Stress and Insufficient Rest Affects your Health and Weight

With irregular sleeping patterns and a constant stream of new beds and sleeping environments, it’s easy to see how the business traveler might be lacking some shuteye. This creates a vicious circle of constant tiredness that leads to stress, and stress can contribute to lack of sleep. You drink coffee to stay awake but then the caffeine keeps you awake and dehydrates you! Yet, getting the best sleep possible can make a tremendous difference to your quest for a healthy lifestyle.

Scientists have been aware of a phenomenon known as First Night Effect[i] for several years now.  This is a common issue for all travelers – not being able to sleep well in a new and unfamiliar place. The name of this condition would suggest it is only the “first” night that a traveler may experience the lack of sleep, but some people never truly sleep well in new places.

A connected condition is called On-Call Effect[ii], where stress keeps you so wound up that you are constantly breaking out of REM sleep. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that not getting enough rest will not only affect your stress levels, but also your health.

Of course one of the compounding issues is, once again, TIME. If you are on a crazy schedule, getting on and off planes at ungodly hours, you are not exactly keeping a regular sleep schedule. Some people can sleep on a plane, others cannot. We all know there is nowhere to rest comfortably in an airport! Backpackers may curl up in a corner on the floor but I doubt you will find a professional doing that.

With business travel, even within the boundaries of the United States itself, comes the crossing of time zones. A three hour time difference from East to West may not seem like a lot, but again, the constant disruption to sleeping patterns, and shifting of time zones can play havoc on your health — more so if you travel to outbound regions such as Hawaii or even Puerto Rico.

Other physiological repercussions must be considered. Your hormones are affected by inadequate sleep, particularly leptin and ghrelin[iii]. Ghrelin is a hormone that signals your brain it’s hungry. Leptin does the opposite and tells the brain the body is full, or satiated. When you are sleep deprived, leptin often decreases, and the ghrelin increases, leaving you to feel hungry and unsatiated when what you actually need is sleep.  Thus, getting adequate sleep is also part of your battle against overeating. Overall, In other words, not getting enough rest can also have serious affects on your health.

Some Tips for a Better Sleep While on the Road:

  • Find ways to bring home “with” you.
  • Exercise
  • Meditate

Honestly, those are just teasers. Read more in my book.



[i] National Sleep Foundation,

[ii] ibid

[iii] Source:Patricia Prinz is research professor, Biobehavioral Nursing and Health Systems, and adjunct professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, at the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington

Published: December 7, 2004   DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.0010061

[iv] Aerobic exercise: Top 10 reasons to get physical, Mayo Clinic

[v] How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep, Laura Beil: O, The Oprah Magazine;  December 20, 2010

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