This Is Why It’s So Tough to Fall Asleep on an Airplane

This Is Why It’s So Tough to Fall Asleep on an Airplane © aslysun

Whether you’re lounging or in the upright and locked position, a plane seat just isn’t your bed. The seats are more sardine-packed than ever before. Plus, you’re hurtling through the air at 550 miles per hour. How are you expected to sleep through that? 

In short, catching some sleep while flying is just plane difficult. The nut of the issue is structural, not stimuli-related: The human body just isn’t designed to sleep sitting up. 

GALLERY: 7 Hidden Features on Airplanes You Had No Idea Existed

Keep an eye out for these on your next flight.

The magic button for extra room

Did you manage to snag an aisle seat? Not only can you get up without crawling over people, but you can make your seat extra roomy at the push of a button, thanks to one of the coolest secret airplane features. Reach under the armrest closest to the aisle and feel around near the hinge. You should find a button, which will instantly let you swing the armrest up when you push it, according to

Travel + Leisure

.  Once it’s in line with your seat back, it won’t dig into your side anymore, and you can move your legs around without hitting anything. 

The hidden handrail

We’re willing to bet you hate it when people aggressively grab your seat on the way to the bathroom. Once it’s your turn to make your way down the aisle, though, you realize you have no choice but to follow suit—or do you? Flight attendants don’t just touch the ceiling for fun when they walk; the bottom of the overhead compartment has a scalloped area that gives better grip when walking down a moving airplane, according to

Condé Nast Traveler

. Next time you need to get up, reach to the ceiling for balance. 

Secret sleeping area

A long-haul flight is hard enough on passengers, but imagine being a pilot or flight attendant trying to make it through a 14-hour workday. It’s an exhausting job, so some planes, like Boeing 777 and 787 planes, have secret passageways that let staff can get some decent shut-eye, according to


. A locked door near the front of the plane or a door posing as an overhead bin hides the entrance to a set of beds, kept private with thick curtains. 

Hooks on the wings

If you peek out the window to an Airbus plane’s wing, you can spot yellow bumps with holes in the middle on an otherwise smooth, white surface. If there’s an emergency water landing, the wings would be very slippery for passengers trying to get to the inflatable slide that would have deployed. To help travelers get off without falling, the easy-to-miss airplane features let cabin crew slip a rope through one hook and fasten it to the next, according to

pilot 'Captain' Joe

. Passengers could hold on to the rope while on the plane to make it away from the plane safely.

Triangle above window

Scan the wall of your plane; above four windows, you’ll see a black triangle. Each one lines up with the edge of the airplane’s wing, according to

pilot 'Captain' Joe

. If a flight attendant needs to check the airplane’s slats or flaps—the moving parts on a wing—they’ll know exactly where to go for the best view. If you’re getting motion sick on a plane, you might want to see if you can move to a seat between the triangles. The wings are the plane’s center of gravity, so sitting between them would give you the smoothest ride. 

Holes in the windows

Look closely at an airplane window and you’ll spot something weird: a little hole in the bottom. Take an even closer look and you’ll realize that unlike other windows, this one is made of three panes, and the hole is in the middle one. The quirk is there to protect against the pressure drop of flying high into the atmosphere, according to


. As a plane ascends, the pressure outside drops massively, but the cabin is designed to stay at a comfortable pressure. That leaves a big difference in pressure inside and outside of the plane. The outside window takes on most of that pressure, and the hole in the middle one helps balance the pressure difference. The inner window is just to protect the middle one. 

Hidden handcuffs

If passengers are getting unruly, flight attendants have the right to restrain them. They might use typical cop-style cuffs, but most will use plastic restraints similar to zip ties, according to



If you’re hoping to catch a quick snooze though, you might just be fine. But for those overnight long-distance flights, your sleep cycle is actively fighting against you. Dr. Neil Kline, a sleep disorder physician and the CEO of the American Sleep Association, spoke to Mental Floss about the sleep stage which makes your airline sleeping efforts so Herculean.

“Usually during REM sleep, other than eye movements, our voluntary muscles are paralyzed….We likely evolved this disconnect during REM sleep in order to prevent injury to ourselves.”

REM sleep kicks into gear about 70 to 90 minutes into your snooze. So you might be coasting along just fine, but once this stage hits, the sleep posture you took so much time to adjust yourself into goes out the window. If you’re in the middle seat, you might just bump into your neighbor; if you’re by the window, you might just slide your head against that cold plexiglass; if you have an aisle seat, well, you’re possibly colliding into a drink cart.

Bottom line: When you hit REM stage in your bed, gravity isn’t working against you, and you’re obviously working with a lot more space; the paralysis is relatively harmless. When you’re on a plane, it doesn’t exactly work that way, making it difficult to summon the sandman. 

[Source: Mental Floss]

The post This Is Why It’s So Tough to Fall Asleep on an Airplane appeared first on Reader's Digest.

WATCH: Which airplane seat you choose may reveal a lot about you (Provided by TODAY)

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