How to Sleep at the Airport

Long layovers can make even short trips unpleasant, but sleeping at the airport can be even more challenging. On top of normal airport distractions, you may have to dodge around cleaning crews or scout for a comfy area where you can camp out. Properly equip yourself for a stay in an airport with things like toiletries and earplugs. Do things like performing your bedtime routine and asking for a cot to improve the quality of the Z’s you catch while there. And whenever you sleep in an airport, please do so safely, by doing things like burglar-proofing your luggage and familiarizing yourself with airport security.


EditEquipping Yourself to Sleep in an Airport

  1. Pack toiletries in your carry-on. If you’re like most people, you probably brush your teeth after waking up from a nice rest. Being able to brush your teeth, apply some fresh deodorant, and spritz on some perfume or cologne can go a long way to making you feel more human after sleeping in an airport.
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    • Include a change of clothes with your toiletries. These clothes will add little to the weight of your carry-on luggage and will take up little space if stored properly.
    • Pajamas or comfortable sleeping clothes, like sweat pants and a t-shirt, will make your nighttime hours more enjoyable. Pack these in the same way suggested for the change of clothes.
    • A general list of toiletries might look like: toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, contact solution, contact case, glasses, body wash sheets, moisturizer, and cologne.
    • All of your toiletries should be travel sizes and comply with your country’s carry-on restrictions.[1]
  2. Take along a travel blanket and pillow. Oftentimes you can request for these items from the airport, though they might not always be offered. The temperature in airports can fluctuate quite a bit, so even if you don’t think you’ll need a blanket, bring one along. You can always use it for extra padding or to bolster your pillow.[2]
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    • Travel blankets and pillows take up little space and are designed to be lightweight. These can be bought from most general retailers, camping stores, outdoorsman stores, and luggage/travel stores.
    • Alternatively, bring a sleeping bag. These can sometimes be a little bulkier, but can be counted on to provide warmth and comfort.
  3. Dress in layers. You’ll be able to take off outer layers so you can be more comfortable if the airport gets warm, but in colder situations you can snuggle down and keep all your layers on. A t-shirt under a cozy sweatshirt, hoodie, or sweater is a common combination.[3]
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    • If you’re too warm, extra layers don’t have to be a hindrance. Use these to pad your pillow, to create a makeshift cushion on chairs and laying areas, and so on.
  4. Travel with sleep aids. Ear plugs will help muffle the sound of other travelers and airport staff. A sleeping mask will keep out the light, which can be especially useful if you’re moving through different time zones. Bring headphones so you can relax to music on your phone, tablet, or music player.
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    • White noise tracks are a great way of tuning out the noise around you. You can find free white noise players in the app store and white noise tracks from other media providers.[4]
  5. Bring backup power sources. This is especially important if you’re counting on music or noise canceling headphones to save you from noisy travelers and airport disturbances. A few extra batteries or a rechargeable power supply can keep your technology working so you can remain blissfully unaware of loud interruptions.
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    • If you plan on traveling with a laptop or tablet, you can often charge your mobile devices from these with a USB or micro USB charger. [5]

