Lifestyle on the Road
With room service and late-night events and dinners, making good choices to promote sound sleep may be difficult. Travelers often eat and drink more and sleep less than they do at home. Alcohol is often erroneously used as a sleep enhancer and caffeine (coffee, soda) is used to boost performance. All of these have negative impacts on sleep. On the positive side, more and more travelers realize the value of exercise and do try to use it to enhance performance. Here are some additional tips:
- Utilize your prime time. If you're on a two- to three-day trip that crosses multiple time zones, try to plan meetings on your home time, during the mid-day hours, because your body will not have enough time to adjust.
- Let the sunshine in. During the day and meetings, let as much light into the room as possible and stay active, whether talking or just taking notes.
- If you snooze you don't lose. If you are really wiped out, try to take a short 10-20 minute nap.
- Cut caffeine. Simply put, caffeine can keep you awake. It can stay in your body longer than you may think -- up to 14 hours. Cutting out caffeine at least four to six hours before bedtime can help you fall asleep easier.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. Alcohol may initially help you fall asleep, but as your body clears it from your system, it can also cause symptoms that disturb sleep, like nightmares, sweats, and headache. Drink one glass of water for every alcoholic beverage consumed to try to reduce these symptoms.
- Relax before bedtime. Stress not only makes you miserable, it wreaks havoc on your sleep. Develop some kind of pre-sleep ritual like reading, light stretching, or taking a hot bath to break the connection between all the day's stress and bedtime. These rituals can be as short as 10 minutes.
- Exercise at the right time for you. Regular exercise can help you get a good night's sleep. The timing and intensity of exercise seems to play a key role in its effects on sleep. If you are the type of person who gets energized or becomes more alert after exercise, it may be best not to exercise in the evening.
- Eat right, sleep tight. Try not to go to bed hungry, but avoid heavy meals before bedtime. An over-full belly can keep you up. Also, try not to drink anything after 8 p.m. This can keep you from getting up to use the bathroom during the night.
- Restrict nicotine. Having a smoke before bed -- although it feels relaxing -- actually puts a stimulant into your bloodstream. The effects of nicotine are similar to those of caffeine. Nicotine can keep you up and awaken you at night; it can stay in your body as long as 14 hours. It should be avoided particularly near bedtime and if you wake up in the middle of the night.
The bottom line is sleep is more important than you may think. So be aware of the critical role sleep plays in your performance, productivity, and health. You'll be healthier and happier.
Editor's note: SoundSleep consulted with Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts to help develop its Sleep Advantage Program.
SOURCES: Hilton Personal Performance Survey, January 2004, conducted by Alertness Solutions. Successful Meetings, Jan. 1, 2004. "We Are Chronically Sleep Deprived," Sleep, vol. 18 no. 10. "Excessive Daytime Sleepiness and Risk of Occupational Injuries in Non-Shift Daytime Workers," Sleep. vol. no. 3. "Dose-response Relationship Between Sleep Duration and Human Psychomotor Vigilance and Subjective Awareness," Sleep, vol. 22, no. 2. Sleep Medicine, Kryger, Meir, et al., Third Edition, 2000. Heart Disease, vol. 4 no. 5. "Peak Performance and Traveling Don't Mix," The New York Times, Nov. 4, 2003.