Of all the popular modes of travel, the one that often instils the most anxiety in passengers is flying.
Whether you’re the person with the sweaty palms, jumping at every noise or it’s your travel companion, flight anxiety can quickly take the excitement of a trip and turn it sour.
Quite often it’ll only take one rocky flight to send someone into a situation where they’re worried about every upcoming trip with some people avoiding flying entirely.
Despite the data being on our side — including the well-known fact that flying is the safest form of travel — many of us are still nervous fliers.
The good news is that there are multiple ways to overcome your fear of flying quickly, however.
From apps and natural remedies (such as sleeping pills for flying anxiety) to informative books and effective distractions, there are some great ways to help you quickly overcome your fear of flying.
In this article, we’ll take you through some of the best methods for coping with, and ultimately, on how to overcome flying anxiety.
Using Sleeping Pills to Overcome Flying Anxiety (and Turbulence) Quickly
Rather than looking for prescription drugs, many people opt for simple over-the-counter sleeping pills and natural remedies to get them through a worrisome flight…and to hopefully sleep most of it away.
Here are some of your best options:
The lightest sleeping aid available, melatonin is the hormone released by your brain to indicate that it’s time to sleep.
Often used by flyers to subtly reset their body clock to avoid jet lag the other end, it’s also a big help for making you drowsy and letting you drift off to sleep on a flight.
There are few side effects associated with taking melatonin (unless you find it makes you anxious, as with some people, so test it out for a couple of nights first).
Remember though, synthetic melatonin can be illegal in many countries so be careful if you’re taking a pot in your bag (see our article “can you bring melatonin on a plane” for more information).
Montmorency Tart Cherry as the “better” alternative to Melatonin
A more natural option that is recommended is Montmorency Tart Cherry; it’s a great natural source of melatonin, so it can save you from consuming synthetic melatonin in order to sleep on planes.
Diphenhydramine Sleeping Pills
Diphenhydramine is a common antihistamine ingredient found in sleep or allergy medication such as:
- Benadryl (for flight anxiety)
- Tylenol PM
A reliable way to drift off to sleep or at the very least feel very drowsy, these are often the go-to sleeping for anxious fliers.
However, you can overuse them and need to up the dose for them to continue working as your body builds tolerance to them (much like with caffeine).
As a result, if you’re a regular flyer or you also use them for allergies, then this may not be an ideal long term solution for you.
Doxylamine Sleeping PIlls
Doxylamine is the active ingredient in stronger sleeping pills, usually cold and flu medication such as Nyquil and Unisom. They’ll usually be combined with some kind of pain relief and can be a great option as long as you don’t rely on them regularly.
Herbal Sleeping Remedies
There is a myriad of calming herbal remedies that people will recommend.
There are also a lot of advantages to finding a natural remedy that works for you since long term use isn’t an issue and feeling drowsy once you reach your destination is much less likely.
You can also pair remedies like essential oils with other coping strategies without issues.
Some of the most popular herbal remedies for anxious fliers are items like:
- Bach’s Rescue Remedy drops and sweets
- Kalms tablets
- Oils like bergamot, lavender, orange, and geranium.
What Gadgets Should Anxious Flyers Pack to Overcome Flying Anxiety?
One of the key things for anxious flyers to remember is that distraction is key.
Whatever is going to distract you the most during high anxiety moments, make sure you’ve got it with you on the flight. Whether it’s a game that absorbs you, an album that calms you down without fail, or the next episode of a show you’re invested in.
Prioritize these things during particularly anxiety-inducing moments. Like take off, landing, and during turbulence when in-flight entertainment is patch, or not as likely to hold your attention as a trusted favorite will.
Noise Cancelling Headphones/Sleep Ear Buds
A way to block out all those worrisome (but perfectly normal) plane noises is a must for worried flyers.
The less there is to worry you, the better.
Whether you’re planning to listen to your favorite music, podcast, or a meditation app, or you simply want to block out the noise so you can go to sleep as quickly as possible, some headphones or earbuds are a must.
