You’ve made it. You managed to navigate your way through a busy airport without robot assistance; you breezed through security because you didn’t pack any items that might get you flagged; and you successfully boarded the plane. Now you’re comfortable in your seat in the (kind of incredibly germ-ridden) cabin, and there’s even a little bit of elbow room, as the flight isn’t fully booked for once. With the hassle behind you, you settle in with your neck pillow, pop some of these sleep-inducing songs on your iPod, and get ready to spend quality time sleeping on a plane. And you’re about to make a huge mistake that will put your health at risk, as reported by Travel + Leisure.
It’s not because of the music. It’s the shuteye part. According to MedlinePlus, falling asleep during landing or takeoff could cause serious damage to your ears. It all has to do with the rapid changes in air pressure in the cabin. (Taking a trip with a Canadian airline? Here’s how to make your flight as hassle-free as possible.)
If you’re awake, a natural response to alleviate pressure on your eardrums during takeoff and landing is to “pop” them, to maintain a pressure equilibrium. If you’re sleeping on a plane, you can’t actively work to relax those muscles and release the tension, so you can become susceptible to dizziness, ear infections, eardrum damage, hearing loss and nose bleeds. (Elevate your next trip with these innovative travel accessories.)
“A quick change in altitude affects the air pressure in the ear,” says Angel Chalmers, a British pharmacist, via Express. “This leads to a vacuum in the Eustachian tubes which makes the ears feel blocked and sound dull.”
Keep those Eustachian tubes clear and keep those eyes open for at least another few minutes. Crack open that book you just bought in the terminal!
Originally published as This Is Why You Should Never, Ever Sleep While a Plane Is Taking Off or Landing on ReadersDigest.com.