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Sleeping isn't always a perfectly harmless in-flight activity.

Elizabeth Preske
August 31, 2017

If you have to rush to the airport at 6 a.m. to catch an early morning flight, the ease of finally settling into your seat might be enough to send you immediately to sleep.

However, snoozing during takeoff and landing is not what's best for your health, according to MedlinePlus, a health information site by the National Library of Medicine. Doing so could create a number of health issues, including permanent damage to your ears.  

The reason behind this is that air pressure inside a plane changes rapidly during take off and landing. As British pharmacist Angela Chalmers explained to Express, “A quick change in altitude affects the air pressure in the ear. This leads to a vacuum in the Eustachian tubes which makes the ears feel blocked and sound dull.”

Related: Why You Should Think Twice Before Turning Off the Air Vent Above You on Your Next Flight

It is very important to work on relaxing, opening up, and clearing your Eustachian tubes at this stage in the flight. If you're asleep, you cannot do anything to reduce or equalize the air pressure in your ears. Your ears stay blocked, and you potentially face health issues like dizziness, ear infections, eardrum damage, and at worst, nosebleeds and hearing loss.

Common tips to preventing or stopping your ears from popping include yawning and swallowing frequently (drinking water, sucking on hard candy, and chewing gum will help you generate saliva to swallow more easily). You can also try blowing your nose while pinching it closed to reduce the pressure build-up.

Related: Why You Shouldn't Order Coffee or Tea on a Plane

It might be tempting to doze off during the pre-flight safety demonstration, so plug in your headphones and play upbeat music as your plane rushes down the runway. Once you’re up in the air, lean back, close your eyes, and sleep the flight away — at least until your plane starts to land. Then repeat.

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