It’s been two weeks since Thanksgiving, giving most of us an opportunity to settle back into our daily routines before the holiday season ramps up again in full force. In that time, Team Thrive posted an average daily Recovery of 56%, along with a Sleep Performance of 78% (which translates to 6:46 per night).
As the New Year approaches, we’re hoping to see those numbers increase. We realize that won’t be an easy task, with holiday parties, travel and the added stresses of the season all likely to have adverse effects on Sleep and Recovery (Editor’s Note: Did you have a holiday party this weekend? We want to hear how it affected your WHOOP data! Send us a tweet, email, or tag @whoop on Instagram).
We suspect holiday travel in particular may have a significant impact on Team Thrive. Whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile, nearly 75% of Americans travel this time of year.
In a 2016 case study, WHOOP tracked the Recovery of one member of a professional sports team that traveled frequently throughout the United States. On average, his Recoveries were found to be 16% higher the morning after home games than when his team played on the road. His data also showed that travel across time zones was particular taxing on both his Sleep and Recovery.
Last year, one WHOOP employee told a story of her own holiday travel experience that resulted in a 23% Recovery (What WHOOP Can Tell You About Flying a Red Eye):
“I’m a California kid living in Boston and, when it comes to the winter holidays, I plan my travel to eek out every possible minute soaking up the left coast weather. This invariably means taking a red eye back, “sleeping” on the plane, and going straight to work the next day. … Fast forward to touch down in Boston at 8 am. I felt like total garbage, I smelled like total garbage, and what was going on with my hair? Airport bathroom freshen-up session did about as much as you might think (read: nothing at all). The rest of the day progressed as pitifully as it started. I couldn’t focus on a thing, my stomach hurt, and my brain was foggy and inept. Let’s face it: I was pretty worthless.”
This past summer, pro golfer and WHOOP user Scott Stallings noted a similar experience while traveling on the PGA Tour:
It’s no surprise that attempting to get a good night’s rest on an airplane can crush Recovery. However, even when we do manage to sleep a full eight hours in a comfortable bed, the quality of that Sleep can take it a hit when it’s in a new or unfamiliar place.
A 2016 sleep study at Brown University discovered that one side of the brain remained more alert than the other during the first night subjects slept in the lab. From Jon Hamilton of npr.org:
“The team measured something called slow-wave activity, which appears during deep sleep. And they found that during a student’s first night in the lab, slow wave activity was greater in certain areas of the right hemisphere than in the corresponding areas of the left hemisphere. After the first night, though, the difference went away.”
This finding confirms something we already knew about many birds and sea mammals, half the brain can stay “on guard” while sleeping. For humans, this occurs when we sleep somewhere we are not accustomed to.
What can be done to overcome the adverse effects of travel on Sleep and Recovery?
Try to stick to your normal routines as much as possible. A recent study from Harvard University found that going to bed and waking up on a consistent schedule could be linked to improved academic performance. You can track your sleep regularity in the WHOOP app:
Additionally, making the room as dark as you can, staying off your phone and computer while in bed, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol intake beforehand will all help to improve the quality of your Sleep–no matter where that happens to be this holiday season.