Breakfast in Beijing, lunch in London, dinner in Denver. The world has never been more miniature, and working people can find themselves flying here and there regularly for business. Of course, thanks to advanced video technology, intercontinental meetings can take place online, but some things are done better in person. Moreover, conducting business via a video link is no panacea; the further away from the person you are meeting with, the more significant the difference in time zones, which means you could be conducting a (very) late-night meeting, at times more than once a week, to conform to their business hours.
Of all the health detriments that modern business travel entails – eating unhealthy foods, sitting in a tight space for hours on end, breathing the often stale and dry air – the diminished quality or insufficient sleep may have the most pronounced and immediate negative effect. According to Harvard Medical School experts, missing even one night of sleep can harm judgment, memory, and decision-making ability, which means that a well-rested disputant for the other side could have the upper hand in a negotiating session.
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Moreover, air travel is fraught with erratic flight schedules, frequent delays or cancellations, extended hours on the runway, moving carts, announcements, and more. Even in business class, circumstances are certainly not conducive to getting the restful seven or eight hours of sleep we need. And, all passengers traveling through more than one time zone will have to grapple with jet lag – the interruption of the body’s circadian rhythms, which is likely to take several days to overcome.
The question that naturally comes up for business travelers is – what can be done to improve sleep? Some will self-medicate – the sleep aid business (which primarily consists of sleeping pills) is growing as sleep eludes more and more people. But many people feel uncomfortable with that solution, as there are numerous risks involved, some of them magnified when taken in the context of air travel. Sleep medications don’t work for everyone, and even for those who fall asleep, the quality of that sleep and the sense of drowsiness that accompanies hypnotic use are often less than optimal.
Fortunately, tech has provided some innovative solutions for those who need to travel and sleep in recent years. Flyers would want to filter out as much background noise as possible, and for that, some numerous devices and apps produce white noise, which users listen to via earphones. Scientists describe white noise as noise whose amplitude is constant throughout the audible frequency range, successfully masking background sound, reducing sleep disruptions, maintaining continuous sleep.
A known sleep promoter is relaxation. Passengers can download a variety of meditation apps and programs that are designed to help calm their minds. Several airlines offer audio and video channels and downloadable apps designed to help passengers relax using meditation and other relaxation techniques. It should be noted; however, that research shows that meditation helps with relaxation only after some practice – but since many people have trouble unwinding and transitioning into sleep even when they aren’t flying, using technology to learn how to meditate regularly and adequately might be a good idea even when not flying.
Tech can help sleep directly as well. There are dozens of devices on the market that assess and monitor sleep; these systems will record heart and respiratory rates, body movement, daytime activity levels and use these data to predict sleep quantity and quality. Some devices even make suggestions, like making your room cooler, reducing screen time, and recommend cutting out late-in-the-day coffee, ideal exercise times, or when to eat a lighter dinner. The theory behind these systems is that you can achieve a better night’s sleep by acquiring regular and healthy habits. And, performing better sleep habits can even help with beating jet lag and in times of stress and frequent business travel.
Whether in-person or online, modern business requires many of us to put in extra or irregular hours. By achieving better sleep habits, we can not only maintain our health – but we can also perform better in our business dealings.