Your headphones will be much better quality than the ones provided on planes, which are uncomfortable and block out very little noise at all. So try and get wired versions (or ones with a detachable wire) if you’re going to use the in-flight entertainment.
Bringing along a book or a magazine to help you get off to sleep is a great idea.
A Kindle will make sure you have ample reading material for your trip, and it has the benefit of being extremely lightweight. With a long battery and charging options on the plane, you can be sure to keep your brain occupied during those tense moments.
It’s also great to have multiple reading options if your current read isn’t cutting it and you want to switch.
Phone or Tablet with favorite films, music, and games downloaded
Being in control of your media on the flight is a really good idea.
There’s nothing worse than getting on the flight and realizing your screen isn’t working or none of the films are catching your eye.
Whether you want to download a new series of Netflix or some of your absolutely favorite shows, there’s nothing more comforting than knowing you have everything to keep your mind occupied.
Gamers can also consider a Nintendo Switch for portable gaming.
Recommended Books for Overcoming Flight Anxiety
While everything so far is focused on how to get you through the flight, there’s no harm in trying to alleviate your stress by getting clued up on why you have flight anxiety in the first place, and what the best ways to overcome it are.
If there’s one thing these books stress, it’s that you’re absolutely not alone when it comes to worrying about flying and it’s a perfectly natural feeling that most people have to deal with at least once.
Here are some of the best and most popular books aimed at those with flight anxiety:
Cockpit Confidential by Patrick Smith
This is a book to read long before your flight and is perfect for those who love to be armed with lots of details to quell their anxieties.
Written by a pilot, if you’ve ever wondered what any of the noises you’ve heard or why cabin crew do the things they do or even how planes actually work in a simple and accessible way, this is the book for you.
It restores or fosters a childlike fascination with flying that you may never have had or has been lost due to multiple flights with anxiety.
At all times grounded and realistic, this is an excellent book for people with flight anxiety or simply an interest in aviation.
SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Flying
Founded by a therapist and flight captain, the SOAR programme provides a series of coping mechanism for those with flight anxiety.
While Cockpit Confidential helps by getting you to understand the plane, this book does the same with your brain.
By understanding your fear and where it’s coming from, they provide you with techniques to help you fly anxiety free.
A well-known and successful program, they also have apps available which can help you on the flight and in the moment.
The Easy Way to Enjoy Flying by Allen Carr
This book takes the approach of a typical self-help book with a lot of stories of the author’s own fear of flying, as well as that of his patients, and it then describes the steps needed to remove the root of the fear itself.
This is the easiest of the three to read over the course of an afternoon.
The book also includes a step-by-step way to reframe your thought patterns as you approach the day of the flight, replacing anxious fears with positive thinking and removing unnecessary and anxiety-inducing thoughts.
“The easy way to enjoy flying” is the book you may find yourself taking on the plane with you as a reassuring friend who’s ready to calm you down.
Apps for Supporting You Before and On Your Flight
We’ve mentioned the books and, now, here’s the app.
With downloadable step-by-step guides and tracks to listen to, SOAR has you covered with advice and guidance before the flight. Right up to when you’re on the plane and need a reminder of everything you’ve learnt.
A collaboration between Air France/KLM, Leiden University and Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, you’re provided with a series of audio lessons to take you through everything from understanding aeroplane mechanics to flight paths and weather.
There’s also a handy panic button for when you’re on the plane which will take you through a series meditation before your anxiety gets out of control.
The interface is also more user friendly than other flight anxiety apps and is completely accessible offline.
For those who really like to be in the know, get to know when and where any predicted turbulence might occur so you can be ready for it.
A different approach. Take your mind completely off your anxiety by trying out meditation with apps like Calm and Headspace which offer masterclasses, soundscapes, videos, and guided meditation. Whether you’re looking to calm your anxiety or helping you get to sleep, there’s a lot to be said for taking up mindfulness.