New Study Offers Disturbing Conclusion For Airline Passengers


How much sleep do you think you need to be productive the following day? What if you have an overnight flight and arrive jet-lagged? Will this impact your performance?

It turns out that none of us are invincible, and both late nights and jet lag are extremely bad news when it comes to functioning the following day. A new study by the University of South Florida’s researchers on “Bidirectional associations of sleep with cognitive interference in employees’ workdays.” delivers the following conclusion:

“Waking 19 minutes earlier and sleeping 16 minutes less were associated with one additional point on the cognitive interference scale the next day.”

This disturbing conclusion means that even if you think you are functioning just fine the day after a long-haul flight, you aren’t. Your work will suffer. That said, they also concluded that if you lose sleep before a weekend, the following day’s cognitive interference was not significant on non-work days. So the best plan is to take it easy the day after a bad night’s sleep or an overnight flight.

Although there is a popular misconception that humans only need 5 hours’ sleep, most studies suggest that humans actually need between 7 and 10 hours. I have just worked our how many hours of sleep I had last night (6 hours), which probably explains why I tried to pour boiling water onto my hand rather than onto my teabag in my mug earlier this morning.

I suffer from terrible insomnia, particularly when traveling long-haul. I just can’t reset my body to the new time zone. While I can share a jet lag solution that really works according to the CIA, I find it easier to keep my travels within a 10 hour flight time. I simply can’t cope with the around-the-world London to Australia flights, and it’s not worth arguing with my time clock. My head and ability to function properly breaks with this long-haul travel. You have to know your limitations.

So next time you travel long-haul (or just have a late night), try to be forgiving to yourself when you are inevitably functioning below par. Try not to get frustrated. Science says your head won’t work properly after less sleep than usual, so go with it and lower your expectations.

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