

It can take on a number of slight variations -- sometimes with legs curled up, or other times with the seat reclined in attempt to recreate the closest bed-like environment.

Side sleeping is often a preferred position on a plane. Image: Getty

Pillows or some sort of object for neck and head support can be incorporated, as well as a blanket or a wrap for warmth. Side sleeping can provide the illusion of business class if you really, really think hard enough.

Carrie said: "Side sleeping feels as close to sleeping in bed as I can get. I find it comfortable and usually sleep relatively well."

Position 4: Lean On Me

Those who choose this position exploit (in the nicest possible way) their travelling companion as a pillow or a bed in some cases, in order to spread themselves out a little bit more than they could in their individual seat.

Leonie who chooses this method on long haul flights said: “My partner and I will choose a row that has no one else in it if possible, or sometimes move to a spare one once we are on board."

Then we spread out over the entire row and I use him as my pillow at one end. We will then switch through the flight.

This position is based on a multiple things working in your favour, such as the spare seats or rows, but can be done on a more restricted scale even with two seats next to each other.

Position 5: The Tray Table

While perhaps not the most obvious choice for many or the safest according to Dr Bartlett’s advice regarding neck support, the forward slump on the plane tray table was a surprising nap position of choice for some frequent travellers.

"You can either put your head and arms straight onto the tray table or put a jumper or a blanket down to make it a bit more comfortable. I use the latter for both comfort and hygiene," Grace said.



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"Tray are notorious for being the least cleaned parts of the plane so it is a necessity in my eyes.”

Position 6: The Fly Catcher

This is my position of choice, which I sleep in with the help of a neck pillow and foot support as per safety advice. Being upright in chair with mouth wide open (thus catching flies) however, often ends with a side of dribble.

Shona Hendley. Image: Supplied

It's somewhat comfortable and able to be carried out without the assistance of anyone or dependent on other factors. It is reliable, although not always effective unless it occurs after one (or five) vinos.

While these are some of the most common sleeping positions, let’s be honest, unless you are where the high fliers fly, sleep will probably remain elusive whichever way you try it.

Featured image: Getty