Flight Passengers Should Avoid Sleeping During Takeoff And Landing. Here's Why

Sleeping through a flight is a great way to pass the time, especially on a long haul or red-eye, and ensures you arrive at your destination fresh and well-rested. While it may be tempting to close your eyes and fall asleep when you reach your assigned seat, you should wait to catch some shut-eye until after the plane reaches cruising altitude. You should also ensure that you wake up again before the plane begins its descent before landing.

The main reasons why it is essential to stay awake and alert during takeoff and landing are both safety-related. First, you risk waking up with a ton of ear pain if you're asleep during the pressure changes. In addition to potential ear damage, takeoff and landing are the most dangerous times during a flight, with the most potential for emergencies. In-flight emergencies are rare, but falling asleep during these critical phases of flight is something you should never do on an airplane. 

Emergency preparedness

After waking up early and dealing with the hectic airport security, when you finally get settled into your assigned seat, you'll undoubtedly be ready to don your noise-canceling headphones, close your eyes, and take a long nap. However, in doing so, you'd leave yourself vulnerable should an emergency happen.

Flying, in general, is an incredibly safe way to travel — it is exponentially safer than driving a car, for example. The risk of an American being killed in a plane crash is only 1 in 11 million, compared to the risk of being killed in a car crash, which is 1 in about 5,000. Still, emergency preparedness is a significant factor when it comes to inflight safety, and takeoff and landing are crucial flight stages.

When you've been asleep, it can take a while to wake up and become fully alert, and seconds matter during an emergency on an aircraft. Refraining from falling asleep until the aircraft reaches cruising altitude ensures you'll hear any safety instructions issued by the pilots or flight attendants and be ready to evacuate the plane quickly if needed.

Ear barotrauma

During ascent and descent, the pressure inside the plane changes rapidly, causing an imbalance in your inner ear. This condition is known as ear barotrauma or airplane ear, and it can be excruciatingly painful and, in severe cases, lead to tinnitus, vertigo, and hearing loss of varied levels. But staying awake during takeoff and landing is a surefire way to circumvent this condition and other common ear problems.

To keep your ears clear, consider chewing gum throughout these phases of flight. Alternatively, you can suck on a piece of hard candy or swallow water every few minutes. If your ears become clogged, you can use the Valsalva maneuver to clear them. All you have to do is close your mouth and pinch your nose while exhaling forcefully as if blowing into a saxophone or balloon. Repeating this simple procedure several times should equalize the pressures in your ears so that they pop.