There are two types of people, those who can sleep on planes and others who spend hours staring at the seat in front of them as they hop across countries.
For those skilled at upright slumber it’s as easy as closing their eyes while flyers who struggle try everything from noise-cancelling headphones to a Baileys at bedtime.
But regardless of affiliation every person travelling economy must find a comfortable sitting position to prevent pressure on the joints and encourage sleep.
The perfect perch
Andrew Lawrence, president of the Chiropractors Association of Australia, says the most conducive position for snoozing in economy is “slightly reclined with a cushion at the base of the spine to help maintain the lumbar curve and reduce pressure at the junction of lower back and pelvis’’.
“As far as the skeleton is concerned the pelvis – specifically the ischia or the hard bony things we sit on – and the area where the spine and pelvis meet are under the greatest pressure when we’re sitting upright and awake but when we sleep the neck takes the biggest pressure,’’ the Melbourne chiropractor says.
“The best position for reclining is about halfway which gives assistance with holding the head in place but doesn’t put too much backward pressure on the hips.
“It’s also good to take a proper travel pillow if possible, as a plane pillow is usually not helpful, and what works best is the neck-support pillow which helps keep the head upright and not cause undue pressure on the neck’s movement joints.’’
How about that pillow?
Travel pillows come in all shapes and sizes, from inflatable to memory foam, and while the most common version is the U-shaped cushion filled with microbeans or memory foam that can be bought from any airport shop for under $20, there’s now a new crop of ergonomic options priced up to $80.
While basic neck cushions are tolerable – worn backwards, with the opening at the rear, it keeps the head close to the centre line reducing stress on surrounding joints – the more money spent guarantees sophistication in material and design.
The Australian Luggage Co distributes the Face Cradle, a creation with connected pillows that fold into five positions from a dozing mode to side-sleeping arrangement, while the balaclava-like Ostrichpillow created a buzz when released a few years back.
Perhaps the most thoughtful reinvention is the Trtl Pillow (below) which took seven years to evolve and is a wrap design, made from a fleecy fabric, that’s worn like a scarf with internal plastic ribs hidden in a padded pocket cradling the head and neck.
Secret to sleep success
“Travel pillows were created to help you feel comfortable on the go and the key is neck support,’’ says Trtl Pillow technical director David Kellock.
“There are a few travel pillows on the market breaking the old conventions, and engineering solutions for this new ergonomic design challenge, and the Trtl Pillow is special because it provides support by keeping head and neck in a better ergonomic position than standard U-shaped pillows.
“It’s also more discrete – like you’re wearing as scarf – and machine washable as well as light to carry.
“The Trtl Pillow is designed to allow you to relax fully into the support, so you can fall asleep for hours on any transport, and you can wear it at either side of your neck or in front allowing sleep in the most comfortable position because we know that not one person sleeps in the one position.’’