Mya Care Blogger 26 Feb 2024

Do you love air travel? Whether it is for business or pleasure, flying can be a convenient and delightful way to explore new places and cultures. But have you ever wondered how air travel can affect your health? Flying can have both positive and negative impacts on your physical and mental well-being, depending on various factors. The impact of travel on hormones is a significant, often overlooked aspect of our body's response to new environments and experiences. Travel-induced changes in routines and surroundings profoundly affect our hormonal balance.

Understanding how hormones fluctuate during travel helps us better manage them. Hormones regulate various bodily functions, including mood, energy levels, sleep patterns, and overall health. This knowledge is vital for optimizing travel experiences and addressing potential health effects.

In this blog, we will discuss how air travel can affect your health, the common health risks and hazards, as well as tips and best practices that can protect your health while flying.

The Impact of Travel on Hormones

The correlation between travel and hormonal disruptions is evident in the body's response to environmental changes. Travel, especially across time zones or to unfamiliar settings, triggers shifts in our circadian rhythm, leading to alterations in hormone production and regulation.

Stress and disrupted sleep patterns serve as key catalysts for hormonal imbalance during travel. The body's stress response, heightened during travel due to factors like unfamiliar surroundings or transportation-related anxiety, can disrupt the delicate balance of hormones. Similarly, irregular sleep patterns or insufficient rest further impact hormone regulation, influencing mood, metabolism, and overall well-being. Knowing these impacts is essential to understand the complex link between hormone shifts and travel-induced changes.

Hormonal Effects of Long/Frequent Flights

Long-haul flights and frequent travel exert a notable impact on hormones. Prolonged periods of sitting during flights can affect circulation and contribute to stress hormone release. Additionally, the repetitive disruptions to one's routine due to frequent travel can lead to a chronic state of hormonal imbalance, affecting various bodily functions.

The body's internal clock struggles to adapt to new schedules, impacting the timing of hormone release. This disruption, especially in hormone-regulated processes like sleep and digestion, can result in fatigue, mood swings, and metabolic changes.

Chronic stress from frequent travel can lead to prolonged hormonal imbalances, affecting mental and physical health. Understanding these effects is key to developing strategies to mitigate stress and maintain hormone equilibrium during travel.

Specific Hormones Affected by Travel

Cortisol and Stress Response

Travel significantly influences cortisol levels and the stress response. Studies have shown that travel-related stress triggers cortisol elevation. Factors such as airport hassles, fear of flying, or navigating new environments can lead to increased cortisol levels. This elevation in cortisol, the body's primary stress hormone, can affect both short-term and prolonged stress responses, impacting mood, immune function, and metabolism during and after travel.

Melatonin and Sleep Patterns

The impact of travel on melatonin, a hormone regulating sleep-wake cycles, is significant. Crossing time zones disturbs the body's natural production of melatonin, affecting sleep patterns. This disruption can result in insomnia, fatigue, and difficulty adjusting to new sleep schedules, contributing to the overall exhaustion experienced during travel.

Recent findings show that crossing time zones can disrupt the body's natural melatonin production. This disruption affects sleep patterns and the adjustment to new time zones, leading to jet lag and sleep disturbances. Additionally, these disruptions can cause difficulties in falling asleep or maintaining a regular sleep schedule, primarily due to the misalignment of the body's internal clock with the new environment.

Estrogen, Testosterone, and Thyroid Hormones

Travel can also influence reproductive hormones like estrogen and testosterone, along with thyroid hormones. Changes in environment, diet, and stress levels during travel can disrupt the balance of estrogen and testosterone, affecting mood, energy, and reproductive functions.

Similarly, alterations in routine and stress can impact thyroid hormones, potentially leading to changes in metabolism and energy regulation. Understanding these specific hormonal changes during travel sheds light on the multiple effects of travel on our body's endocrine system.

