Sleeping in Airport Guide: 21 Tips

Traveling often involves long layovers, unexpected delays, or overnight stays at airports. For many travelers, finding a comfortable and secure place to rest during these times can be a challenge.

This comprehensive guide aims to help you navigate the complexities of sleeping in airports, providing expert tips and practical advice to ensure you get the best rest possible.

From choosing the right sleep gear and identifying the best sleeping spots to understanding airport amenities and security policies, this guide covers everything you need to know for a restful and stress-free airport experience.

Whether you’re a frequent flyer or embarking on your first long journey, these strategies will help you make the most of your time in transit.

Can you sleep in the airport?

Yes, you can sleep in airports, as most do not have laws prohibiting overnight stays. However, comfort levels can vary significantly from one airport to another. While some airports offer amenities such as designated sleep zones, reclining chairs, and even sleep pods, others may only provide standard seating, making it more challenging to find a comfortable spot to rest.

It’s also important to note that airport operating hours can vary. Some airside areas might not be accessible overnight, requiring you to find a suitable sleeping spot in the landside sections.

Additionally, certain airports may have specific terminals that close overnight, so it’s essential to check the airport’s policies and plan accordingly. Being prepared with the right sleep gear and understanding the airport’s layout and amenities can greatly enhance your overnight airport experience.

We have a whole category dedicated to sleeping in airports.

Know the Terminal Hours and Security Policies:

Before planning to sleep at an airport, familiarize yourself with the terminal hours and security policies to avoid unexpected disruptions.

Some airports, such as Bergamo Airport, Auckland Airport, and Portland Airport, close by 11 PM, while others like Orly Airport close by 12:30 AM. In certain airports, specific terminals close overnight, like NYC’s JFK where only Terminal 4 remains open, and Melbourne Airport, which closes Terminal 4 overnight.

In such cases, it is crucial to find a sleeping spot in an area that remains open throughout the night. Additionally, some airports, like Sydney Airport, enforce a nighttime curfew that prohibits anyone from staying on the airport grounds after closing, necessitating alternative sleeping arrangements outside the airport.

Ensure you check if the airport remains accessible throughout the night and understand any restrictions on sleeping locations to secure a hassle-free overnight stay.

Explore Available Sleep Amenities: If Lucky, Grab a Sleep Pod

To ensure a comfortable stay, investigate the sleep amenities available on both the airside and landside of the airport. Many airports offer designated sleep zones, lounges with reclining chairs, and even sleep pods or cabins for rent.

For instance, JFK’s Terminal 4 features sleep pods, but access is restricted to passengers flying in or out of this terminal, limiting availability for those using different terminals. Knowing where these amenities are located and if they are accessible overnight or to all passengers will help you quickly find a comfortable spot.

If a sleep pod facility you find is accessible in the landside area such as Rome’s FCO Airport, make sure you make a booking early. Most sleep pod brands in Italian Airports such as Bergamo, Vienna, and Milano Malpensa are fully booked at least 30 days ahead.

Make sure you understand all amenities at any particular sleep pod facility you book as some advise customers to bring their blankets while others provide blankets at a fee. Read more on this Guide to What Sleep Pods Are.

Utilize Online Resources to Research Sleep Options at the Airport

For a thorough understanding of potential sleeping locations at airports, utilize online resources like AirportZZZ.com and Sleepinginairports.net.

  • AirportZZZ.com: This site provides detailed and up-to-date information on innovative sleeping solutions like sleep pods. You can find specifics on features, costs, and exact locations of various sleep pods. Additionally, AirportZZZ covers alternative sleeping options, including complimentary sleeping areas within airports and nearby hotels within a 2-mile radius that often offer free shuttle services. This can be particularly useful for travelers seeking cost-effective options.
  • Sleepinginairports.net: This site offers extensive overviews and detailed reviews of hundreds of airports, focusing on various sleeping experiences. It includes user reviews and ratings of different sleeping spots, helping you find the most comfortable and secure places to rest.

Inquire if you can check in early to access better airside sleep facilities:

Since most airports provide better sleep amenities on the airside, check if the airport allows early check-in the night before a next-day morning flight to access these facilities.

If early check-in isn’t possible and the airside is not accessible overnight, you will need to be creative in finding good sleeping spots in the landside areas. It’s important to remember that the presence of amenities does not guarantee access.

