It’s common these days for a businessman or woman to disembark a long-haul flight and then be expected to go straight into a high level meeting.
So it’s critical for them to leave the plane rested to ensure sleep deprivation does not negatively impact their performance in the boardroom.
According to one study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers in Australia and New Zealand reported that sleep deprivation can have some of the same hazardous effects as being drunk.
Research has shown that deficits in attention and working memory are perhaps the most important symptoms of not getting enough sleep.
Such lapses in mundane routines can lead to unfortunate results, but attention lapses also extend into more critical domains in which the consequences can be life-or-death such as car crashes and industrial disasters.
Dr Khaldoun Mozahem, neurology consultant of the American Centre of Psychiatry and Neurology which has been working with Etihad Airways to improve sleeping conditions on board its planes, explains: “Your attention will be reduced and your ability to co-operate with others or to perform your tasks will also be impacted. When it comes to things like driving, that can be risky.”
He says it is important for long haul passengers not to fight the urge to sleep as this can cause problems.
“I call it sleep trains. When the drowsiness window comes and you don’t listen to your body, it’s like a train coming by and you didn’t catch it and you have to wait for another train to arrive. And it might take another one or two hours before you feel drowsy again so that is important as some people cannot sleep if they do this.”
He adds: “I guess everybody knows that when you have had a bad night’s sleep. The next morning you will be irritable and nervous, you will feel unable to perform at your normal baseline and you’ll be nervous with people around you.”
The dangers of sleep deprivation are apparent on the road with the American Academy of Sleep Medicine reporting that one in every five serious motor vehicle injuries is related to driver fatigue.
Dr Yousef Abou Allaban, managing director at the Centre, is also clear about the impact of sleep deprivation on mental performance.
“It puts a burden on your body. You cannot think clearly and you feel tired and exhausted. Sometimes you might feel irritable or angry if someone asks you any little simple question. Business people who may have important decisions to make need to be… If they are not comfortable and have not slept well it will definitely impact on them making the right decision and even on their ability to react well with others.
Imagine a business person who fell asleep during a meeting or one who gets angry – that is not good so the jetlag may have impact on mental status and your behaviour if you don’t address it.