Other Health Effects of Air Travel

As an often exciting and novel experience, most people are well aware of the positive impact that flying has on their well-being. Unfortunately, the benefits can dwindle for frequent flyers, who might be more susceptible to the negative health effects of air travel. Some of these include:

  • Dehydration: Air travel can cause dehydration due to the low humidity and dry air in the cabin. People often drink alcohol and caffeine on their flights, both of which can increase the risk of dehydration due to their diuretic effects. Dehydration can lead to headaches, dry skin and eyes, fatigue, and constipation.
  • Jet lag: Jet lag happens due to traveling across time zones, which throws off the circadian rhythm or the body's internal clock. It can affect your mood, cognition, sleep quality, and immunity. It can also increase the risk of gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.
  • Stress and anxiety: Air travel can cause stress and anxiety due to various factors, such as fear of flying, security checks, delays, crowds, noise, and turbulence. Stress and anxiety can affect blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, and immune system. They can also trigger or exacerbate mental health issues, such as depression, panic attacks, and phobias.
  • Other effects: There are many other health effects associated with air travel. It can affect blood circulation, body oxygenation, metabolism, digestion, and pressure inside the ears.

The impact of air travel on health can vary depending on several factors. People with pre-existing medical conditions, older adults, pregnant women, and children are often more sensitive to the effects of flying than healthy adults.

Other factors to take into consideration include:

  • Longer flights can have more pronounced effects than shorter ones.
  • Frequent flyers might experience more chronic effects than occasional flyers.
  • Flights to different climates or altitudes might cause altitude sickness, especially those located in mountain areas at a high altitude.
  • Flights at night or early morning can have more disruptive effects than flights at daytime or evening.

Common Health Risks and Hazards of Flying

Flying can expose you to various health risks and hazards that can cause or worsen various health problems. Some of these risks and hazards are:


Flying can expose you to germs, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, that can cause infections, such as colds, flu, pneumonia, and COVID-19. The risk of infection can increase if you have a weak immune system or if you travel to areas with poor sanitation or endemic diseases.


Noise is a component of all flights and includes engine roar, cabin chatter, and announcements. These can affect or damage your hearing and cause tinnitus (ringing in the ears). They can also affect your sleep quality, mood, and concentration.

The degree of noise one is exposed to while flying can vary depending on the type, size, and age of the aircraft, as well as the seat location and the use of headphones. The health risks of noise can be worse if you fly often, or if you have a hearing impairment or a sensitivity to noise.

Air pressure

Flying can expose you to changes in air pressure, such as during takeoff and landing, that can affect your ears, sinuses, and lungs. Air pressure can cause ear pain, or barotrauma if the ears are blocked due to the imbalance between the pressure inside and outside the ear. It can also cause sinus pain, or sinusitis, due to the inflammation or infection of the sinuses.

The risks of higher air pressure can increase if you have a cold, allergy, or ear infection, or if you smoke or have a respiratory condition. Those with lung problems or advanced heart conditions may want to avoid flying as the pressure can increase these problems, leading to the buildup of fluid in the lungs that can affect breathing and be potentially life-threatening.


Some flights can give rise to turbulence, or sudden changes in the speed or direction of the air flow, which can be stressful for some people, affecting their sense of balance, motion, and comfort. Turbulence can cause nausea, vomiting, or motion sickness due to the mismatch between the signals from the eyes, ears, and body. It can also cause anxiety, panic, or fear due to the loss of control or the perception of danger.

The risks associated with turbulence can increase if you have a history of motion sickness or if you fly in bad weather, over mountains, or near jet streams.

Sedentary posture

Long flights can lead to being seated for long hours, which can affect your posture, spine, muscles, joints, and blood circulation. Poor posture due to being seated for long hours can cause back pain, neck pain, muscle stiffness, cramps, and joint pain and increase the risk of blood clots. The risk is higher if you fly for longer than four hours or if you have a history of spinal, muscular, joint, or circulatory problems.

Strategies to Support Hormonal Balance While Traveling

Stress Management and Relaxation

To alleviate travel-induced stress, practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness, or listening to calming music. Taking regular breaks, staying hydrated, and engaging in light physical activities like stretching or walking can effectively reduce stress levels.