Understanding the operational logistics and potential access limitations is crucial in your preparation process. Plan ahead to maximize the available options and secure a restful place to sleep.

Be first to designated sleep locations and be prepared for loud snoring

To secure a good sleeping spot, arrive early and claim your space before others. Popular areas tend to fill up quickly, so it’s best to stake out your spot before it gets too crowded, especially around 11:00 PM when many overnight travelers start settling down.

To get good sleep in public designated rest areas, it’s essential to be prepared for the varying habits of fellow travelers, such as loud snoring. Noise-canceling earphones can be invaluable in these situations, helping to block out disturbances and ensuring a more restful sleep. Make sure to carry them to enhance your comfort and minimize disruptions.

Be creative with a sleep solution if there are no equipped designated rest areas:

To secure a flat sleep surface at an airport, creative solutions are essential. One effective method is to combine several seats, using those without armrests or finding ways to bypass the armrests to form a continuous surface.

This might involve positioning yourself below the armrests and pulling chairs together. Seek out rows of connected seats that can be adapted for lying down, or look for benches and padded seating areas that offer greater comfort.

By ingeniously rearranging the available seating, you can create a more suitable and flat sleeping space, significantly enhancing the quality of your rest during your layover.

Below are some pictures showing people who became creative and managed to sleep in chairs with armrests;

Prepare for sleep at least an hour before your sleeping time:

Preparing for sleep at an airport requires strategic actions to ensure quality rest in an often challenging environment.

Start by avoiding screen time at least an hour before you plan to sleep, as the blue light emitted by screens can disrupt your circadian rhythm and hinder the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep. Instead, consider listening to calming podcasts or audiobooks, which can help relax your mind without the adverse effects of screens.

Consider sleep-aids:

Additionally, explore sleep-enhancing therapies such as mindfulness meditation or deep-breathing exercises, which can reduce stress and promote relaxation.

Over-the-counter sleep aids like melatonin supplements can also be beneficial; melatonin helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle and can be particularly useful in resetting your internal clock when crossing time zones.

Taking 1-3 milligrams of melatonin about 30-60 minutes before bedtime can help induce sleep without the grogginess associated with other sleep medications. By incorporating these practices, you can create a more conducive environment for sleep, even in the bustling setting of an airport.

Get Food and Essentials Before Settling Down:

Gather food, drinking water, and any other essentials before claiming your sleep spot. With less than 10% of airport food and restaurants open overnight, and some airports lacking any 24-hour food joints, it’s crucial to prepare in advance. Leaving your spot to search for these items later might result in losing your place to another traveler.

Ensure you have everything you need for a comfortable night to avoid disruptions and secure a good rest. An expert tip is to pack non-perishable snacks like granola bars, nuts, or dried fruit, and carry a refillable water bottle that you can fill up before settling down.

Additionally, having a small travel kit with items like a toothbrush, toothpaste, and wet wipes can help you stay fresh and comfortable throughout the night.

Find spots with favorable sleep ambiance:

Look for spots with the most favorable ambiance for sleep. Quiet areas, dimly lit spots, or locations away from air conditioning vents, announcement speakers, and TV screens can provide a more restful environment. Silent lounges and designated quiet zones are often the best choices.

Expert tips include bringing an eye mask to block out any remaining light, using earplugs or noise-canceling headphones to eliminate ambient noise, and scouting out corners or secluded areas that may offer additional privacy and reduced foot traffic.

Inquire About Sleep Freebie Amenities:

Some airports provide free sleep amenities such as cots or blankets during overnight hours, especially in the event of mass flight cancellations.

For example, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) offer cots for stranded passengers.

Inquire with airport staff about the availability of these items to enhance your comfort. Being aware of these resources can make an unexpected overnight stay much more bearable.

Secure Your Luggage

It’s crucial to find innovative ways to secure your luggage while you sleep. Use luggage locks to secure zippers and deter theft. Wrap straps around your leg or the chair you’re sleeping on to create a physical connection to your belongings. Position your luggage where it’s difficult to access without disturbing you, such as placing it under your head or between your body and a wall.

An expert tip is to use a lightweight cable lock to attach your bag to a fixed object, adding an extra layer of security. Additionally, consider using an anti-theft backpack or bag with security features like lockable zippers and cut-resistant material. This way, you can rest more easily, knowing your belongings are safe.

