Magazine article Management Review

Are You One of the 'Walking Dead'?

Magazine article Management Review

Are You One of the 'Walking Dead'?

Article excerpt

ARE YOU ONE OF THE 'WALKING DEAD'?

"I fell asleep at a meeting," complains one 55-year-old executive. "When I returned to work after my trip, I felt I would collapse by mid-afternoon," reports a 44-year-old middle manager. These managers suffer from one of the most common--and most ignored--ailments reported by businesspeople: jet lag. A July 1988 study of nearly 800 adult airline passengers who flew at least two round trips of 5,000 miles each within the past two years found that 94 percent reported jet lag symptoms. Discomforts included daytime tiredness (90 percent), insomnia (78 percent), poor concentration (69 percent), slowed reflexes (66 percent), irritability (50 percent), indigestion (47 percent), hunger at odd hours (44 percent), and depression (33 percent).

Twenty-three percent of respondents in the survey sponsored by Upjohn Corporation, a pharmaceuticals manufacturer, in cooperation with United Airlines and British Airways, were extremely bothered by daytime sleepiness, 25 percent by insomnia. One executive says he tries not to schedule negotiations during the early part of a trip because he believes jet lag reduces his alertness and prevents peak performance. A 1984 Russian study of 433 airplane pilots supports the executive's belief: Pilots whose sleep/waking schedules were advanced two and a half hours--nearly the time difference between America's coasts--showed a 35-percent increase in performance errors.

"When people take trips to places in different time zones, their biological clocks--the chemical regulators that create hunger and sleep cycles and control boyd temperature, brain, and heart activity--still follow patterns established at home," says Martin A. Cohn, M.D., chief of teh Sleep Disorders Center at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida. "Until these patterns become oriented to the sunrise, sunset, and living routines of the new location, people are likely to suffer teh disorientation and discomforts we call jet lag."

Especially for frequent flyers, jet lag takes its toll. the effects worsen if travelers fail to take precautions to minimize them or don't allow themselves to recuperate afterwards. "We are conditioned to think that jet lag is an automatic side effect of travel, and many people don't consciously acknowledge they have it. They just know they feel exhausted the next day," Cohn says. "Usually by then they are busy checking into hotels, meeting with friends, and attending meetings. When they feel exhausted, it's their body reacting to what it perceives as a prolonged frenzy. …

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