10 years ago, Jack became what we commonly call a business traveler. When he started to travel for work he was excited about the chance he had to visit all these new places and meet all these nice people he was working with. He really enjoyed it. And getting enough good quality sleep was not one of his priorities.
Sometimes he only saw the airport, the office and the hotel but he thought that this is exceptional and if it only happened from time to time he could live with that. He promised himself to keep these exceptions to the minimum and to find time on his busy working schedule to visit the city, find some nice souvenirs for his wife and children (and not rush to buy something at the airport 5 minutes before boarding the plane back home), find some nice restaurants where he could go again next time when he will bring his family over for a weekend family trip.
But business trip after business trip, his enthusiasm withered. And his energy and drive disappeared little by little.
Now he is on auto-pilot. It all starts on Sunday somewhere before lunch. Instead of enjoying the time with his family and friends, he already thinks about having to pack yet again for the early Monday trip, having to wake up early in the morning to catch the earliest flight, remembering to book the taxi to take him to the airport, to set up the alarm, etc, etc, etc.
And when the night comes he is already stressed and tired. He doesn’t quite sleep as he is afraid he won’t hear the alarm and miss the flight (at this point even bad quality sleep would be better than no sleep). Already sleep deprived, he gets up in the morning, boards the plane, goes straight to the first meeting after landing several time zones away, works through the night (or is it day, still?), because he needs to finish all that he has planned to do during the trip, eating too much and not always healthy food, skipping exercise (who has time for that?).
At the end of the business trip, he heads back home, more tired and even more sleep deprived, his energy low and looking forward to the week-end with the only idea to catch up on sleep. But his family and friends are looking forward to see him back and spend some quality time together. If only he wasn’t so tired and grumpy. He makes an effort, puts on his best smile, skips the sleep part and tries his best to enjoy the time off until the next trip.
This story has no happy ending. In fact, it has no ending at all, because the same scenario repeats with every business trip. The only difference is the level of fatigue going up.
The latest studies on sleep have shown how great a damage lack of sleep causes to our mental, physical and emotional health. Sleep has a positive impact on our well being, but lack of sleep increases the risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer.
But not only the physical health suffers. The mental and emotional health suffers as well. Lack of sleep increases the risk of anxiety, depression and stress. Decision making, memory, reaction time and communication skills are also heavily impacted by the lack of sleep.
IS YOUR STRESS LEVEL IN THE DANGER ZONE?