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A Solution For Sleeping on Planes?

Boeing has long been known as a leader and innovator in flight technology, and now the company has applied for a patent for a new “Transport Vehicle Upright Sleep Support System” that it says will revolutionize air travel by providing a solution to the discomforts and difficulties of trying to sleep on a plane.

Though preliminary images released by the company look somewhat awkward and uncomfortable, Boeing claims that the device will actually provide superior comfort to the neck support pillows that are currently being used by many travelers, and would actually be attached to the passengers’ seats. The units look much like travelers’ backpacks. They include straps that drape over the back of the plane seat and which attach to a cushioned pillow-type device that is then worn on the passengers’ chest. The idea is that passengers can lean forward while supported by the straps and rest their faces and bodies on the cushioned backs, which also have holes called “face relief apertures” for the eyes, mouth, nose and chin. This allows breathing and looks very much like the opening that is provided on massage tables.

The units will also feature sleeves along the front that the passengers can slip their arms into for support, and the chest support would be cushioned to provide comfort.

Referring to the neck support pillows that are currently in use, the Boeing patent said it is “not a highly successful option due to the natural tendency of a sleeper to relax their muscles and fall to a more horizontal position, thus awakening the passenger.” No information has been provided about safety concerns, or about what the weight of the unit will be or how they will be stored on planes that are already short of space.

There is no telling how long it will be before the patent is approved or when the units would be rolled out for public use. It is also not at all clear whether it is something that all airlines will offer or allow on board. In the meantime, experienced travelers have offered a number of ingenious tips for how to enhance your ability to sleep on a plane.

• If you’re traveling over night, book a window seat on the same side of the plane as the side that you sleep on at night. • Check out the website for information about which specific seats on a plane recline, have extra leg room, etc. • Wear comfortable clothing and change before you land if your appearance counts when you get there. • Buy the neck support pillow and wear it backwards, with the opening in the back. That stops your head from snapping back and forth. • Use your carry on as a leg rest and roll up the blanket offered by the flight attendants and use it as a lumbar support. • Bring a baseball hat and pull it down over your eyes to shut out light and keep seatmates from talking to you.

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