Rough skies shouldn’t mean a roughed-up stomach.
An expert on human anatomy has shared four crucial tips for managing the dreaded anxiety and discomfort that comes along with airplane turbulence.
Considering a recent spate of airline drama, including a door plug blowing off an Alaska Airlines flight, it’s probably a good idea to take the advice of professor Adam Taylor, director of the Clinical Anatomy Learning Centre at England’s Lancaster University.
“The body recognizes itself within any environment. Its relationship with objects in terms of distance and direction is called spatial orientation. When flying, this is typically moving forwards, ascending, some turns and a descent,” he wrote in an article on The Conversation, explaining why rough air can be so unnerving.
“However, turbulence disrupts this relationship and confuses the sensory information being received by the brain – it makes the body want to respond or recalibrate.”
Taylor explained that a person’s inner ear balance — which flights already throw out of whack by limiting external visibility — also plays a key role in spatial orientation and typically gets disoriented by turbulence.
“When the aircraft hits turbulence, the balance apparatus cannot distinguish the movement of the plane from that of the head, so the brain interprets the aircraft movement as that of the head or body,” he added.
“But this doesn’t match the visual information being received, which causes sensory confusion.”
Four ways to handle turbulence
Taylor, who mentioned certain antihistamines and other drugs can be of aid, suggests that grabbing a window seat might be best for those who struggle with turbulence.
“This gives the brain some sensory information through visual pathways, helping calm the brain in response to the vestibular information it is receiving.”
He also suggests that seats closer to the front or over the wing can reduce its effects.
The professor added that deep breaths and breathing in rhythm can combat turbulence-induced motion sickness.
“Focusing on your breathing calms the nervous system.”
It’s also best to avoid alcohol and stay sober, despite many flyers’ first urge to take the edge off with booze.
Taylor declares that it may make a bad situation even worse.
“While you may feel it calms your nerves, if you hit turbulence it’s going to interfere with your visual and auditory processing and increase the likelihood of vomiting.”