How to Sleep Better When Traveling
The Secret to Slumber is to Unplug and Disconnect
For those who travel frequently, getting enough sleep is almost always an issue. Yes, one can do without for a day or two and be convinced that one can eventually catch up, but few adults get the hours of sleep optimal for their age.
The pervasiveness of personal electronics has only worsened the situation.
While many believe that this only affects teenagers, its impact is much broader in reach.
Research suggests that 50% of adults in the United States got an average of eight hours of sleep each night 75 years ago, while less than a third get that much sleep on average today. Of course, many travelers fare even worse during trips.
Travel, business travel in particular, involves high levels of performance and stress, hectic schedules, heavy late-night meals and drinks, and late nights spent attending to e-mails missed during the day – overall, a guarantee of insufficient sleep, which in turn causes health problems and cognitive impairment.
Insufficient sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and obesity, among other issues, and the level of impairment for sleep-deprived driving is the same as after consuming three or four beers. It also affects judgment and decision-making, two critical functions typically needed in business travel.
Hotel guest rooms, with strange beds, bright lights, strange and unfamiliar noises, are not always conducive to sleep.
Finally, the electronic devices we hold so near and dear to our hearts (in many cases literally), smartphones, iPods, tablets, televisions, and laptops, keep many travelers awake late into the night, as they conduct conversations with friends, colleagues, and loved ones. The non-stop stream of tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and photos on Instagram are tempting, but shift the circadian rhythms in our body that control our natural sleep cycle.
According to research released in 2012 by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, exposure to light from a computer tablet or smartphone such as an iPad or iPhone could lower our body’s level of melatonin, the hormone that sends a signal to the brain to go to sleep, therefore adversely affecting our sleep cycle.
Since many activities during travel are outside of one’s control, travelers should consider setting a self-imposed electronic curfew that will allow their bodies’ circadian rhythms to naturally put them to sleep. Turning off these electronic devices two hours before bedtime will have a marked effect on falling asleep, although separation anxiety may occur at the beginning.
Travelers might also consider using a hotel’s wake-up call service or carrying an alarm clock (the old-fashioned kind that doesn’t have Twitter feeds in it), thereby keeping electronic devices out of the picture.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)