TNZ Stop dreaming and go
TNZ Stop dreaming and go

BA's Science Guy tells us how to get the best sleep on a plane

Happiness Blanket” to a “Paws and Relax” channel, British Airways are establishing themselves as a creative airline when it comes to passengers’ in-flight experience. Now, they’re seeking scientific advice.

The airline has turned to Vincent Walsh, a Professor of human brain research at University College London to explain the science behind getting a good night’s sleep onboard.

“Sleeping on a plane is a great opportunity to reset your body clock so you arrive at your destination after a long flight, feeling refreshed and rested,” Walsh told Skift.

Professor Walsh’s top tips for a restful flight:

• Have a light pre-flight meal before you board
• If you can, book a seat that lies fully flat or reclines as much as possible
• Take off your shoes, to improve circulation
• Don’t drink any alcohol and avoid anything with caffeine, such as tea, coffee or fizzy drinks
• If you’re awake, always take the hydration offered
• If you want to sleep, try to not watch any movies, use your tablet computer or mobile phone
• Wear an eye mask and ensure any lights around you are off and the window blind is down
• If you want to relax, put in ear plugs or listen to a specially made relaxation soundtrack
• Listen to your body. Sleep is not a waste of time
• If sleeping pills help you, only use them at bed time in New York, if you’re flying from London to New York. Whereas if you’re flying from London to Beijing, take the pills at Beijing bed time, while you’re on board the flight
• If you fly often make a habit of these things. Sleep hygiene is a habit.

Walsh explains the science behind these tips to Skift: “You need to ensure your brain has as few distractions as possible so that you can ease it into a different time zone. Lying down, making sure you have as much darkness as possible and covering your eyes from any available light source, by turning off your in-flight entertainment, phone and computer, all go a long way to helping you to sleep and fly well.”

pillows&blankets-KarryOnHowever, suffice to say, any traveller will note many of these recommendations actually conflicts with onboard services passengers enjoy most: in-flight meal service, drinks, in-flight entertainment, and in-flight connectivity (the newest ‘big’ thing) – which together takes top rankings for enabling a premium in-flight experience.

It’s not just the passengers who are charging the way, airlines also see the value in many of those aspects, investing big bucks to take the passenger experience to new levels, in particular for premium flyers – just take a look at the range of ‘celebrity chefs’ that have signed on as ambassadors for a number of carriers.

Even if you’re flying ‘cattle class’, on most full-service carriers out of Australia, alcohol is free flowing but if not, tea and coffee and sugary soft-drinks, surely are on hand.

Walsh however sticks to the number one principle that passengers be mindful of their need to rest above these other distractions, telling Skift: “You can never underestimate the importance of a good sleep.”

British Airways are doing their part to getting passengers to fall asleep introducing an innovative Slow-TV channel, which plays ‘soothing landscapes’ at the speed of a computer wallpaper in an attempt to hypnotise passengers until they fall asleep.

For those anxious about flying, the airline will soon launch a Paws and Relax channel – featuring furry friends – to distract passengers from their surroundings.

What are your best in-flight tips?