Prioritizing Sleep Routine

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule by creating a conducive environment. You can do so by dimming lights, using eye masks, and adhering to regular bedtime patterns. Gradual adjustment to new time zones before arrival, avoiding caffeine just before bed, and making sure the environment is conducive to rest can aid in adapting to new schedules and promoting better sleep quality.

Dietary and Lifestyle Support

To maintain stable blood sugar levels and support hormone production, choose well-balanced meals that include proteins, good fats, and complex carbohydrates. Limit alcohol and caffeine intake, stay hydrated, and incorporate stress-relieving activities like yoga or journaling. Maintaining regular exercise routines, even in modified forms, contributes to hormone regulation and stress reduction while traveling.

Additional Tips and Best Practices to Protect Your Health While Flying

The following section offers some of the best practices that can mitigate the health effects of flying and enhance your well-being while traveling abroad.

The first tip is to make sure one follows air travel regulations regarding infectious outbreaks, such as:

  • Getting vaccinated and testing negative for COVID-19.
  • Wearing a mask, sanitizing your hands, and keeping your distance.
  • Choosing the best mask for air travel, such as a surgical mask, an N95 mask, or a cloth mask to prevent the inhalation of germs, dust, or allergens. The best choice will depend on the comfort and availability of masks, as well as how much protection one requires. If traveling during an outbreak, the N95 mask might be the wisest option.

To prevent dehydration on a long flight, one can:

  • Drink plenty of water while on the flight.
  • Bring along an empty water bottle (full ones are often prohibited) and ask the flight attendant for refills.
  • Carry a pack of electrolytes, eye drops, lip balm, and facial moisturizer for the flight.
  • Prepare and snack on hydrating foods such as fruit, vegetables, or yogurt.

Poor posture and the side effects of being seated for long hours can be prevented by following these tips:

  • Choose a comfortable seat with enough leg room, cushioning, and reclining.
  • Use a travel pillow, a lumbar support, or a seat cushion to provide support, alignment, and comfort to the spine, neck, and back.
  • Move around, stretching or massaging every hour or so to stimulate blood circulation, oxygen delivery, and muscle relaxation.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes, compression socks, or shoes to prevent swelling, or discomfort of the legs.

Similarly, the health effects of jet lag can be minimized through the following:

  • Adjust your sleep schedule before the trip to match the destination time zone.
  • Expose yourself to light in accordance with the hours of light at the destination.
  • Try to sleep, rest, or at least cover your eyes during most, if not the entire nighttime duration at the destination time zone.
  • Before traveling, talk to your doctor about taking melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Taking a low dose before bedtime or first thing in the morning, depending on whether you want to move your cycle backward or forward, might be helpful.
  • Steer clear of stimulants like alcohol and caffeine, as they can disturb your circadian rhythm and interfere with the quality of sleep.

Depending on how sensitive you are to turbulence, air pressure, and noise, other suggestions that may help include the following:

  • For turbulence, you can try to relax your body and mind by practicing breathing exercises, meditation, or visualization. You can also distract yourself by listening to music, reading a book, or playing a game. Trust the flight crew, who are trained professionals and know how to handle turbulence safely.
  • For air pressure, you can try to equalize the pressure in your ears and sinuses by swallowing, yawning, chewing gum, or using nasal sprays. Additionally, you should avoid flying if you have an ear infection, cold, or allergy. If you have a respiratory ailment, see your doctor before you take off.
  • For noise, you can try to reduce the exposure to loud sounds by choosing a seat away from the engines, wearing earplugs, or using noise-canceling headphones. You can also protect your hearing by avoiding loud music or conversations and taking breaks from using headphones.


Air travel can have both positive and negative health impacts, depending on various factors. Travel exerts significant impacts on hormones, disrupting their balance due to changes in routine, stress, and sleep patterns. Maintaining hormonal equilibrium is important, as it influences many aspects of health, from mood to metabolism. Understanding these effects emphasizes how crucial it is to take preventative steps to maintain hormone balance while traveling. Besides hormonal health, the other common health risks and hazards associated with flying also warrant due attention. By following the tips and advice provided in this article, you can enjoy your trip, stay productive, and avoid complications.

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