Updated: Apr 2, 2022
Generally speaking, sleep loss is associated with performance impairment.
As a trauma surgeon and an ER doc, working odd hours, sleep deprivation and fatigue management is an integral part of our life.
However, just because sleep deprivation for us is just part of life, it is neither good nor normal.
Everyone handles sleep deprivation differently and that depends on many factors. Our ability to sustain effective neurocognitive performance depends on the time of day, how long you have been up, how much sleep you get nightly and how long it's been since the last time you slept.
The effects of sleep regulation can be modified by environmental conditions as well as physical activity and of course, caffeine.
Keep in mind that nothing can overcome the impact of sleep deprivation on your ability to function over time.
Repeated interruptions in sleep patterns, such as is experienced by healthcare workers (and parents), can degrade the restorative quality of sleep. These interruptions of sleep can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and decrease your ability to enjoy life.
Losing as little as one hour of sleep for one night reduces daytime alertness. Daytime sleepiness impairs memory and the ability to think and process information. This can cause mood alterations, attention deficits, and slower reaction times.
One of the best ways to disrupt normal sleep patterns is traveling. Travel can demand high performance amid high stress due to new locations, flight schedules, long travel times, time zones, interrupted meals, and late nights.
Not only does travel disrupt your normal sleep schedule, it also interrupts your kids’ normal sleep schedule which can worsen your sleep deprivation.
Flying across time zones can easily throw off your sleep schedule. This confuses the body's internal clock, also referred to as the circadian rhythm. This internal clock gets out of sync with the new day-night cycle. The phenomenon is commonly referred to as jet lag. Our circadian rhythm influences when and how we sleep which affects the quality of our sleep.
When flying to a different time zone, it takes about a day to adjust for each hour of time change. You can reset your internal clock to adapt more quickly to the time changes. Your circadian rhythm is internally generated but is influenced by the environment. Exposure to the light during the day and sleeping in a dark environment can help.
Even lights from your computer can disrupt your sleep. So close your laptop!
The bottom line is sleep is important. Even if you are trained to manage sleep deprivation and fatigue, the detrimental effects are real. So be aware of the critical role sleep plays in your performance, productivity, and health. Especially when you are away from the familiar environment or taking on new tasks.
If you are a poor sleeper the following sleeping tips from the National Sleep foundation (NSF) could help you sleep better on your travels. Keep in mind, sleep needs vary by age.
Recommendations from NSF:
Limiting daytime naps to 30 minutes.
Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime.
Avoid heavy, fatty or fried meals right before sleep.
Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light.
Establishing a regular relaxing bedtime routine.
(Especially if you have young children).
Making sure that the sleep environment is pleasant.
Exercise. But not right before you go to bed!
There is no question that sleep is important. Here we mentioned non pharmacological approaches to better sleep hygiene. If you want to learn more about the role of melatonin as a sleep aid, click here.
Please remember that medical information provided by us must be considered an educational service only. This blog should not be relied upon as medical judgment and does not replace your physician’s independent judgment. Please seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provider.