10 Reasons Why Traveling Makes You So Tired (with Hacks)

While traveling can be an exciting adventure, it can also drain your energy. The demands of travel can wear you out physically and mentally, whether you’re acclimating to a new place, taking a long flight, or switching time zones.

As an experienced world traveler who has embarked on numerous flights spanning across different continents, I have gained valuable expertise and insights into the factors that can contribute to fatigue while traveling.

This article explores ten causes of travel-related fatigue, including jet lag, sensory overload, decision fatigue, and sleep deprivation. By being aware of these factors, you can prepare yourself for future journeys appropriately and make sure you have the strength and stamina to get the most out of your travel experiences.

Why does air travel make you tired?

Traveling can cause fatigue due to disruptions to your sleep schedule, exposure to new environments, physical and emotional stress, and jet lag, which can throw off your body’s internal clock and lead to sleep disturbances and other symptoms.

1. Jet Lag

Jet lag occurs when you travel across different time zones, disrupting your body’s internal clock and natural sleep-wake cycle. This can result in fatigue, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and a general feeling of malaise.

Hack:

  • Adjust sleep schedule gradually: Begin adjusting your sleep and wake times a few days before your trip, gradually aligning them with the destination’s time zone.
  • Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water during the flight to stay hydrated, as dehydration can worsen the symptoms of jet lag.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol: Avoid excessive consumption of caffeine and alcohol, as they can disrupt your sleep patterns and contribute to jet lag.
  • Adapt to the destination: Upon arrival, try to adjust your activities and exposure to sunlight based on the local time, aiding in resetting your body’s internal clock.
  • Establish a regular sleep routine: Stick to a consistent sleep schedule at your destination to promote better sleep and help your body adjust to the new time zone.
  • Prioritize rest before the trip: Make sure to get enough rest in the days leading up to your journey, reducing fatigue and facilitating adaptation to the new time zone.

Check out my in-depth article on how to combat jet lagg.

2. Sitting for Long Periods

Travel often involves extended periods of sitting, such as during long flights or road trips, which can lead to fatigue, muscle stiffness, and a general sense of discomfort.

Hack:

  • Take regular breaks to stand up, stretch, and walk around to improve circulation.
  • Perform in-seat exercises like ankle rolls, neck stretches, and shoulder shrugs to keep your muscles active and reduce stiffness.
  • Use ergonomic travel accessories such as lumbar pillows or seat cushions to provide better support and maintain good posture.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the journey to prevent dehydration and fatigue.
  • Opt for comfortable and loose-fitting clothing that allows for easy movement and reduces discomfort during long periods of sitting.

3. Dry Cabin Air

Dry cabin air is a common issue during flights, where the low humidity levels can cause dehydration and discomfort. The dryness can lead to symptoms such as dry throat, dry eyes, nasal congestion, and overall fatigue. The lack of moisture in the air can contribute to a feeling of tiredness and make it harder to rest or sleep during the flight.

Hack:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the flight to counteract the drying effects of the cabin air.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption, as they can further dehydrate your body.
  • Use a hydrating nasal spray or saline solution to moisturize your nasal passages and alleviate any congestion or dryness.
  • Apply a moisturizer or hydrating lotion to your skin to prevent it from drying out.
  • Consider using a portable humidifier or placing a damp cloth near the air vent to add moisture to the immediate surroundings and alleviate the dryness in the cabin.

4. Loud Noises

Exposure to loud noises during travel, such as airplane engines, announcements, and crowded environments, can be tiring and overwhelming. The constant noise can disrupt sleep, increase stress levels, and contribute to fatigue and mental exhaustion.

Hack:

  • Use noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs to reduce the impact of loud noises and create a quieter, more peaceful environment.
  • Listen to calming or soothing music or sounds through headphones to help mask external noises and promote relaxation.
  • Choose a seat away from high-noise areas, such as near the engines or restrooms, to minimize exposure to loud sounds.
  • Engage in activities that distract your focus from the noise, such as reading a book, watching a movie, or engaging in conversation with travel companions.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises or mindfulness techniques to help manage stress and maintain a sense of calm amidst the surrounding noise.

5. Uncomfortable Seating

Sitting in uncomfortable seats during travel, such as on airplanes or long train rides, can lead to physical discomfort and fatigue. The lack of proper support and limited legroom can result in muscle stiffness, back pain, and overall restlessness.

