Do you ever get really drowsy when you fly? One minute you’re chatting with your seat neighbor; the next minute your head flops back with your mouth open and a slight snore emanating from your face. It’s not pretty. But who cares, you’re all of a sudden so sleepy you just have to give in. Maybe it’s because you got up at 2:00 am, but what’s your excuse if it’s the middle of the day?


Here are several theories about why you get sleepy on flights.

1) Cabin Pressure

Cabin pressure is one of the top culprits for in-flight drowsiness. As you soar between 10,000 and 35,000 feet, it’s necessary to keep the cabin pressure at a level that’s tolerable for humans.

That tolerable pressure happens to be the same level of air pressure you’d experience at 6,000 – 8,000 feet above sea level, which is much higher up than what many of us are used to. This makes it more difficult for our bodies to consume oxygen, which can make you dizzy and tired. You’ll naturally want to doze.

2) Humidity

Airplanes have notoriously low humidity, which means the air is super dry. It’s no wonder you hear everyone urging you to drink plenty of water when you fly. By the end of your flight, you’re like a sun-dried tomato on a hot summer day.

This lack of moisture and dehydration leads to fatigue. And depending on how long your flight is, it could easily lure you into a snooze.

3) Ambiance

These days, more and more people fall asleep with the TV on or some other form of sound. Think about all the moms who use white noise machines for their kids. Or the picky sleeper who uses a box fan recording to induce sleep. The plane has a constant hum that can easily pull these types of people into a drowsy state.

4) Habit

If you travel a lot, then you may have formed a sleeping habit. Maybe it’s the perfect time for you to catch up on the sleep you didn’t get the night before. It’s not a bad idea. After all, you are just sitting there, waiting to get to your next destination. You could do some work, but you can also snooze.

5) Stress Relief

I don’t know a single person who thinks flying is stress-free. Everything about flying is stressful. Buying the ticket, going through security, dealing with all the people, waiting in lines, waiting on the plane, being late for the plane, finding parking at the airport, getting to the airport, eating at the airport, dealing with luggage.

You name it. If it’s related to flying, then it’s stressful.

But all that stress dissolves – usually – when you’re safely in that seat and on your way to your next (or final) destination. Although, that’s not always the case, especially if you suffer from flying anxiety.

6) Early or Late Flight Times

Let’s state the obvious: flight times. Flying the redeye will no doubt put in you prime sleep time. Coffee ain’t got nothin’ on an early morning flight. Doesn’t matter how many cups. Those lights are out the minute your head tilts back.


There are a lot of possible reasons you get sleepy on a flight. What’s interesting is that just as many people get sleepy as don’t. You may be snoozin’, but your neighbor’s over there crawling out of their skin because they’re afraid of flying. Everyone’s different. Enjoy your snooze!


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