This is the best seat to reserve if you want to sleep on a plane

Man asleep on a plane
(Image credit: Getty)

It's summer holiday season. If you're heading away from home on holiday, that means figuring out how to deal with jet lag, as well as navigating the dreaded first night effect. You can go some way to heading off the potential issue by doing some tactical napping on the way to your destination. Sure, the odds are against you when it comes to quality sleep – a cramped plane seat won't provide anything like the comfort of the best mattresses around – but there are plenty of techniques for how to sleep on a plane that are designed to help. And it all starts with picking the right seat. 

If you have the opportunity to pick your seat before travel (or even if you don't) there are some golden rules to follow. In short, you want a seat with the most legroom, where you're least likely to be disturbed, to give yourself the best chance of getting some quality shut-eye on your flight. Read on to learn how to find the best airplane seats for sleep, including one handy website that could be a major game-changer.

1. Opt for window rather than aisle

Unless you have a particularly weak bladder, pop yourself in a window seat. You're less likely to be disturbed here, not only by people moving up and down the aisles, but also by your neighbor getting out to use the toilet. If you're in economy, you can also use the side of the plane as a fairly uncomfortable side head rest. 

2. Try and snag a spot next to the wing

For a bit of extra space, book a seat on the row where the wing of the plane is. This is where the emergency exits are most likely to be situated, which means you're more likely to snag a spot with more legroom, allowing you to spread out (a bit).

3. Check SeatGuru for insider info

SeatGuru is a service that lets you plug in your flight information and provides you with a map of the plane, with 'good' and 'bad' seats marked up. It'll tell you, for instance, if it's a spot where you won't be able to store items underneath your seat, if your seat is missing a window, or if that part of the plane gets especially cold due to being near an exit.

4. Consider leaving it until the last minute

Do you like to live on the edge? If the best sleep seats have been reserved when you come to book (or if you're on the kind of flight where seat reservations are an optional extra that you don't want to pay for), there is a high-risk strategy you can try. Consider hanging back until everyone else has boarded, and then simply scouting out a location where there are two or three free seats, and claiming that as your spot. Either you'll end up spread out like a queen, or wedged between a screaming baby and a toddler with no appreciation of personal space. 

Woman asleep on a plane, using a travel pillow

(Image credit: Getty)

5. Avoid the toilets

The seat near the toilet is a hotspot for disruption. People will stand and queue next to you,  and bump your seat as you go past. Avoid if at all possible. 

6. Sit yourself near the front of the plane

Those at the front of their section will get their food served and cleared away first, and can get back to the important process of napping. You'll hopefully also be able to disembark first, rather than hanging out on the plane for longer than you need to.

"As a general rule the freshest air enters the cabin at the nose to keep the pilots alert," says Andrew Hayward, former airliner executive and director at Panache Cruises

Ruth Hamilton
Sleep Editor, Certified Sleep Science Coach

Ruth Hamilton is a Sleep Editor and and Certified Sleep Science Coach who is qualified to offer advice on what mattress will suit you best, plus tips on how to improve your sleep habits. She was acting Sleep Editor on Tom's Guide for a year, and has now moved across to our sister site TechRadar. Ruth has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle and will talk at length about them to anyone who shows even a passing interest, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy for fear of getting smothered by them in the night. As well as following all the industry trends and advancements in the mattress and bedding world, she regularly speaks to other sleep experts to delve into the science behind a great night's sleep, and offer you advice to help you get there.