I find sleeping on planes very odd. Sleeping is fundamentally (for us western folk, anyway) a very private, intimate thing, done in the dark, while mostly covered, in a closed room, usually with yourself or one other. Two if you’re lucky. When asleep, you become entirely unaware of yourself and your surroundings, you lose control of rather important bodily functions and movements (see: spastic head bobbing, snoring/babbling, drooling, gas, unsightly facial expressions), you turn your whole self over to another world. You can’t be held responsible for what you look like or do while asleep– you drift away to a tropical island and leave your earthly body sitting there in 23C, mouth open and mumbling something about dogs, paper airplanes and some dude named Jerry.
I’m always surprised by how airplane passengers are able to ignore these innate intimacies and allow themselves to fall asleep next to complete strangers. And not just a few people give human nature the slip—the great majority of people do. They don’t know their neighbor’s name but 10 minutes into the flight they’re breathing heavily on their shoulder. It’s the ultimate vulnerability, one we rarely show as conscious, adult human beings. On long flights, we all go back to being kids at naptime, dozing peacefully just a few inches from each other. I think it’s totally bizarre but kind of nice.