Know what this crazy world needs? A better way to look dorky on airplanes.
Okay, actually, not planes, but buses. I travel by bus more often than I like to admit, and it's tough getting comfy on those long hauls. I've tried bunching up a sweater against the window, I've tried a standard-issue "travel" neck pillow (on planes, not buses), I've tried just grinning and bearing it.
And let's face it, sleeping while you're travelling is terrible. And it is also one of the biggest missed opportunities I can think of. Two hours with nobody needing me for anything? No chance to do work, except for the occasional text or email? (When I go by train, I usually use the whole time to get work done, but bus = sleepytime, as far as I’m concerned… sleepytime WASTED because I’m so uncomfortable!)
With so much serious stuff going on in the world, I felt that what was needed was a hard-hitting investigation into ten of the newest and most amazing ways I can make my head and neck cozy while I travel. Science has been working on this problem for a while – or it ought to have been – so I wanted to see what they’ve come up with.
(If you have any suggestions for this list, I’d love to hear about them!)
And why now??? I’ve been keeping all these windows open on my browser for about 2 weeks waiting for the right time to post, and after spending an hour up with a sick kid last night, and then waking up much too early in the morning, I have decided – in the midst of my sleeeepy haze – that today is the day.
A number of these offerings come from Kickstarter, and some are not available for sale the regular way. In fact, “things to help you sleep” seems to be one of the more popular Kickstarter genres. And no wonder – sleep is so delicious.
So “without any further adieu,” as they say, here they are, in no particular order:
1. THE FACE CRADLE
If that doesn’t look cozy enough, this successful Kickstarter project has an even dorkier-looking full-face mode:
Their slogan is “upgrade to sleeping class.” I agree! Mmm… sleeep…
2. THE NOD TRAVEL PILLOW
Another successful Kickstarter project. This one, however, looks less appealing, since essentially you are strapping your neck to the seat. The product’s FAQ includes a claim of a “a saftey break away in the event of an emergency.” Confidence-inspiring, but this one seems less likely to win my approval.
3. THE J-PILLOW
You can’t really tell from the pictures, but a careful analysis of this product on Amazon suggests that this is basically a regular U-shaped travel pillow with a J-shaped extension sticking out perpendicular to the pillow.
However, Amazon reviews seem to suggest that this isn’t really “grippy” enough on its own to hold your head up if you’re sleeping in an upright position, like on a plane… or a bus.
4. THE ZZZBAND
Like the Nod Travel Pillow and a number of other offerings, this Amazon product straps your head to the seat behind you so you can’t shift while you’re sleeping. Some of the reviews are kind of iffy, however, suggesting that it doesn’t hold firmly enough to the seat back, and (duh) it makes it tough to get up and go to the bathroom. (Which I suppose wouldn’t be a problem on Israeli buses, because there’s no such thing as a bus bathroom in this country.)
Another strapping-in optionis the SkyNapper, a failed Kickstarter project:
And, for kids, the successfully Kickstarted NoBob line of animal-themed head straps:
Don’t you wish you had one of those for your next bus trip?
5. THE USEASY TRAVEL PILLOW
To be honest, I wouldn’t call this one a “pillow.” It looks like exercise equipment, and definitely more like something you’d use around the house rather than shlepping it along on a journey, though it does fold up into a little tote bag:
I could probably also use this handy ergonomic-office mode:
Reviews are mixed, and this one isn’t cheap, but some people really seem to love it.
6. THE WEEKWEED
And I thought the Woollip was the weirdest name (read on for that one!). But if so, this is a close second. It’s one of a number of scarf-like offerings that offer padding without needing to be blown up – you just velcro it around your neck and you’re away to the sleepytime races. However, reviews on Amazon suggest that this mostly doesn’t work. As one reviewer wrote, with admirable clarity, “This was the stupidest thing I've ever purchased. It just chokes you and does not hold up your head. Thank god for Amazon returns.”
7. THE SEATSNOOZER
These guys know a catchy slogan is helpful, but they can’t seem to decide which one they like better: “Because sleeping on airplanes usually sucks” or “Because sleeping on airplanes used to suck.”
This is an older successful Kickstarter offering from the same school of thought as the Nod Travel Pillow and the ZzzBand, based on the belief that if you could only strap your head to something, it would stay in place. Only, in this case, what you’re strapping your head to is… you. It’s anchored to your back, not the seat. Some Amazon reviews suggest that there isn’t enough support, but a few users seem to really like it.
8. THE JET COMFY
I want to give this pillow an award for looking the opposite of what the name suggests: totally not comfy. It looks like a torture instrument. It looks like you’re cuddling up to a mop head. Yet Amazon users seem to like it very much. The idea is simple, if a little kludgy to carry around – just attach it to the armrest and leeeeean into a good night’s (or day’s) sleep. One reviewer actually said that she had no armrest and just jammed it in between the seats, and it worked fine.
One reviewer, however, did say, “This was horrible! It gave me the worse crick in the neck.” Which is what it looks like to me as well, from the picture here, with her head cricked gently sideways. But others seem to think this is the product of their dreams. I’m skeptical; if it can’t hold your head on, it seems to me that there’s a very good chance you’ll fling yourself off this pedestal and wake up in a weird position, all jittery and uncomfortable.
9. THE PRETZEL PILLOW
This is an intriguing category, all its own, with a couple of entries that look fascinating, especially on a chilly day like today. The Pretzel Pillow, a failed Kickstarter project, is similar to the already-existing project, VaVesta, and works on the principle that if your hands are in a cozy stable position, tucked into your body, then sleep will be much, much easier to attain. Here’s the VaVesta, which is available on Amazon:
The Pretzel offers a lot more padding around the neck, and the VaVesta people say they can’t guarantee that your head won’t flop to one side or another, but do say that “head instability will be greatly reduced.” Certainly looks like a nice alternative for those times the bus driver feels like cranking up the AC.
10. THE WOOLLIP TRAVEL PILLOW
I have saved the weirdest name AND the weirdest pillow for last because this one delights me even as I am appalled by the thought of travelling with it. You simply blow it up and… smoosh your face into the flocked PVC exterior made, according to its successful Kickstarter page, of “very resistant” material.
The creators of this gadget have thought of everything. For instance, in answer to the question, “what happens when the passenger in front reclines his seat?” they respond that the device should still work fine, but also suggest, “An alternative solution is to order 2 Woollip Travel Pillows and generously offer one to the passenger in front of you ! :-)”
Actually, the Woollip is not alone in the “large-soft-things-you-cuddle-to-sleep” category. There’s also the inflatable SmartTravel pillow, available on Amazon:
Or what about the Little Cloud Nine, also on Amazon?
This one looks like it’s for folks who are serious about their sleep…
On the other hand, if you think cuddling a fuzzy PVC inflatable might look too odd, there’s always the PowerSiesta, essentially a fold-up cardboard lectern that you can wrap your arms around and sleep on top of, should you so choose.
Unlike most of the other sleep aids listed here, this is actually an active Kickstarter project, meaning you can get in on the ground floor if you think this gadget will succeed.
Whether it does or not, it’s obvious that people are always looking for better ways to sleep. I guess I’m not the only one who’s spent too many uncomfy sleepless hours on buses and planes. True, most of these solutions are pretty dorky, and many don’t seem to work as promised. But as the old saying goes, “A sleep-deprived fool and her money are easily parted.” When you’re desperate, you’re desperate, and you’ll buy anything that promises a few hours of shuteye.