Flying does weird things to our body—we all know that.
But did you know how exactly that cabin pressure might be affecting you in more ways? Here's exactly what happens to your body—and why—when you fly:
You get more emotional.
Crying at a film is no biggie. But occasionally, you have to question your own emotional stability when you find yourself bursting into tears because the in-flight entertainment only has half the Sex and the City series.
If you're 40,000 ft up, there's actually a few factors behind your wobbly moments. Psychologist Honey Langcaster-James told Cosmopolitan UK that many people will feel anxious and vulnerable in the air. And even for the most seasoned jet-setter, flight time is a chance to reflect on life:
"On some deep level there may be a sense that there is something quite unnatural for us as humans to get inside a giant machine and go thousands of feet up into the air - and this can lead to a stirring of vulnerable emotions and thoughtfulness," Langcaster-James explained. "Some might feel quite emotional or particularly contemplative.
"There is also the fact that being so high up gives us a unique perspective on life, one that often demands our thought and consideration. Sometimes this can be helpful in terms of putting our concerns into perspective, but for some it can bring up some challenging thoughts and feelings.
Of course, when you're on a flight alone you really are alone—often without even an internet connection to keep you updated.
"In the busy world we live in it’s actually quite rare for us to just sit still in one spot for a number of hours as we do when we take a flight," Langcaster-James said. "This sense of stopping, and particularly disconnecting from our smartphones as we go on 'flight mode' can lead us to check in with ourselves and actually face our feelings and deeper thoughts."
Dr. Sara Kayat, an NHS GP and TV doctor for This Morning and Celebrity Island with Bear Grylls, agrees with Honey.
"The whole process of flying can be stressful, worrying about whether we will make the flight, whether we locked all the doors before we left, sad about having left loved ones, or simply suffering with post-holiday blues," she told Cosmopolitan UK. "But when you add poor sleep, feeling uncomfortable, not having your usual home comforts, and imbibing too many mini alcohol bottles, your abilities to draw on your normal coping strategies to manage these emotional triggers may wane."Continue reading below ↓
You might feel drunk more quickly.
Speaking of mini alcohol bottles...there's a good chance they might be affecting more than just your emotional state. As Dr. Kayat explains, "While the actual amount of alcohol in the blood stream would be the same on a plane and on the ground, a factor that might make you feel more drunk is the lower oxygen levels at higher altitudes, making you feel lighter headed, mimicking the feeling of being drunk."
The best cure for this one? That old trick of a glass of water between each alcoholic drink. "If you're more dehydrated, as often you are on a plane, you may also feel that hangover slightly more," Dr. Kayat says. And no-one needs a post-flight hangover.
You'll feel more gassy and bloated.
While plane food most definitely isn't the healthiest option, it's highly unlikely you'll feel like you ballooned in size just from a bad bacon and egg breakfast.
"The higher the aircraft flies, the lower the air pressure in the cabin," Dr. Kayat said. "These changes in the environmental pressure can actually affect the gas within our bodies too, causing our bowels to expand making us feel gassy and bloated."
Even more reason to wear those comfy trackies, then.Continue reading below ↓
You're more likely to develop a cold after the flight.
Everything you ever thought about germs floating around the inside of a plane cabin is pretty much true.
"There are hundreds of people in a enclosed space, providing an incubation for viruses like the very contagious common cold," said Dr. Kayat. "This is further compounded by the fact that some of the air within the cabin is re-circulated, so we are being exposed to lots of airborne germs."
Bad news, it's probably worse on the way home: "If you are already tired and sleep deprived and have not been looking after yourself in terms of exercise and diet on your holidays, your immune system may also not be working at its optimum, leaving you more susceptible to these germs."
Your skin will become dry.
We all know that we should be moisturising yadda yadda... but why does it feel like no amount of Elizabeth Arden can prevent the inevitable post-flight breakouts and dryness? "The recirculated air with low humidity can dry up your skin and mucous membranes in your mouth and nose," Dr. Kayat explained.
So what can you do to help minimise the emotional and physical effects next time you fly? Just like your packing ritual, you should prepare your body.
"It's important before your flight to ensure that you are already well hydrated, well rested, and have been keeping your immune system in check through diet and exercise," explained Dr. Kayat.
"During the flight try to keep active and walk up and down the aisle and try and stretch as much as possible, and stay well hydrated by drinking throughout and avoiding alcohol."Continue reading below ↓
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com/uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.