Business Travel and Sleep: How to Recover From a Stressful Business Trip
Here is the ideal business trip: You make your flight on time, get taken directly to your destination while getting some useful reading done, tour the sites, get a deep relaxing sleep in the hotel room, and quickly take care of the work you were sent to do.
Unfortunately, it doesn't always go that smoothly. Airport mixups, layovers, and challenging work are a nearly unavoidable part of regular business travel, and now and then, a trip is more like a living nightmare than a working vacation.
If you've ever found yourself flying out right after you catch a cold, have to fit three weeks of work into a three-day visit, and can't seem to sleep in the hotel, a business trip can be grueling.
By the time you get home, your voice is raspy, your body is sore, and you're ready to kick off your shoes and collapse. But if like most, your job is waiting for you in a day or two, your first priority needs to be travel recovery, which means rest, relaxation, nutrition, and a lot of good sleep.
The Travel Sickness
For those who travel frequently, you're probably familiar with the unique combination of illness symptoms that seems to pair with coming home from a trip. Chapped lips, sore throat, dry, itchy eyes, exhaustion, and anxiety are the most common symptoms. Your appetite is either hyperactive or completely dead, and you have the strong urge to sit on your couch or collapse into your pillow-top and veg out for a few hours before falling into a several-day coma.
However, this isn't a mysterious illness that happens every time you travel. It's the result of the combined circumstances of travel. Your primary problem is dehydration. Skin problems, dry lips, eyes, and sinuses, and even those achy muscles need water, and most people don't drink nearly enough on business trips because the body tends to half shut-down for travel. That, plus the change in altitude from flying and sleeping in strange beds can make you very tired with a touch of cold-like symptoms.
Recover Before More Work
When you return home from travel, especially from a very stressful trip, your body will most likely want to sleep deeply for a long time. Sleep is your body's way of shutting everything else down to focus on recovery, but most people don't have two or three days to disappear into the blankets after a business trip. If you have to be at work the next day or after only a weekend-worth of recovery time, you'll need to get fully re-energized before then.
It means that however long you have between getting home and going back to work needs to be spent trying to recover as efficiently as possible. You'll need lots of sleep, plenty of water, and something warm and nutrient-rich to eat in the process. While you may want to collapse for days, you'll need to do a little thinking to make sure your body is recovering on schedule.
First and foremost, you can't recover completely without replenishing your liquids. Almost everything about travel is dehydrating. When you travel, your body often slightly shuts down to lower your needs. You eat less, you drink less, and you can hold still for a longer amount of time, but you lose nutrients and hydration from the process. Not to mention those intense airplane air conditioners. From the moment you get home, start by drinking a big glass of either water or something good at hydrating like lemonade, juice, or herbal tea. It's okay to drink it slowly, but make sure you finish the first glass and fill a second before fully settling down. Rehydration will cure your sore throat, itchy eyes, most of your sinus issues, and will help everything else to recover more quickly.
Over the next two days, you should try to drink more non-caffeinated liquid than usual, ideally about one big glass every hour or two. Your body will cycle the water, absorb what it needs, and put the moisture to good use healing the rest of your travel illness. Whenever you settle down to rest or relax, be sure to have a big glass of water or juice nearby so you can hydrate without thinking about it.
Eat Healthy Meals
When you're tired, we know how tempting it can be to order some delivery pizza or Chinese food and not worry about it but what you put into your body now will make a big difference in how thoroughly you recover from travel before work starts again. Rather than pizza, consider a hot bowl of chicken noodle or rice soup which will both accelerate your rehydration and go easy on a stress-recovering belly. For breakfast, try oatmeal instead of the usual morning sausage biscuit and consider picking up some simple lunch meat sandwich supplies for a warm, toasted lunch.
The simpler you keep your meals right after business travel, the better. If you're too tired to go to the store or cook, there are plenty of delivery apps and services which will bring you groceries like instant oatmeal and canned soup.
Wash Off the Trip
While it may be tempting to collapse into bed, sleeping in your travel clothes can slow down your recovery as your body might not be sure it's time to unwind. Just like dressing for work makes you feel more focused and ready to work and dressing up makes you feel ready to party, staying in the clothes you've traveled in will make your body think you're about to jump in a taxi and take off again.
Your best post-travel recovery is also the most enjoyable way to come home. Take at least half an hour to enjoy a hot shower or bath and wash off the trip. Completely refresh your body including soaking your hair so that you feel like you're home instead of still out on an adventure. It will help you to relax, which will accelerate recovery.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Finally, there may be a dozen things you need to do before your next work shift begins, but sleep is the most effective way to recover from stress, injury, and illness.
Rather than staying up to watch some TV or slowly do chores, make sure you have fresh, clean sheets, then go to bed early and set your alarm as late as you can. It should allow you to get the maximum amount of deep recuperative sleep. If there's nothing substantial planned for your next day, give yourself at least one chance to sleep yourself out completely. You'll wake up feeling tired and slow, but your body will have done a great deal of recovery in the process. If you, like many other professionals, enjoy work more than idleness, remember that you're really turbo-recovering from business travel and sleep is the most efficient recovery you're going to get. The more comfortable your bed is and the deeper you sleep, the sooner you will feel back to your usual energetic self.