This is Why You Fall Asleep During Airplane Takeoff

Have you ever wondered why you’re so sleepy during airplane takeoff?

Don’t worry, you’re definitely not the only one! This is a very common feeling for many travelers, some of whom are completely unable to keep their eyes open.

Flying can be an extremely stressful experience, even for the most seasoned travelers. Just the journey of getting to the airport on time can be stressful!

The rush of getting checked in, making it through security and finding your boarding gate to your holiday destination can be absolutely exhausting. And then we haven’t even mentioned the stress of packing your backpack the day before the flight.

It’s really no wonder that you are exhausted by the time you get on the plane and settled into your seat.

Throughout this article, we will explain why you feel so sleepy as the plane is taking off. Once you better understand these reasons, we will also explain to you why it is better to keep awake during take-off and delay your dreams about your planned trip to Thailand until the plane reached a stable altitude. 

Cabin Pressure is the number one cause of sleepiness during takeoff

Airlines are required to keep the cabin pressure at an equivalent to 6,000-8,000 feet in elevation.  Around 7,000 feet, the saturation of oxygen into hemoglobin in the blood drops. As the hemoglobin drops, your body takes in less oxygen with each breath you take.

Breathing less oxygen means your body will essentially ‘slow down’. As your body automatically slows down to offset the lack of oxygen you will begin to feel sleepy and more relaxed.

Without even realizing it, your breathing will become slower and shallower as your body tries to conserve all of the oxygen you are taking in.

Low humidity levels and dry air in the cabin

Cabin conditions also have a lot to do with why you become so sleepy. The cabin air becomes very dry and humidity levels are quite low. Being in this type of environment can make you feel sluggish and almost lethargic.

You may also find that your throat and nose become very dry. It may even feel like you’ve caught a cold while on the flight.

As we all know, sleep is the best medicine so if you’re feeling this way, your body will automatically crave sleep. You should be feeling back to your old self almost immediately after getting off the plane.

Combine these feelings with having to remain seated in a small space and you’ll being to feel sleepy very quickly.

 Acceleration makes the mind think you lay down horizontally

Another reason for this feeling of sleepiness is due to the acceleration of the plane. As the aircraft is speeding down the runway and climbing through the air, you are physically pushed back into your seat by the accelerative force.

This force tricks your brain into thinking that you are in a horizontal position (laying down) and therefore tricks you into sleep mode.

We all know that it doesn’t take long to fall asleep when lying horizontally, so when our brain tricks us into feeling this way, sleepy mode hits us quite quickly. 

The ambiance is designed to keep you calm and sleepy

Even for those who hate flying, you can’t deny the relaxing ambiance of a plane as it’s getting ready for takeoff.

The lights are dimmed and the temperature is perfect. The flight attendant has likely dropped off a pillow and blanket for you, and you’re about to settle into a good movie.

On top of these comforts, the plane also offers plenty of white noise that will soothe even the lights of sleepers. As you doze off, your brain will focus on the white noise and not the sounds of other passengers or flight attendants.

Blocking these others sounds out will create a relaxing and calming environment, making a perfect atmosphere for…you guessed it, sleeping!

Is your brain playing tricks on you? Yes, yes it is!  There is also the vibration of the plane’s engines while moving through the air.

This slight vibration can be linked back to childhood when we were babies and our parents would rock us to sleep. While we may not realize we are taken back to such a time, our brain is tricked into thinking we are being put to sleep in a comfortable environment. 

To sleep or not to sleep? That is the question!

Regardless of how sleepy you feel, it’s highly recommended not to fall asleep during takeoff and landing. Your breathing is slower, you will swallow less and your ears will begin to plug.

Due to the cabin pressure, you may feel the need to “pop” your ears during takeoff. This can be done safely by yawning, chewing gum or sucking on hard candy. You can also blow your nose to release some of this pressure.

Whichever method you choose, be sure you don’t overdo it, you don’t want to cause severe damage to your ears.

Once you have “popped” your ears safely and the plane is nearing its peak elevation, feel free to relax, enjoy the flight and catch some much-needed Z’s.

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