Ever been on a boat and felt exhausted afterwards? Us too. We did some digging and here’s what we found out about why being on a boat can make you tired.
It turns out there are quite a few reasons why being on a boat can make you tired (we’ll explore them all below). However, two factors are particularly at play in making you feel sleepy on a boat.
When you’re on a boat, you’re exposed to two things that can affect how your body responds: the rocking motion of the waves and the sound of the engine. These two factors work together to produce a physical response in your body that makes you feel tired.
The first factor, the rocking motion of the waves, is what’s known as “vestibular stimulation.” This occurs when your vestibular system, which controls your balance and eye movement, is stimulated by the movement of the boat. Vestibular stimulation is known to cause fatigue because it takes energy for your body to compensate for the movement. The second factor, the sound of the engine, is known to produce what’s called “white noise.” White noise is a type of background noise that can have a soothing effect on your brain, which can lead to drowsiness.
What is boater fatigue?
Boater’s fatigue is a particular type of mental and physical exhaustion that happens from being on a boat.
Boater fatigue is caused by the combination of motion of the boat, the noise of the boat, and being out in the sun all day.
Although some people just put it down to feeling relaxed, boater’s fatigue can actually be dangerous if you are involved in operating the vessel. After a while, you can feel like your responses are dulled and you can even get the same symptoms as being drunk on alcohol. This can impair sensory ability and prevent you from operating the boat safely due to your slower reaction time.
Read also: Why does sailing make you tired?
Why do you get sleepy on a boat?
There are lots of reasons why you can end up feeling sleepy on a boat, or exhausted after a boat trip:
1. Motion sickness
When you’re on solid ground, your inner ear is able to keep track of all the movements your body is making. But when you’re on a boat (or in a car, or on a plane), your inner ear can’t keep up with all the rocking and swaying. This discrepancy between what your inner ear is feeling and what your eyes are seeing is what causes that queasy feeling known as motion sickness.
Symptoms of motion sickness
Aside from feeling tired, there are a few other symptoms of motion sickness that you might experience. These can include nausea, vomiting, cold sweats, and dizziness. And in severe cases, people have been known to faint! If you start to feel any of these symptoms while on a boat (or car, or plane), it’s best to close your eyes and take some deep breaths until the feeling passes.
Motion induced fatigue
Beyond just making you feel nauseous, motion sickness can also lead to motion induced fatigue. When your body is trying to process the conflicting information from your inner ear and your eyes, it takes a lot of energy. And that can leave you feeling exhausted.
If you become nauseous then you may develop sea sickness, which can make you even more tired by putting extra strain on the body through retching and vomitting.
Preventing motion sickness
Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to prevent motion sickness. However, there are a few things that might help lessen the chances of getting sick. These include eating light meals before traveling, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and sitting in an area of the boat (or car, or plane) where there is the least amount of movement.
2. Excessive noise
A boat can be a noisy place, from the sound of the engine to the wind whipping around you. This indiscriminate white noise effect can make you feel sleepy.
Alternatively, the high levels of noise can lead to overstimulation of your brain, again resulting in you feeling overly tired.
To combat this, you can try wearing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones. Or, if you’re on a smaller vessel, simply having a conversation with someone can help take your mind off the noise.
3. Muscle tiredness
The constant movement of the boat can actually put a strain on your muscles, as your body has to work harder just to support itself. The effort of balancing against the movement creates extra stress on your muscles. This is the case even if you are sat down, but even more so if you are standing. Try to balance the need to get a bit of exercise with the need to give your body a break and time to rest.
Read also: Why does fishing make you tired?
4. Exposure to too much sun
Being out in the sun all day can also lead to fatigue. The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) rays that can cause sunburn and damage the skin. But it’s not just your skin that can be affected by too much sun exposure. The UV rays can also cause dehydration and heat exhaustion, both of which can make you feel tired.
To protect yourself from the sun, make sure to wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. And if you are going to be in the sun for an extended period of time, make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
5. Glare and reflections
The sun can also be a problem because of the glare and reflections it creates. The bright light can make it difficult to see, and the reflections can be distracting. If you’re trying to take a nap or just relax, the glare and reflections can make it hard to do either.
Over long periods of time the glare of the sun can cause eye strain which can lead to increased tiredness.
6. Fresh air
The oxygen flow you get into your lungs being outside on a boat can be great for your lungs, your blood flow, and your brain. But, it can also leave you feeling extra tired.
