Sleep. One simple syllable… Yet, for anyone struggling to fall asleep, the word takes on greater significance. It can even signal anxiety and stress, two words business travelers go a long way to avoid when they want to perform at their best.
A survey carried out by the health insurance Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) revealed that one in three Germans only sleep moderately well, badly or very badly. A quarter of those interviewed do not even manage six hours of sleep a night. And the problem is not restricted to Germany: A British study also revealed that in Great Britain, one third of people only get five or six hours of sleep a night. Which is considerably less than the six to nine hours experts believe most adults need to feel good both mentally and physically. In addition, much of that sleep is what experts call “junk sleep,” the slumber equivalent of junk food, in other words, poor-quality sleep due to night-time use of TVs, tablets and mobile phones.
A good night’s sleep is particularly important when traveling
Sleep is an issue for business travelers and the travel management teams who plan their trips. Getting a good night’s sleep is key to keeping stress levels in check – which is vital for successful business travel. “When we are deprived of sleep, the amygdala, which labels information coming into the brain as threatening, becomes more reactive,” explains sleep expert Brendan Street. “This makes situations feel more stressful.” Which is far from ideal in meetings, events or conference environments. So remember that sleep is important when you plan your journey. If you can manage it, make sure you arrive the evening before a meeting so that you start the day more relaxed. If possible, you should also avoid a packed schedule and long evenings. That’s not so critical on a short trip, but it matters on a longer journey.
Respect your sleep cycles
The good news is that there are many ways to get a better sleep – even at an altitude of 30,000 feet. One way is to try dozing off during take-off. There is a good chance you will fall asleep. Brendan Street recommends working around our natural sleep cycles, which last between 90 and 110 minutes. Gadgets like special alarm clocks that take your sleep cycles into account will wake you during a light sleep so you do not get dragged from the deepest depths of slumber and carry that still-half-asleep feeling into your working day.
Plan your meals
Planning meal times can be hard on work trips, especially if you are entertaining clients. If you eat a large meal you should try leaving a two-hour “buffer” period before going to sleep. And if you need to stay up late but haven’t eaten for four to five hours, a small snack will stop you waking up hungry during the night.
Follow a routine
Anyone who has ever tried to get a baby or toddler to sleep will know that it can be all about the routine of bath, story and bed. Adults also sleep better if they stick to a specific wind-down routine before bed – wherever they are. Think of it as a grown-up “bath, story, bed” cycle. Put away your paperwork and log off emails well before going to sleep. Aim to spend around 60 minutes doing something relaxing like taking a bath, listening to music or reading a book.
Lullabies and teddy bears are optional…
Turn off by turning on – sleep gadgets:
All sleep experts agree on one thing – screens and sleep are not good bedfellows. But, there is some technology around that offers sleep solutions for slumber-filled, stress-free business trips.
In-ear headphones with active noise suppression eliminate background noises, allowing you to listen to what relaxes you most. Models are available in various price segments, e.g. Bose Quiet Comfort (QC) 20, AKG K391 AC, Sennheiser CXC 700 or Pioneer SE-NC31C. Bespoke earphones in the high-price segment can be found at www.snugs.com.
For a selection of alarm clocks and apps geared to your natural sleep cycles, click here. If you prefer a more sophisticated alternative, take a look at Somnuva, a sleeping tool that uses a patented algorithm to produce sounds and pulses that match your sleep rhythms and help you to relax. www.somnuva.com