Ever wonder why you feel fatigue after flights that are more than an hour or two in duration?
You know... that done in feeling like you just did a lot of work instead of sitting there on the plane for a few hours.
That's right... we're not talking jet lag here, though that fat-headed feeling and fatigue are both definitely part of jet lag.
You may feel fatigue after a long north-south flight where there is little or no change in time zones.
You may even feel that way after a daytime cross country flight with only two or three hours of time change.
We've experienced this when we flew from North America to South America.
We definitely felt fatigue after flights from California to Peru... 9 or 10 hours on the plane from Los Angeles to Lima as I recall, though there was only a three hour time difference for us.
Commercial aircraft are pressurized... You'd be uncomfortable if they weren't, but they are only pressurized to a comfortable equivalent altitude. What does THAT mean?
That means when you're flying at 35,000 ft (10,670 meters), the cabin will be pressurized to about the equivalent of 8,000 feet (2440 Meters)... so it will feel like you are in the mountains... high in the mountains.
If you've been hiking or skiing at those altitudes, you know that the air is thinner, and you easily get out of breath. There is less oxygen in each breath you take because of the lower air pressure, and that lower oxygen level tends to make your brain fuzzy.
When you go to the mountains above 8,000 feet, some people might even experience altitude sickness. For most air travelers, you don't need to worry about that, but it that high altitude effect will leave you feeling that familiar fatigue after flights.
If you're into a little adventure travel, you may feel a little fatigue DURING flights! We found that out when we boarded a flight in the Peruvian Amazon to return to Cuzco.
Now Cuzco city is at 10,800 feet or so.... that alone may give you a headache... but our flight on this Twin Otter took us up to 16,000 feet with no pressurization and no oxygen.
Most of our fellow passengers nodded off during that flight... and talk about your head feeling fat and fuzzy!!!
The relative humidity in airplanes is similar to desert air. This will make you dehydrated whether you feel thirsty or not.... and dehydration adds to fatigue after flights.
Combine the two.... less oxygen per breath and dry air, and no wonder you feel done in at the end of a flight.
Talk about a double whammy! On a recent trip to South Africa, we traveled across 10 time zones on three flights.
Five hours from the west coast of the U.S. to JFK in New York.
Fifteen and a half hours from New York to Johannesburg.
And another hour from Johannesburg to Durban. Add in the connection times in New York and Johannesburg, and I'll tell you, we were definitely feeling a little less than optimal when we arrived.
You really want to schedule a little time to rest and recover after a marathon flight like that.
Here are some tips that can help make you feel better when you walk off the plane.
On that trip to South Africa we recently took, we scheduled a couple of days at the beach...
...with time to just walk in the sun and fresh air to catch up with our jet lag...
And with three flights with a combined flying time of 23 hours, we definitely needed to get over the fatigue after flights.
We followed our own advice on that trip. If you do some of the things we mentioned, good. Doing all of them is even better. You'll probably still feel some fatigue after flights, but at least you won't feel quite so done in.
Do like we do... Factor in a little down time... whether it's a business trip or a holiday, having some time to rest once you arrive will make you feel better.