Choose a Location with CCTV and Fellow Sleepers:

Select a spot under CCTV surveillance and in the presence of other overnight sleepers to enhance security and peace of mind. Being in a monitored area deters potential theft and ensures help is readily available if needed. Additionally, staying among other travelers can provide a sense of community and added vigilance.

An expert tip is to introduce yourself to nearby travelers, as this can create a network of mutual awareness and assistance. Also, choose a well-lit area to further deter unwanted attention. By taking these steps, you ensure a safer and more secure sleeping environment.

Wear Warm Clothing – Airports Can be Chilly at Night:

Wearing warm clothing is essential when spending the night at an airport, as terminal buildings can often become quite chilly, especially during the night.

Airports tend to maintain lower temperatures to accommodate the heat generated by large crowds during peak hours, which can leave overnight travelers uncomfortably cold.

Layering is key; start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your skin, followed by insulating layers like fleece or wool to trap body heat.

Finally, add a windproof and water-resistant outer layer to protect against drafts. Including accessories like a warm hat, gloves, and thermal socks can further enhance your comfort.

By dressing appropriately, you ensure that you stay warm and comfortable, allowing for better rest and a more pleasant airport experience.

Get Appropriate Sleep Gear

Equipping yourself with the right sleep gear can make all the difference when spending the night in an airport. Consider including the following items in your travel kit:

  • Inflatable Travel Pillow: This compact and convenient solution provides neck support and prevents stiffness, far better than trying to use a rolled-up jacket, which can leave you sore and restless.
  • Memory Foam Pillow: This pillow helps regulate your temperature and relieves neck stiffness, offering a superior alternative to uncomfortable makeshift pillows.
  • Noise-Canceling Headphones or Earplugs: Essential for blocking out surrounding noise, these items allow for undisturbed rest, unlike relying on ambient noise to eventually quiet down.
  • Lightweight, Compact Blanket: Keeps you warm in chilly airport environments without taking up too much space in your carry-on, unlike bulky jackets or scarves that might not provide enough coverage.
  • Eye Mask: This helps create a dark, sleep-friendly environment, even in well-lit areas, unlike using a hoodie or a hat to cover your eyes, which can be uncomfortable and ineffective at keeping bright light out.
  • Sleeping Bag or Sleeping Liner: Provides an additional layer of warmth and comfort, especially on hard or cold surfaces, which is much better than sleeping directly on the floor or an uncomfortable chair.
  • Compression Socks: Enhance blood circulation and prevent swelling during long periods of inactivity, offering much-needed relief compared to regular socks.
  • Travel-Sized Toiletries: Include items like a toothbrush, toothpaste, and wet wipes to stay fresh and comfortable, far more convenient and effective than trying to make do with minimal hygiene supplies.
  • Portable Charger: Ensures your devices stay charged, particularly if you use them for alarms or entertainment as some good sleeping spots may not always be located with power outlets.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Helps you stay hydrated by refilling it before settling down

Avoid bringing these items for an easy airport sleep experience:

When preparing to sleep at an airport, it’s important to pack wisely and avoid certain sleep-related items that may be impractical or counterproductive. Here’s a list of sleep gear to avoid and the reasons why:

  • Bulky Pillows: Traditional pillows take up a lot of space in your carry-on and are cumbersome to transport. Opt for inflatable or memory foam travel pillows instead, which are more compact and travel-friendly.
  • Heavy Blankets: Large, heavy blankets can be difficult to pack and carry. Lightweight, compact travel blankets or specially designed weighted blankets are more practical and space-efficient.
  • Regular Towels: Full-sized towels are bulky and slow to dry. Microfiber travel towels are compact, lightweight, and quick-drying, making them a better choice for freshening up without taking up too much space.
  • Multiple Books: Physical books are heavy and take up valuable space. Instead, use an e-reader or download audiobooks and podcasts to help you relax and fall asleep.
  • Full-Sized Toiletries: Full-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and other toiletries are bulky and may exceed carry-on liquid limits. Travel-sized versions are more space-efficient and compliant with airline regulations, making them ideal for quick freshen-ups.
  • Excessive Sleepwear: Overpacking sleepwear can weigh you down and limit space for other essentials. Choose versatile, comfortable clothing that can double as sleepwear to minimize packing.
  • Specialty Electronics for Sleep: Devices like sound machines or large reading lights can be cumbersome and unnecessary. Instead, use apps on your smartphone for white noise or calming music, and opt for a small, portable reading light if needed.
  • Multiple Pairs of Slippers: Slippers can be space-consuming. Bring a single, versatile pair that is comfortable and suitable for both walking around the airport and sleeping.
  • Heavy Eye Masks: Eye masks that are too bulky or made of heavy materials can be uncomfortable. Choose a lightweight, breathable eye mask that blocks out light without adding extra weight.

