Expert revealed why we always cry on planes

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Have you ever wondered why you tend to feel more emotional on the plane? Well, it turns out there are many reasons behind why this could be the case. James Roy, the neuro expert from Brainworks Neurotherapy, has provided commentary on why people cry more on planes.

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“It is no coincidence that people are more likely to cry on a plane than anywhere else, as flying can be an uncomfortable and painful experience for some. The air pressure inside the ear is regulated by a narrow passage called the Eustachian tube. This opening connects the middle ear with the nasal-sinus cavity, which helps to regulate pressure inside the ear by our surroundings. 

Adapting pressure inside the ears causes the muscles controlling the Eustachian tube to open up,  which can result in a painful popping sensation and even cause the eardrum to stretch.  This can be why children often tend to cry more during the flight, as the smaller the Eustachian tubes, the more discomfort caused.

Heightened emotions can be both psychological and physiological, and they can be related to hypoxia or low oxygen levels while flying. Even though the plane is pressurised, we are still breathing in less air than we would if we were on the ground. Hypoxia, or oxygen deficiency, can impair cognitive function and increase emotional responses, as well as influence depression or mood changes.

Air travel may involve emotional triggers, such as saying goodbye to loved ones or coming back from a stressful business trip, in addition to travel fatigue. These emotional triggers, combined with the discomfort of travelling, can lead to people feeling more vulnerable. When flying, we are disconnected from the outside world and forced to gauge suppressed emotions and reflective consciousness, which can lead to overthinking and crying.

Aeroplanes keep their humidity levels at about 10-20% to prevent structural damage to the plane, which is quite a bit lower than the 35-65% humidity with which humans are comfortable. Dry air means that we lose more water through evaporation and breathing, which can lead to mild dehydration, often resulting in mood imbalances and feeling more emotional.

Lastly, the fear of not being in control can lead to feeling more nervous and heightened emotions. Given the number of reported plane crashes over the years, many have developed what is known as Aviophobia (the fear of flying) leading to feeling unsettled during the flight.

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Author: Anastasiya Simsek