Hack:

  • Bring a travel pillow or cushion to provide additional support and improve comfort during the journey.
  • Adjust your sitting position regularly, shifting your posture and stretching your legs to prevent stiffness.
  • Utilize lumbar supports or rolled-up blankets to maintain proper spinal alignment and reduce strain on the lower back.
  • Wear loose and comfortable clothing that allows for freedom of movement and minimizes constriction.
  • Consider requesting or selecting seats with extra legroom or better ergonomics when booking your travel arrangements.

6. Cabin Pressure

Changes in cabin pressure during takeoff and landing can cause discomfort and fatigue. The rapid changes in altitude can affect the ears and sinuses, leading to a feeling of pressure, blocked ears, or even pain.

Hack:

  • Chew gum, suck on candy, or swallow frequently during takeoff and landing to help equalize the pressure in the ears.
  • Perform the Valsalva maneuver by gently blowing air against your closed nostrils to equalize the pressure in the ears.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water to keep the nasal passages and throat moist, aiding in pressure equalization.
  • Use specialized earplugs designed for air travel to regulate the pressure changes and minimize discomfort.
  • Avoid sleeping during descent, as it may lead to increased pressure in the ears. Stay awake and swallow or perform equalizing techniques as needed.

7. Timezone Changes

Adjusting to new time zones can disrupt your body’s internal clock and result in fatigue, drowsiness, and difficulty sleeping. The misalignment between your internal rhythm and the local time can leave you feeling disoriented and tired.

Hack:

  • Gradually adjust your sleep schedule a few days before your trip, aligning it closer to the destination’s local time.
  • Expose yourself to natural sunlight during the day at your destination to help reset your internal clock.
  • Stay active and engage in light exercise upon arrival to promote wakefulness and adjust to the new time zone.
  • Avoid excessive napping during the day, as it may disrupt your ability to sleep at night and prolong the adjustment period.
  • Consider using melatonin supplements under the guidance of a healthcare professional to regulate sleep patterns and aid in adjusting to the new time zone.

8. In-flight Meals

In-flight meals, particularly those that are heavy, high in sodium, or rich in carbohydrates, can leave you feeling lethargic and tired. Digesting heavy meals during a flight requires energy, which can contribute to a sense of fatigue and discomfort.

Hack:

  • Opt for lighter and healthier meal options, such as salads, fruits, and lean proteins, to avoid feeling overly full and sluggish.
  • Pack your own nutritious snacks, such as nuts, granola bars, or cut-up fruits, to supplement or replace the in-flight meal.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking water or herbal tea, as it can help with digestion and prevent dehydration, which can contribute to fatigue.

9. Lack of Sleep

Traveling often disrupts regular sleep patterns, leading to insufficient sleep and fatigue. Factors like uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, jet lag, or noise disturbances can make it challenging to get quality rest during travel.

Hack:

  • Prioritize sleep by planning your travel schedule to allow for sufficient rest before and during your trip.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment by using earplugs, an eye mask, or a neck pillow to block out noise and light.
  • Establish a pre-sleep routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down, such as reading a book or practicing relaxation techniques.
  • Consider taking short power naps during the day to boost alertness and combat sleepiness, but avoid excessive napping, which can disrupt nighttime sleep.

10. Stress and Anxiety

Traveling can often come with stress and anxiety due to various factors such as packing, navigating unfamiliar places, managing schedules, and dealing with unexpected situations. These stressors can lead to mental exhaustion, fatigue, and a decreased ability to fully enjoy the travel experience.

Hack:

  • Plan and organize your travel in advance to reduce last-minute stressors and uncertainties.
  • Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or mindfulness to calm your mind and alleviate anxiety.
  • Stay prepared with necessary documents, itineraries, and essential items to minimize the fear of forgetting or losing important things.
  • Seek support from travel companions or friends/family who can provide reassurance and assistance during the journey.
  • Take regular breaks, engage in activities you enjoy, and allow yourself downtime to relax and recharge during your travels.

There you have it! The 10 top factors that can contribute to fatigue while traveling, including jet lag, sitting for long periods, dry cabin air, loud noises, uncomfortable seating, cabin pressure, timezone changes, stress, and anxiety.

By understanding these factors and implementing the provided travel hacks, you can can better manage their energy levels, reduce fatigue, and fully enjoy their journeys.