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How to Get Quality Sleep in An Airport: A Survival Guide

person sleeping in an airport on a bench

person sleeping in an airport on a bench

This article is a survival guide for anyone who is taking a bizarre layover flight route — for anyone whose flight was delayed, and for anyone who is trying to get home flying standby on Super Bowl weekend. In other words: It's for anyone who's ever found themselves trying to catch a nap in an airport.

There are at least a dozen common reasons why practical people wind up sleeping in an airport. But whatever has you needing a few hours of shut-eye without a hotel room, a modern airport is a pretty good way to do it. You just have to know the right tricks to stay safe and sleep soundly.

Staying Safe

Sleep In Front of a Security Camera

Security cameras and security-patrolled areas are the safest places to sleep in an airport. Take a look around at the camera coverage before picking your sleep spot and settle down somewhere on camera.

Be Friendly to Security Guards

Areas with a nearby security guard on duty are also a lot safer than empty hallways or terminals. A lot of airport guards are assigned to keep the sleepers safe (and to discourage vagrants from unofficially living in the airport or preying on weary travelers). Always try to snooze near a security guard.

Camp With Other Campers

There are many friendly fellow travelers at the airport. And in large airports, you're sure to find a few others who are also spending the night. For bedding down to catch a flight the next morning, it's almost always better to camp out with other campers. Swap stories, share snacks and form a circle of blankets that will be hard for crooks to approach. At the very least, find a buddy.

Bags Checked, Zippers In

When you do fall asleep, alone or with friends, be sure to turn your zippers in. Make sure the side of your bag with the zipper pulls is always facing your body. This way, no one can secretly open your bags without you noticing.

Getting Comfortable & Sleeping Well

Be Cool With the Floor

The first step to sleeping comfortably in an airport is to accept that the terminal seats are probably awful. Most airports have those seats with the built-in armrests anyway. You might be able to find a big squishy chair somewhere, but that's a rare get for airport sleeping. Your best bet is to make plans to sleep on the floor. Fortunately, most airport floors are pretty clean and have relatively nice carpeted areas near pretty windows.

Pack a Throw Blanket

One of the most useful accessories for air travel is a simple throw blanket. Or, a large shawl can serve the same purpose. A single fleece blanket that rolls up tight in your bag can help you nap the time away, both on an airplane or waiting for your flight to arrive.

Pillow options are easier. You can use the rolled-up fleece, your luggage, or a jacket. You can also pack an inflatable pillow, which takes up pretty much no space in a bag folded up flat.

Gain Access to a VIP Lounge

VIP lounges and airline lounges are one of the airport's best-kept secrets. These are cool lounges, dens, bars, and even napping areas that are kept private only for people who know how to access them. But they're not freaky exclusive. You can get in to claim a big squishy chair for napping.

Most airports have several lounges with different criteria for getting in. Your airline may have a lounge, and your ticket is all you need to enter. Many lounges ask a fee which is less than an airport hotel room. If you're cool with setting up a membership, you can gain access to the premium airport environment and services. Some lounges even have a napping room or cubicles.

Ask for Airplane Bedding

If you don't have anything for blankets or pillows, you can ask the airport for help. Airport staff can sometimes get you some blankets and pillows they stock on the planes. This can be a lifesaver when you need a nap, especially if the airport is kept refrigerator-cold.

Grab Breakfast Before the Shops Close at Night

If you're sleeping overnight, don't expect the SkyMall delis and bakeries to stay open. Most mall shops have a closing time, and they don't open until morning. There may be a few 24-hour spots worth checking out, but you'll probably want to grab your breakfast before the shops close the night before. This can make a real difference in how happy you are in the morning.

Pack Earbuds and White Noise Tracks

Airports can get pretty quiet at night, but not always. You may also have trouble getting to sleep, no matter how exhausted you are. Earbuds can help a lot here. Little silicone buds not only act as mini-earplugs, but you can also play yourself some soothing music or white noise to get to sleep. Without actually blocking your ability to hear what's going on around you.

Catching Your Flight

Use Phone Alarms and Sticky Notes

The most significant risk of getting great sleep in an airport is accidentally waking up late. You want to use every possible tool to ensure you wake up on time to make your flight. Set your phone alarm clock. And, in case your phone dies, get others involved. If you have camping buddies, ask them to get you up. If there's a guard, ask them to wake you when they change shift. One flyer even used sticky notes asking to be awakened before 8:00 am. Other travelers courteously woke them up.

Freshen-Up at the Airport

You can freshen yourself up in an airport without seeming freaky. Some airports and their lounges will have showers you can rent, with hotel toiletries to boot. But even just splashing some water on your face and changing shirts can help. Pack your carryon with some overnight supplies like a hairbrush, toothbrush, wet-wipes, deodorant, and a spare shirt. It can make a world of difference the next day.

Grab Breakfast and Go

Finally, don't forget breakfast. You survived the ordeal of sleeping in an airport. If the shops are open before your flight, you might as well reward yourself with an early morning airport doughnut or a luxuriant egg croissant sandwich. The airport is there to help you enjoy traveling, so let it. You earned it.

The Nest Bedding team is dedicated to helping you sleep in any situation. Whether you need a great mattress, luxuriant sheets or bamboo jammies, we've got you covered. Contact us today or check out the sleep doctor blog for more!