Why You Should Take a Cold Shower after a Long Haul Flight

Cold Shower after a Long Flight

If you’ve ever taken a long haul flight halfway around the world, you know that drained, jetlagged feeling that hits you when you finally get off the plane. Your body feels stiff from sitting still for so long, your head is foggy, and even after sleeping on the flight, exhaustion is creeping in.

I’ve had my fair share of long flights and tried many different tricks to snap my body and mind back to life. Nothing is more effective than taking a cold shower after stepping off a long haul flight!

I know, I know, a cold shower probably sounds miserable when you’re already tired and just want to collapse on your hotel bed. But hear me out, the benefits are so worth it. I’ve made quick cold showers part of my post-flight routine, and I swear by them now to boost my energy, reduce inflammation, and improve my immunity.

What is Jet Lag?

jet lag bedroom

Jet lag is that foggy, sluggish feeling you get after flying through multiple time zones. It’s the result of your circadian rhythm (internal body clock) being out of sync with the local time at your destination.

Symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, irritability, and trouble concentrating can persist for days as your body struggles to adjust. It makes the post-flight experience miserable.

Your circadian rhythm is regulated by environmental cues like sunlight that set when you feel alert or sleepy. But frequent travel through different time zones jumbles these signals.

Melatonin levels get thrown off, making it hard to sleep at night in the new location. Stress hormones like cortisol also spike, causing fatigue and brain fog during the day.

The more time zones you cross, the worse jet lag can be. Destinations 3 or more zones away from home require the most circadian readjustment. Symptoms peak on the second or third day after arrival before gradually improving.

So jet lag compounds that already drained feeling from sitting on a long flight. The fatigue and inflammation from immobility get amplified by your confused internal clock.

Cold Showers Boost Energy

After sitting immobilized in a cramped plane seat for 10+ hours, your circulation gets pretty sluggish. You stiffly shuffle through the airport feeling (and probably looking) half dead.

But when that first blast of cold water hits your body, it’s like getting struck by lightning! The cold immediately wakes you up, activating your sympathetic nervous system and triggering the release of norepinephrine and dopamine to boost alertness.

Suddenly, you go from zombie mode to wide awake. Your heart starts pumping, blood circulates, and you feel energized. It’s like a shot of espresso without the jitters.

Those revitalizing effects last for several hours too. So that cold shower right after landing will keep you energized through customs and luggage claims instead of wanting to pass out on the airport floor.

Cold Showers Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is your body’s natural response to injury or stress. But too much inflammation causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and can hinder recovery. Sitting immobile on long flights creates inflammation from lack of circulation. The dry air and pressure changes in the cabin don’t help either.

So when you finally get off the plane, your body is likely inflamed and aching. But that cold water provides quick relief. The cold exposure constricts blood vessels and decreases metabolic activity, reducing the inflammatory response.

Some studies even suggest cold showering after exercise speeds up muscle repair by decreasing inflammation and enabling nutrients to reach damaged tissues faster.

Cold Showers Improve Immunity

Long flights notoriously do a number on your immune system. The recirculated air spreads germs quickly, while the dryness irritates your nasal and respiratory passages. Diehard travelers seem to constantly battle colds.

But cold water may actually boost immunity by activating white blood cells and other anti-viral/anti-bacterial defenses in the body. So while everyone else picks up the nasty plane plague, you stay healthy thanks to your cold shower inoculation. It’s like nature’s vaccine to ward off sickness.

Okay, hopefully I’ve convinced you that cold showers are magic after long flights. But how do you make that icy water tolerable and reap the benefits? Here are my tips:

Make It Quick

You don’t need to stand shivering for ages to get the effects. Start with 30-60 seconds of cold water. As you acclimate, work your way up to 2-3 minutes max. Get in, spike that heart rate, wake yourself up, then get out.

Control Your Breathing

Deep breathing helps manage the shock. Take few deep breaths before stepping into the cold. Then focus on long inhales and exhales while you’re in there. This breathing technique distracts your mind, reduces stress hormone release, and improves cold tolerance.

Go Straight From Warm to Cold

Don’t waste time incrementally decreasing the temperature. This just prolongs the agony. Jump right into full cold mode. Be bold! The quicker the temperature drops, the quicker your body will react and produce the energizing and anti-inflammatory effects.

After you’re done showering, dry off thoroughly, get dressed, and keep moving around to generate warmth. Treat yourself to a warm tea or coffee to heat back up.

Final Thoughts

cold shower outdoor

The refreshing and restorative benefits of a cold shower are too good to pass up after a long flight. While it may not be the most pleasant experience, the energy boost, inflammation reduction, and immune stimulation are well worth enduring a few minutes of cold water.

Give it a try after your next international journey – your body will thank you! Once you discover how a brisk cold shower makes you feel post-flight, you’ll be a convert like me.

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