How to Get Rest, Not Sick On Your Next Flight

Air travel is a major convenience, but it’s also known to wreak havoc on our health and our sleep.


In today’s post we’re sharing everything you need to know to avoid getting sick and get a good sleep on your next flight.  Follow these tips to arrive at your destination feeling rested and ready to go!


Pre-flight prep

Ensuring a good flight actually begins before you even get on the plane.  Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before your flight and drink a lot of water prior to flying.  Sleep deprivation makes you more susceptible to infection, so aim for 7-8 hours before your flight.  Consuming enough water keeps your respiratory tract moistened, providing better defence against bacteria. 


Stay hydrated during your flight

You should also skip alcohol and coffee on the flight to avoid dehydration.  The air on flights is typically very dry, so you want to do everything you can to prevent further drying out your respiratory tract.  A saline nasal spray can help to keep your nasal passages hydrated, which can prevent bacteria and viruses from entering your body.


Use your overhead vent

The overhead vent above your seat is actually a great line of defence against germs.  The ventilation systems on planes are extremely effective, and using your vent creates a current which will keep germs away from you.


Use hand sanitizer and wipes

Another effective and simple way to protect yourself from germs is to bring along your own hand sanitizer and wipes.  Be sure to wipe down your tray before using it and use hand sanitizer frequently, and especially after using the washroom or touching anything that many people may have come into contact with.


For further defence against germs and air pollution, you can consider wearing a mask during your flight.  This will help to filter our germs, and it can also protect you from any chemicals and fumes that may be in the air.


Bring your own food

Rather than eating the often less than healthy meals available on the plane, pack your own snacks and meals.  This doesn’t just save you money, but it ensures that you can get a healthier option and avoid any possible food contamination.  Eating healthy meals on board will not only help to keep you healthy but will also facilitate a better sleep.


Choose the right seat (to avoid the flu)

This is another pre-flight tip: if you have the option of choosing your seat prior to boarding, take it!  A recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at the likelihood of catching the flu on a fully packed plane during flu season.  Luckily, their findings showed that it’s not very likely, but they also found which seats are even less likely to get infected.


First off, even if you do see a sick passenger boarding your plane, chances are you don’t need to worry.  The study showed that the small respiratory droplets which pass on the flu through coughing, sneezing, and talking, typically only travel around six feet. 


What does this mean for you? Unless you’re sitting in the same aisle or the aisle directly in front of or behind an infected person, you have next to no chance of getting infected by them.  If you do find yourself in one of these aisles, you can always ask to move to another seat if there’s room on the flight.


Now for seat selection: the name of the game in avoiding infection is to choose a seat that will have the least contact with other passengers as possible.  The study showed that aisle seats averaged 64 contacts per flight, middle seats 58 contacts, and the window seat had only 12 contacts!  Seats in the middle of the plane also had more contacts than people at the front or back.  So, a window seat in the front of back of the plane is the way to go!


Choose the right seat (for a better sleep)

Just as choosing a seat that will bring you into less contact with infection can help you avoid the flu, choosing a seat that brings you into less contact with people can also provide a better sleep because you’re less likely to be disturbed and woken up by others. 


The study showed that 43 per cent of window seat passengers and 62 per cent of middle seat holders get up at least once during a 3.5 – 5 hour flight.  That’s a lot of opportunity to get woken up during your flight if you’re in an aisle seat!  If you’re in the window seat, you’ll avoid being woken up by your seat mates.


Having a window seat will also help to ensure that you not only get the most sleep, but also the best quality sleep.  Dr. Jeffery Ellenbogen, chief of sleep medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that unless your muscles have the chance to relax, you’re not able to sink into a deeper level of sleep.  Anyone sleeping sitting up, even with a neck pillow, likely isn’t able to achieve a restful sleep. 


Instead, opt for a window seat, where you can rest against the side of the plane and get a real shot at a decent sleep.


Pack a sleep mask and ear plugs

While snagging the right seat is a huge factor in avoiding the flu and getting a good sleep, there’s one more step that will really improve your rest.  As Dr. Ellenbogen points out, plans are a hub of major activity, and we sometimes underestimate the sensory overload we go through while on board.  It’s hard to shut down and stay asleep when we’ve got so many distractions around us, so make sure you pack ear plugs and a sleep mask to help cancel out some of the buzz.


Follow these steps to give yourself a major advantage on your next flight and arrive at your destination ready to go!

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