The increased oxygen flow can cause your blood pressure to drop, which can lead to fatigue. So if you start to feel lightheaded or dizzy, it might be because you’re getting too much fresh air. Try moving to a less windy area of the boat, or go inside for a while.
Read also: Why does fresh air make you tired?
The constant vibrations from the engine can also contribute to feelings of tiredness. The vibrations can travel through the boat and affect your whole body, including your head. The vibrations can lead to headaches, dizziness, and even nausea.
You can usually find a spot on the boat where the vibrations are less, so move around if you start to notice symptoms related to vibrations.
8. Too much heat or cold
A few hours boating can feel intensely pleasurable, but it can also easily be too hot or too cold. If you’re not comfortable because of the temperature, it can be hard to relax and enjoy yourself.
Dressing in layers can help you adjust to the changing temperatures throughout the day. And if you’re feeling too hot or cold, try moving to a different part of the boat where the temperature is more to your liking.
Being bored can also lead to fatigue. If you’re not enjoying yourself or if you’re feeling restless, it can be hard to relax and let yourself get sleepy.
To combat boredom, try bringing along a book or some other form of entertainment. Or, if you’re with others, strike up a conversation. Getting involved in something can help the time pass more quickly and make the trip more enjoyable.
Read also: Why do I get tired when I’m bored?
Sometimes, simply being relaxed can cause us to feel sleepy. If you’ve been looking forward to the trip and you’re finally on the boat, it’s natural to feel relaxed. The peacefulness of being on the water can also be soporific.
Read also: Why does traveling make you tired?
How to combat tiredness on a boat
If you start to feel like you need sleep on board, there are a few things you can do to increase your ability to stay awake.
1. Get enough sleep beforehand
One of the best things you can do is to make sure you’re well-rested before you even step foot on the boat. If you’re tired, your body is going to be more likely to give in to fatigue.
Try to get a good night’s sleep before your trip (most people need 7-9 hours sleep per night), and if you feel tired, take a nap before you get on the boat.
2. Eat well
Eating a big meal can make you feel sleepy, so it’s best to avoid heavy meals if you’re trying to stay awake. Stick to light snacks and drinks instead.
3. Keep hydrated
Drinking plenty of water is important for keeping your body healthy and functioning properly.
Make sure to bring enough water for everyone on board, and try to drink small sips throughout the day rather than large gulps. You can also bring along some fruit or vegetable juices, which can help keep you hydrated and provide your body with some essential nutrients.
4. Avoid alcohol
It might seem like a good idea to have a few drinks while you’re on the boat, but alcohol can actually make you feel more tired.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it makes you urinate more frequently. This can lead to dehydration, which can make you feel tired. Alcohol can also disrupt your sleep, so you might find it harder to sleep at night if you’ve been drinking during the day.
If you’re feeling sleepy, a cup of coffee or tea can help give you a boost of energy. Just be careful not to overdo it, as too much caffeine can lead to jitters and make it hard to concentrate.
A cup of coffee in the morning or early afternoon should be enough to help you stay awake and alert.
6. Look at the horizon
The best way to avoid feeling tired on a boat is to keep your eyes on the horizon. By focusing your eyes on the horizon, your brain will be able to better process the movement of the boat and won’t get confused. You can also try to stay close to the center of the boat. The closer you are to the center, the less movement you will feel.
7. Stay in the shade where possible
If you’re feeling sleepy, try to stay in the shade where possible. The sun can be tiring, and if you’re already feeling tired, being in the sun can make it worse.
8. Wear a visor and sunglasses
Wear sunglasses to help reduce the amount of glare and reflections you’re exposed to, and a hat will protect your face and head from the sun.
9. Move around
If you start to feel sleepy, try moving around. Walking or stretching can help increase your energy levels and wake you up. Try to avoid staying in the same spot for longer periods and instead move around the boat regularly.
10. Get fresh air
Another way to avoid feeling tired on a boat is to get some fresh air. Fresh air will help you stay awake and will also help with any nausea you may be feeling. Move outside onto the deck and you may find that you are instantly more energized.
Conclusion: Why does being on a boat make you tired?
There are several reasons why being on a boat can make you tired. The sun can be harsh, the air can be too fresh, and the vibrations from the engine can be fatiguing. If you’re bored or uncomfortable, it can also be hard to relax. To avoid feeling tired on a boat, try to stay in the shade, drink plenty of water, and move around regularly. Getting some fresh air can also help you stay awake.