How Traveling for Business Can Affect Your Sleep Quality

Today's professionals make over 405 million long-distance business trips per year, with many taking to the road on a daily basis - as per research compiled by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Rather than catching cross-country flights, most are traveling within 250 miles of home by car - a distance that often requires sleeping away from home for at least a night (or more if further travel is undertaken the next day).

Frequent travel for business can do more than tire you out. As found in a study by Columbia University, it can pose a higher risk for a number of conditions, including poor and interrupted sleep. Therefore, individual travelers should do their best to keep sleep quality optimal when they are away from home.

The Connection Between Travel and Sleep

The study showed that traveling for two weeks or more every month is linked to a higher chance of depression, anxiety, and poor sleep. Much of the problem has to do with lifestyle factors -including the consumption of unhealthy food, irregular sleeping hours, and increased alcohol consumption.

Being away from your usual environment can also make it harder to stick to a workout schedule, which in itself can promote better sleep quality. The problems associated with travel are interrelated — that is, consuming an unhealthy diet and gaining weight can be a risk factor for poor sleep, as can anxiety and depression. 

Embracing Good Sleep Hygiene During Business Trips

Employees or freelance workers who travel frequently needed to take responsibility for the decisions they make with respect to sleep, said the researchers. Many steps can be taken - including researching hotels beforehand to ensure rooms are quiet and dark, sleeping strategically if they will be flying to a different time zone (adapting sleeping hours so they do not have severe jetlag), and getting light exposure in the late morning or early afternoon (if you are traveling eastward) or aiming for light exposure in the early evening if you are traveling westward.  

Choosing a Comfy Vehicle

Some business travelers on small budgets (particularly freelance travelers) sleep or nap in their vehicles, which can hamper the quality of their sleep extensively if the car is small or uncomfortable. When choosing a vehicle conducive to good rest, the amount of cubic feet of room afforded by the car when you fold the rear seats is important. Try to aim for around 63 cubic feet of room, or even a minivan, if you find that overnight stays are becoming more frequent. 

Some cars even have bed-in-box systems that fold out so an entire bed can fit, but of course, these have a higher cost. If you must sleep in your car, boost safety by opting for a 24-hour guarded parking lot or a highway overnight sleep stop. Feeling secure will help you avoid nervous wakefulness at night.

Melatonin Supplementation

Natural supplements can help you achieve better sleep while you are away. Ingredients such as L-tryptophan, chamomile, Valerian, and melatonin are just a few components that are available in over-the-counter medications. Various studies have pointed to the efficiency of these ingredients. For instance, a 2018 University of Missouri study found that melatonin suppresses brain neurons that keep you awake and alert. 

Research has shown that frequent business travelers tend to have poorer sleep quality. This is owing in no small part to lifestyle changes that take place when they are away from home. Travelers should make sleep a priority, finding comfortable accommodation or adapting their cars to this purpose. Supplementation and light therapy have also been shown to be effective at helping instill a sense of sleepiness at the right time. 

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