By avoiding these items and opting for more practical alternatives, you can streamline your packing, lighten your load, and enhance your overall comfort while sleeping at the airport.

Set your alarm clock

To ensure a smooth and stress-free start to your travel day, set your alarm clock at least an hour before the security checkpoints open. Morning hours at airports can be particularly busy, with security wait times often exceeding 30 minutes.

By arriving early and being among the first in line, you can quickly get through security and move to the airside. This not only saves you from the frustration of long waits but also allows you to find a comfortable spot to relax or even catch a bit more sleep before boarding.

Being proactive with your timing ensures you stay ahead of the crowd and enjoy a more relaxed and efficient airport experience.

Sleep close to your terminal gate:

For fliers with early morning flights, it’s crucial to sleep as close as possible to your departure gate.

This strategic choice ensures that you can easily reach your gate without relying on terminal transfer services, which may not operate early enough for your needs. In many large airports, terminals can be miles apart, and without proper planning, you might face significant delays or even miss your flight.

By positioning yourself near your gate, you minimize travel time within the airport and reduce the risk of unforeseen transportation issues. This approach provides peace of mind and a smoother start to your travel day, especially when flights are scheduled at inconvenient hours.

Include bug spray in your travel kit for airports located in tropical regions.

When traveling to airports in warmer equatorial climates, it’s wise to carry a bug-repellent spray to protect yourself from mosquitoes.

These regions such as Mexico’s Mexico City Airport, Guadalajara Airport, Cancun Airport, Nairobi Airport, Bangkok Airport, and Bali Airports often have higher mosquito activity, which can lead to discomfort and potential health risks such as mosquito-borne diseases.

Applying bug spray to exposed skin and clothing can help keep mosquitoes at bay, ensuring a more pleasant and worry-free experience during your time at the airport. Choose a repellent with DEET, picaridin, or other effective ingredients, and reapply as needed. By being proactive with insect repellent, you can focus on your journey without the nuisance and hazards posed by mosquitoes.

Consider a lounge day pass if you need to shower and the airport lacks shower facilities:

If you need to freshen up during an overnight airport stay, consider purchasing a day pass for an airport lounge. Many lounges offer comfortable seating, quiet areas, and, most importantly, shower facilities to help you rejuvenate.

These lounges provide a peaceful retreat from the busy terminal, with amenities like complimentary snacks and beverages, Wi-Fi, and sometimes even nap rooms. Investing in a lounge day pass can significantly enhance your comfort, allowing you to rest and refresh before your next flight.

This option is particularly beneficial for long layovers, ensuring you remain comfortable and well-rested throughout your journey.

Bring essential toiletries:

Bringing your own toiletries is a prudent move when planning to freshen up at an airport lounge. While lounges typically provide basic amenities like soap and shampoo, having your preferred products can make a big difference in how refreshed you feel.

Pack travel-sized versions of essentials such as toothpaste, deodorant, face wash, and a comb or brush. This ensures you have everything you need to maintain your hygiene and feel more comfortable.

Additionally, personal items like a microfiber towel can be useful for quick drying. Being well-prepared with your toiletries allows you to maximize the benefits of the lounge facilities and keep yourself feeling fresh and ready for your travels.

Have your travel docs ready:

Having your travel documents readily accessible is crucial when sleeping in an airport, as security personnel may wake you up to verify your identification and travel details.

Keep your passport, boarding pass, and any other necessary documents within easy reach to avoid the hassle of rummaging through your belongings in the middle of the night.

This not only ensures a smoother interaction with security staff but also helps you get back to sleep more quickly. By staying prepared and organized, you can minimize disruptions and maintain peace of mind during your overnight stay at the airport.

Image of Nathan Kip Rotich

Nathan helps travelers find the most comfortable sleep setups during layovers, from cozy airport hotels to futuristic sleep pods. His insights aim to transform layovers into rejuvenating sleepcations, offering travelers an alternative to costly hotels and uncomfortable benches.