Africa Travel Week

Barry Bridges – Sports Scientist & Sleep Recovery Specialist

Wellness, transformation and self-improvement are on most travellers’ agendas this year. According to experts, Transformative Travel is the travel trend to watch out for in 2023 as everyone strives to live their best lives while being their best selves.

A crucial component to achieving this goal? Plenty of good quality rest. Hence the rise of yet another relevant trend: sleep tourism. It’s true – a good night’s sleep is so elusive for some that they’re inspired to travel hundreds of kilometres to get it!

Enter Barry Bridges, founder of Successful Sleeper and a soon-to-be speaker in the wellness category at the WTM Africa event in Cape Town, taking place from 3 – 5 April. Barry developed his Successful Sleeper Programme to help people improve their sleep, recover from “bad” sleep habits, and get the most out of their waking hours. Many of Barry’s clients are elite-level athletes, DJs, music producers and performing artists. He also spends a significant portion of his time assisting companies in maintaining their “duty of care” for their corporate travellers.

Below, Barry weighs in on some questions that keep many of us up at night.

What drew you to integrating wellness and sleep coaching into corporates?

I’ve always had a passion for the recovery performance side of things. This is why I made the move to offer my sleep coaching services within the corporate company I work for. I believe this is a very important coaching aspect that needs to be addressed within a corporate environment.

How important is this concept of wellbeing as part of a “duty of care” to its corporate travellers?

Offering a wellbeing solution service to corporate travellers is extremely important. Employees can feel at ease when abroad knowing that their wellbeing is taken care of. Wellness services also help aid in their physical and mental health while travelling.

What are your top tips for “sleep hygiene” when travelling?

  • Plan ahead when travelling – never leave the details for the last minute.
  • Use a free jet lag app called the Jet Lag Rooster to help prepare for the shift in your sleep patterns.
  • Pack light so you don’t stress about luggage expenses at the airport.
  • Aim to sit in a window seat for sunlight exposure.
  • Eat light and avoid salt and caffeinated drinks.
  • Bring an eye mask or use a beanie to cover your eyes and filter out light when sleeping on the plane.

A lot of people say they have insomnia. What is “true” insomnia, and how does one know if they have it?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that becomes chronic. It is brought about by poor sleep habits over a long period. Environmental factors can also trigger it. Symptoms of insomnia include fatigue, depression, anxiety and sleepiness during the day.

Consult a medically trained sleep doctor or a sleep specialist specialising in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBI) to identify whether you suffer from chronic insomnia.

How is your sleep affected when you travel and what factors drive this?

Sleep travel effects are a problem for most people travelling within multiple travel time zones. Morning sleep chronotypes (early birds) struggle the most with this compared to evening sleep chronotypes (night owls). Evening chronotypes can adjust more easily to longer flights and different time zones than morning chronotypes, who typically have set sleep schedules and early wake-up times.

I would suggest, as mentioned before, sleep aids such as the Jet Lag Rooster app to prepare the body and brain for travel. If you’re looking to get natural light to your brain while on the plane, you can also purchase the HumanCharger® device. This bright light therapy device will help send light to the brain, triggering your body and internal organs to get going.

If you’d like to use melatonin to help you sleep when flying, I’d suggest you get a prescription from your medical doctor, who can explain how to use it safely and correctly.

What spot on the plane are you likely to get the best sleep, and why?

The window seat is the best seat on the plane. It ensures you get a certain amount of natural light to the brain and body in the morning and keeps you away from the passage-way movement and disturbance at night.

What does a sleep recovery coach do?

A sleep recovery coach is a certified specialist coach trained in sleep and recovery science methodologies. We provide holistic coaching based on scientific evidence, offering practical sleep and recovery performance solutions geared towards athletes and general population groups.

“Sleep tourism” is currently a niche tourism trend – what are your thoughts on it?

I love how hotel chains are now taking a wellness approach to sleep. Providing this type of service can benefit the consumer and their wellbeing while travelling.

Has the pandemic had an impact on our sleep. If so, what and why?

The pandemic has definitely had an impact on our sleep, as well as our recovery needs. Stress is the number one sleep disruptor. In the early stages of COVID, practically every single person was stressed to the max!

The pandemic also resulted in the majority of people working from home. This affected our cognitive arousal because we were suddenly all spending longer hours indoors. Sunlight activation was definitely restricted, and this, in turn, altered our night-time sleep habits. Going forward, we will need to rebuild that relationship with the sun and darkness to reset healthy sleep and recovery habits.

Why is quality sleep such an essential part of wellness, transformation and self-improvement?

Sleep is the number one health pillar. Sleep connects the dots with nutrition and exercise. So, without good sleep, you simply won’t get the full benefits of nutrition and exercise. There has been a huge shift in the focus on sleep and recovery the recent years. I believe in the future, we will dive deeper into this important subject that explores more about sleep chronotypes, work schedules and personal recovery strategies.

I highly recommend you treat sleep as the best performance drug you can get because it comes with no side effects, but a guaranteed increase in your performance, wellbeing and long-term success.

Africa Travel Week

Africa Travel Week (ATW) focuses on inbound and outbound markets for general leisure tourism, luxury travel, LGBTQ+ travel and the MICE/business travel sector as well as travel technology. Shows include: ILTM Africa, WTM Africa, EQUAL Africa, ibtm AFRICA, Travel Forward, Sports & Events Tourism Exchange and African Tourism Investment Summit.