Have you ever been on a long-distance flight, a train journey, or even a road trip? If you have, you’ll likely know how fatiguing traveling can be. After most long journeys, travelers are physically and mentally exhausted, but why does traveling make people so exhausted?
Here are the 9 reasons why traveling makes you so tired:
- The lack of mental stimulation
- Your psychological state can affect your energy level
- The altitude when traveling by air
- Dehydration when flying
- Decreased bodily functions
- Jet lag
- Intense travel schedule
- Poor diet on trips
- Routine disruption
Continue reading to learn more in detail about why travel fatigue happens. I’ll also explore the different causes of fatigue in other traveling forms, including road and air travel. I’ll also provide you with some tips and tricks that can help you reduce fatigue after traveling.
1. The Lack of Mental Stimulation
Traveling isn’t a particularly strenuous physical activity, so how come it makes people so exhausted? A significant factor of travel fatigue is the lack of mental stimulation. When you’re traveling, you’ll likely find yourself feeling bored.
When our brains lack mental stimulation, they can send us to sleep. As a result, when sitting in the same seat for hours on a train, bus, or plane, your body will become tired as your mind loses interest in your surroundings.
Changes in Speed
If you’re traveling by road, speed changes can significantly affect your energy levels. Cars, vans, and buses are all used to accelerate as needed to go with the traffic flow.
The constant shift between speeding up and slowing down can cause fatigue in your body. This is because as the vehicle’s speed changes, your muscles contract and relaxes to keep you upright and in position. This also happens when the car you’re traveling in makes a sharp turn as it causes your body to sway.
All of these movements lead to bodily stress, which is why you’ll typically feel stiff after a long car journey. Your brain and body will both be fatigued as both need to be engaged to ensure that you remain upright and in position.
You’re unlikely to be tired by changes in speed when you travel by rail or airplane because trains and planes tend to remain constant for most of the journey, and most speed changes happen gradually. As a result, you won’t feel the same physical and mental fatigue.
2. Your Psychological State Can Influence Your Energy Level
Our psychological state can have a massive influence on our energy levels.
For example, chronic fatigue is an indicator of numerous mental issues, including depression. Therefore, the psychological state that travel puts us in can influence our energy levels.
Traveling places us into a mental state where we’re excited to get where we’re going yet also bored of what’s around us. This can be taxing for your mind as you’re in a state of anticipation for hours on end, inevitably leading to fatigue.
At the same time, travel can positively benefit our mental health as vacations are a fantastic way to alleviate stress and blow off some steam. Many travelers look forward to the chance to have a break from their regular busy life schedules.
However, traveling can also have the opposite effect. It can cause mood changes, depression, and anxiety. It can also lead to uncharacteristic behaviors like substance abuse, violence, and suicidal thoughts. If traveling negatively impacts your mental well-being, you’ll likely be exhausted when you reach your destination.
3. The Altitude When Traveling by Air
A reason for fatigue when traveling by airplane is the altitude. As you climb higher into the sky, the oxygen and pressure levels decrease significantly. To compensate for these changes, airplane cabins are pressurized to provide acceptable conditions for travelers.
However, while airplane cabins are pressurized, the pressure levels still decrease when compared to ground levels. It can have adverse effects on your mind and body, leading to exhaustion.
As airplane cabins are kept at a lower pressure level than sea level, you receive less oxygen into your body, leading to shortness of breath and lower levels of oxygen reaching your brain and body. As a result, you can feel exhausted by the end of a long flight.
In some instances, travelers may feel nausea and dizziness due to a lack of oxygen, which can be very taxing on your body and mind, especially when flying for a long time.
4. Dehydration When Flying
Another cause of fatigue during air travel is dehydration. An airplane is a controlled environment where conditions are set to specific standards to ensure safe and efficient flights. One of the conditions specified in most airplanes is humidity. Typically, planes set the humidity levels between 10% and 20%.
The average humidity levels are between 35% and 65% in ordinary environments. As a result, planes have between 15% and 55% less moisture in the air. Lower levels of humidity can assist airborne disease transmission as your nasal passage dries out in low humidity. As a result, illnesses like the common cold can spread quickly on airplanes.
Reduced levels of moisture in the air can also cause your skin to dry out. On top of this, your body requires more fluids to stay hydrated. Dehydration causes thirst, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion in mild to moderate cases. Severe cases of dehydration can cause seizures and even death.
To prevent dehydration when flying, you should drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol as they speed up the process of dehydration. Drinking water before your flight is another preventative measure.
5. Decreased Bodily Functions
Another common cause of fatigue while traveling is decreased bodily functions. Different forms of travel can cause your body to underperform in a few different ways.
Here are a few ways that our bodies can struggle while traveling.
People often experience disruption to their digestive system while traveling, which is particularly common in air travel. However, many people also feel disturbance to their digestive system when traveling by road or rail.
