There's a Good Reason Why You Fall Asleep On Airplanes
Between booking tickets, packing, traveling to the airport, and making it through security and the boarding process, air travel is exhausting. It’s no surprise that so many people start snoozing the minute the plane takes off and sleep for the duration of the flight. However, it’s not just air travel-induced exhaustion that makes people want to cat nap. Many planes—particularly those made by Boeing—are designed to make you feel restful, lull you into sleep, and maybe even help with jet lag.
While most of us tend to think of interior design based on what we’ve gleaned from hours of Fixer Upper and Property Brothers marathons, interior design can have a huge impact on our mental state, which is very important when you travel. For example, the colors light grey, blue, and green are closely associated with feelings of peace. If designers want passengers to feel restful, they may opt for planes with a blue-gray color palette. It’s not just the color, but the shade, too. According to Boeing, designers who specialize in color psychology say that lighter colors may make something seem higher, larger, wider, and more open, while darker colors give the feeling of lower, smaller, narrower, and more enclosed spaces. That’s the reason plane interiors tend to be light-colored to give the sense of air and space.
“Colors also can influence a person's perception of humidity, temperature and aroma,” Virginia Tripp, a designer at the Teague agency, who studies color psychology told Boeing. Orange, for example, may make a person feel warm and dry, which planes already tend to feel, while shades of blue and green can make people feel cooler, moist, and clean.
Airplane interior experts have also found that curved shapes create a more comfortable environment for passengers, making the cabins feel more spacious. Boeing’s team now avoids using hard lines and flat surfaces, opting for the “friendlier” and “safer” feeling curved lines to loft their cabin ceilings, luggage bins, cabin walls.
As anyone who has watched Chip and Joanna Gaines design a living room knows, lighting in the cabin can have an impact on passengers’ overall comfort, too. When the designers were working on the Boeing 777 they devised a way to make lighting feel softer and the cabin seem much bigger. “The result was a less cramped and more relaxing atmosphere,” according to the blog.
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Airplanes also use light to help passengers adjust to new time zones. If you have ever taken an intercontinental flight and fallen asleep, only to be awoken when the cabin crew turns on the lights, they are doing it for a reason—bright lights will help your body adjust to the new schedule. In the future, airplanes may help passengers adjust even more, in the hopes of someday doing away with jet lag. "We are experimenting with colored lights that subtly change tone according to the time of day," Rick Fraker, a Teague designer, told Boeing’s blog. "The idea is that colors will match a passenger's circadian rhythms and help stave off jet lag."
Next time you’re on a plane, if you see a gently curved interior, grey-blue walls and carpets, and soft lighting, get in the spirit of it and cat nap for the entire journey.