EditCatching Z’s in an Airport

  1. Arrive to your departure area early. Departure areas can fill up quickly, and the first spots to be taken will likely be the most comfortable. If you arrive before other travelers, you’ll have first choice of sleeping area. Inspect potential sleeping areas to ensure they are clean.
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    • Sleeping areas that are close to a wall outlet will give you a chance to recharge your electronics while you sleep. Be sure your technology is well secured; these items are prime targets for theft.
    • Try out potential sleeping areas. In some cases, you may find that an area is comfortable for sitting but not for stretching out.[6]
  2. Act politely and respectfully. Many airports are reasonable in accommodating stranded passengers. However, airports generally reserve the right to remove anyone who is disrespectful or a nuisance. If you’re asked to move by cleaning staff or security, follow their instructions and apologize for causing an inconvenience.[7]
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    • For example, you might say, “I’m so sorry sir. I’ve been traveling and my flight got delayed. I just sat down for a few minutes. Let me move out of your way.”
  3. Perform your bedtime routine. Your bedtime routine can be just the thing to put you in the mood to sleep. Use a body wash sheet to wipe off your face, brush your teeth in the bathroom, and change into some comfortable clothes. Arrange your pillow and blanket and get ready to sleep.[8]
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    • If you didn’t pack body wash sheets, use an airport bathroom sink to wash your face. Dirt and oil can build up easily when traveling.
    • Read a book or listen to some music to relax before settling in. These activities can have a calming effect, allowing you to fall asleep more easily.
  4. Set an alarm. You don’t want to miss a connecting flight or ride because you slept too late. Set an alarm on your phone, tablet, wrist watch, or some other device. If you don’t have an alarm, write a note in large letters that says, “Wake me up at [time].” Place this somewhere visible.
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    • Using a sign that says “wake me up” isn’t a guarantee you’ll be woken up. Chances are good you’ll be, but this should only be used as a last resort.
    • If you don’t have a pen and paper, ask to borrow these items from an airport employee. Gate personnel, in particular, are likely to accommodate this request.[9]
  5. Inquire about courtesy cots. Some airports provide short term accommodation to stranded passengers, like cots on which passengers can rest more comfortably. These will save you from having to sleep on the floor or in uncomfortable chairs. Ask airport personnel about this saying something like:[10]
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    • ”Excuse me, I just found out that I’m going to be stuck overnight in this airport. I’ve heard that some airports offer cots for passengers like me. Does this airport offer that service, by any chance?”
  6. Pay a little extra for airport lounge access. For a little bit of money, you can gain access to many airport lounges. The lounge fee generally includes buffet style meals, drinks, wifi, showers, and comfortable seating. Lounges are most often open in the morning, but a few remain open 24 hours.[11]
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    • The cost for lounges will vary, but you can expect most basic lounges to charge between $20 and $30 for a single day pass into the lounge.[12]
  7. Prepare yourself for an early wakeup. Although this is not always the case, the airport can be a busy place early in the morning. Some airports may even have cleaning staff or security come and wake up over nighters. Don’t be surprised if you are awakened at 5:00 AM.
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    • It can be difficult waking up. Even so, try to remain as polite as possible. Remember that airport personnel are only doing their jobs.[13]

EditStaying Safe While You Sleep

  1. Familiarize yourself with airport security. Sleeping in the view of a security camera could be a huge help if something gets stolen from you while you sleep. Should you have any problems, knowing the closest security station or help desk will also be useful.
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    • Information on security stations and help desks can often be found on airport maps. You might want to take a quick trip and visit it, just so you know where to go should something happen.[14]
  2. Burglar-proof your luggage as best you can. While you sleep, your luggage will be vulnerable. Use a bag as a pillow.[15] Sleep on top of other pieces of luggage or rest your feet on top of them. Wrap bag straps around your body and fasten closed all luggage.[16]
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    • Even though a cheap luggage lock won’t keep out a determined thief, these locks will often deter casual theft.
    • More resilient carry-on luggage locks are available at general retailers and luggage stores. Many of these can be attached to something sturdy, like a chair, providing better protection.[17]
  3. Alternate napping with a travel partner. If you’re traveling in a group or with a friend, trade off sleeping times so someone is awake at all times. When traveling alone, let fellow travelers know you’ll be getting some sleep and to help you keep an eye on your belongings.[18]
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    • You might say something like, “Excuse me, I’m going to be trying to get a little rest in a moment. I was just wondering if you could wake me if you see anything suspicious.”
  4. Rest with other passengers staying the night. As the saying goes, there’s safety in numbers. Set up your sleeping area near other travelers that are also sleeping. In addition to keeping you safer from thieves, this will also make you a less likely target for airport security.
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    • Each airport has different policies on overnight and sleeping travelers. However, airports generally avoid causing panic or a scene. They will be less likely to confront a group of weary travelers.[19]


  • Body wash sheets are like disposable moist towelettes intended for cleaning your body. Use these to clean yourself after sleeping in airports when showers aren’t available.


  • Some airports have policies that do not allow customers to sleep for long periods in the airport. Always check to make sure an airport you plan on sleeping in is open for 24 hours and allows for stranded customers to spend a night there.

EditSources and Citations

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