Digestive problems can happen due to new foods and drinks that your body isn’t familiar with. On top of this, travel can be a stressful time for many people. Increased levels of stress can lead to nausea, indigestion, gas, and diarrhea. Any of these common stomach issues may lead to fatigue and exhaustion during your journey.
Blood Circulation Issues
Another common issue you may experience when traveling is blood circulation issues. Blood circulation issues occur when traveling, as you likely will be sitting in one position for an extended period. Sitting in one place for a long time can reduce circulation to different parts of your body.
On top of this, there’s an increased risk of blood clots and severe health issues from poor circulation.
Traveling by air carries an increased risk of blood clots as the lack of pressure combined with sitting in one place can put you more at risk. The reduction in the effectiveness of your blood circulation causes fatigue.
6. Jet Lag
Jet lag is a term often used to describe feeling tired after traveling. However, this isn’t strictly true as it’s a specific condition caused by traveling across time zones in an airplane.
Also known as jet lag disorder, jet lag is caused by disturbances to your usual sleep pattern by changes in time zones. It can leave you feeling exhausted, confused, and dizzy. Symptoms usually ease by themselves within a few days of arriving at your destination.
You can reduce the effects of jet lag by getting plenty of rest before traveling. Another way to minimize jet lag is by adjusting your schedule to fit the time zone that you’re traveling to. For example, if you were going to a destination that’s 6 hours ahead of you, set your clocks to 6 hours ahead for a couple of days before leaving.
Adjusting your schedule to fit your new destination can reduce the drastic change to your program when traveling across time zones.
7. Intense Travel Schedule
Another common reason for travelers feeling exhausted is intense travel schedules. Many vacationers and professionals have a lot of traveling to do in a short amount of time. Constant traveling can quickly cause increased levels of fatigue.
Whether you’re traveling by air, rail, or road, you’re going to experience a multitude of causes of fatigue. You may not feel tired after a single journey, but over time, a lot of traveling can put your body and mind under stress, leading to illness, and fatigue quickly sets in.
8. Poor Diet on Trips
What food do you usually pack for a journey? If you’re like me, then you’ll bring snacks like chocolate and chips with you when traveling. You’re also likely to drink sodas or alcoholic drinks to alleviate stress and make your journey more enjoyable.
People usually eat more and overindulge when on vacation, leading to disruptions to their digestive system and energy levels.
If your body is used to regular meals and healthy eating, you’ll likely notice a sharp decline in your motivation and energy levels due to a poor diet. It can lead to feelings of fatigue when you return from vacation.
9. Routine Disruption
Human beings are creatures of habit. Most people have patterns that they follow every day. These patterns can be anything from when you eat or go to bed or what you eat and drink to how much sleep you get at night. Disruptions to daily routines can cause fatigue, among other issues.
When you’re traveling, you’re likely going to follow very little of your daily patterns. This is especially true if traveling for a vacation or an extended period. Spending hours sitting in one place can cause you to feel tired at different times of the day compared with your routine.
As a result, your sleeping patterns become disrupted, leading to a poor night’s sleep, which in turn leaves you tired and cranky in the morning.
The change in when you eat your meals can also lead to energy being released into your body at different times of the day. Therefore, you may have more energy at night and less in the morning than usual or vice versa. You may experience fatigue as a result.
Ways That Can Help Reduce Your Travel Fatigue
While there are numerous causes of fatigue after traveling, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you prevent this from happening.
Here are a few great ways to minimize your travel fatigue:
Take a Nap
Taking the time out of your day to have a nap is a great way to reduce travel fatigue. Naps give you the chance to catch up on some much-needed sleep while traveling.
If you’re traveling by bus, train, or plane, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take a nap, which can leave you feeling well-rested and rejuvenated upon arrival at your destination.
Take Breaks in Between Activities
If you’re traveling for work or leisure, you’ll likely want to get as much done as possible. After all, traveling can be expensive, and you want to get your money’s worth. However, constantly being on the go will zap your energy levels and leave you exhausted.
You can prevent this by taking a break, getting a coffee, or simply relaxing for a few minutes. Taking a break can also alleviate the stress of traveling so you can figure out what you’re going to do next.
Don’t Cram Your Itinerary
People often create an itinerary for their travels. While it helps you stay organized and allows you to see more when traveling, it can also lead to cramming too many activities into your day.
A hectic travel schedule will leave you running around and trying to get everything done, adding to your stress levels. It isn’t only physically draining but also mentally and emotionally exhausting. Therefore, you must ease up on the activities and allow enough time for some rest and recovery.
- NCBI: The Relationship Between Drivers’ Cognitive Fatigue and Speed Variability
- CDC: Mental Health and Travel
- Center For Family Medicine: Why Flying Makes You So Dehydrated
- Health Line: Blood Clots and Flying: What You Should Know
- NHS: Jet Lag