Why I Can’t Sleep on a Plane – Part 1

I’m an infrequent flyer. I may board a plane a couple of times a year if I’m lucky. I enjoy the actual flying part immensely, but it’s one of those things that you really have to want to do. The amount of stress that it takes to get from the parking lot to your seat is so mind numbing that your purpose for the trip has to be worth it. Kind of like when we need to run to the grocery store and wonder if it’s worth loading all our kids in and out of the van multiple times. Spoiler alert: It rarely is. Um…I bet we can go a few more days without food. And toilet paper.

It really has to be worth it.

The problem that I have with flying is that I usually find myself on the early morning—basically nighttime—flights. The ones where you get up at 3 a.m. and wonder why God still allows these things to happen.

When I have one of these flights I usually look forward to catching some winks in the air. I could go on about how hard sleeping on a plane is because the chairs don’t lean back, the noise is loud, the babies cry, and you have to rent pillows and blankets. But the truth is, if I just woke up at 3 a.m. chances are good that I can fall asleep anywhere. Put me in the cargo hold, I can make it happen.

The fact that I can’t sleep on planes deals less with engineering, and more with monetary and physiological aspects. I will touch on the latter in the next post.


Complimentary Refreshments

Plane tickets are not cheap. Even if my mind is tired beyond all reason it has a hard time letting go of a basic concept: Getting my money’s worth. Here is what usually happens.

After checking bags, getting boarding passes, stripping down to my underwear, stumbling through security, wondering if stripping down to my underwear was overkill, trying my hardest to avoid words that rhyme with bomb (“What’s in your pocket sir?” “Lip balm–I mean CHAPSTICK!!!”) and generally fearing that at any moment I might be shot for whatever reason, I board the plane and get ready to doze.
I squeeze into my seat. Comfortable? Nope. A seat? Yes.
I then push my head into the headrest and close my eyes. Normally I like to watch the take off and marvel at the ground getting further and further away during the miracle of human flight. But I woke up at 3 a.m., marveling is for the well-rested day crowd and their more expensive tickets.
I begin to drift. All of a sudden I’m running, slow motion, in a beautiful field towards sleep. We see each other and open our arms wide.
A flight attendant then gets on the overhead speaker and says they will start serving drinks now. Drinks? It’s 6:05 a.m. I’m not thirsty at all. The last thing I need is a soda. But I did technically pay for the three ounces of beverage when I bought my ticket.
I wake up and order a Sprite. No caffeine. After all I’m sleeping on this plane.
I wait. The drink cart snails toward me row by row.
I get my drink, toss the mouthful of Sprite back, and close my eyes again. I’m back in the field, I spot sleep and we start running-
I hear a plastic trash bag being filled with empty cups. The flight attendants are now picking up trash. I sit up and wait for them to make their way to me row by row.
I finally throw the trash away and close my eyes. Field. Running. Slow motion.
I then hear a flight attendant offering pretzels. Well I paid for those too didn’t I? I sit up and wait as the pretzels are handed out row by row.
I eat the three mini-pretzels in the package and close my eyes. Field. Runni-
Plastic trash bag sounds again. I sit up and wait, you guessed it, row by row.
I throw away the trash and close my burning eyes. Field. Running. Slow motion. Arms wide.
The captain gets on the overhead speaker. “Attention everyone. We are starting our descent. Thanks for flying with us. And good job Ryan for putting your value in the absolute wrong thing on this early morning. Sucker!”

And that’s when I realize that giving up sleep is not worth the church-communion-sized breakfast that Southwest offered me. Besides, the bubbly and salty sacraments have done nothing to cure my hunger and have only confirmed that stupid-early flights should not exist. I know the problem lies with me. I should not care about the complimentary refreshments. But much like the tiny shampoo bottles in hotel rooms or the free floor mats in rental cars, it’s just too difficult to pass up.

Airline: 1, Sleep: 0.


I split this post up into two parts in an ingenious effort to milk this idea a bit and get you to return to my blog, sneaky I know. Look for part two soon. If you wish to be notified of new posts via email, instead of hoping to stumble across them in your social media feed, scroll to the top and subscribe on the right-hand side. You can always unsubscribe later.



photo credit: Norwegian Air – Boeing 737-800 via photopin (license)

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