The Fit Frequent Flyers’ Seven-Step Sleep Guide

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We Know the Facts

When Westin Hotels and Resorts launched “Let’s Rise” last year, global brand leader Brian Povinelli described it as “more of a rally-cry than a brand campaign” for busy and over-scheduled travelers. And clearly, that rally-cry is much needed. According to a recent study from researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and City University of New York, business travel takes huge toll on sleep. Frequent flyers who travel two weeks or more per month report more trouble sleeping than those who go on business trips one to six nights a month. This lack of sleep in turn negatively impacts memory, mood, immunity, weight, athletic performance, and yes, even finances

So you get the picture: Sleep matters, especially if you are pursuing a strong body and mind. And yet like most road warriors, you probably often fall short of getting the sleep you truly need and deserve.  After all, what can be done when there are red eyes to catch, travel schedules to manage, and myriad other commitments to meet? Fortunately, it is possible to squeeze solid rest into your business trips. Read on for a game plan that will have you on the road toward better sleep.

1. Plan ahead.

How many times have you found yourself rushing to pack, figure out your workout and meal plan, and cram in a little work or a social activity immediately prior to business travel? We’ve all been there, and unfortunately it is a recipe for stress, anxiety, and poor sleep.  Do yourself a favor and completely clear your schedule the evening before your business trip to pack, plan, and relax before heading to bed early. 

No time to plan?  Offload and outsource whatever you can to your corporate travel team, virtual assistant, or travel concierge before your next business trip.

2. Book your bed.

“Once Westin launched the Heavenly Bed, sleep has become a primary focus of many hotels and brands,” says Adam Glickman, former Head at EVEN Hotels. As principal of Parallax Hospitality, a strategic hospitality advisory firm that focuses on branding, wellness, new hotel concepts and industry partnerships, Glickman points out that even price conscious hotels are joining the trend.  “For example, Hampton began leaving sticky notes on their beds calling attention to clean linens and fresh bed covers.”

Glickman recommends looking beyond the brand for the best hotel mattress available and seeking out those that use duvet covers instead of comforters. (Complete duvet covers are becoming more common.) This along with a zero-throw pillow approach will give you a more comfortable and cleaner sleep experience. 

Stuck in a bad bed? When you check in, clear throw pillows off the bed ASAP. Also pack your own duvet cover if your hotel does not utilize them.  

3. Block out distractions.

Book a room on a higher floor to minimize street and ground floor noise along with distracting street lights. Also, steer clear of heavy foot traffic areas such as elevators, conference rooms, pools, and vending machines. Glickman also suggests seeking out hotels with "quiet closers" that muffle the sound of slamming doors.

Too much noise?  Roll up a towel and wedge it into the crack between the door and the floor to block outside noise. 

4. Keep cool...the right way.

According to experts, a room temperature of 66 F°/19 C° not only triggers your sleep systems, but also increases the body’s stores of metabolically active brown fat. So while having the ability to control your hotel room’s temperature is important, Glickman advises travelers to avoid those with PTAC AC systems – the noisy devices you see grinding away in the wall. “Rooms that don’t have PTACs usually drive a better sleep experience,” says Glickman.

Stuck with a PTAC?  Make sure you can prevent your PTAC from cycling on and off during the night. Or, make the most of it and use the fan feature for white noise. 

5. Bow out early and sober.

Business travel and drinking are often ubiquitous. However, according to the National Sleep Foundation, alcohol disrupts sleep patterns and negatively impacts restorative sleep. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be a teetotaler. To decrease your alcohol consumption, set a drink and  time limit before you hit the bar.

Feeling pressure to have one more? Lightly remind yourself - and your colleagues -  that squeezing in even an extra 30 minutes of sleep will set you up for better productivity in the morning.

6.  Beat jet lag.

You're probably wondering how to avoid jet lag, which can be a killer if you regularly travel across multiple time zones. The National Sleep Foundation recommends changing your sleep schedule a few days in advance to help your internal clock adjust to the new time zone. If it is daylight when you arrive at your destination, take a brisk walk for 15 to 20 minutes and if you must nap at all, limit it to 20 minutes. If you arrive in the evening, dim the lights in your room and relax by reading a book or listening to a white noise app.

Still can’t beat jet lag?  If you’ve tried these tactics before to no avail, you are likely sleep deprived in general. All the more reason to get as much sleep as possible, even when you are not traveling.

7. Schedule it like a workout.

If you have trouble prioritizing sleep, set an alarm at night that signals it's time to relax and wind down. Put away all electronics and dim the lights. Drink a little fluid such as water or chamomile tea to prevent dehydration – but not too much that you’ll end up running to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

If you are going to perform at peak condition in all areas of your life, a solid sleep game plan is essential even during the busiest business trip. Share your own travel sleep hacks and tips in the comments below.  

 Additional Resources:

 33 Ways to Sleep Better at a Hotel - Smarter Travel   

Get the Sleep You Need While Traveling for Work - Rewire