Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 


Business travel seems so glamorous.

Until you do it regularly, that is.

Soon you find that some rooms don't smell right.

In some hotels, you can hear the people next door and you wish you didn't know exactly what they were paying to watch on their TV.

Room service often brings lukewarm or even cold food.

And then there's the bed.

You never quite know what you'll get.

The pillows are too soft or too hard. The room might not even have been cleaned, a favorite new ploy of some hotels, it seems.

The worst of it, though, is when you don't sleep.

You toss, you turn and you end up answering emails, having imaginary meetings or playing a  video game.

Scientists now think they know why.

Research from Brown University suggests that when we sleep somewhere new, one half of our brain can't shut down.

It keeps our subconscious alert for potential dangers like drones flying through our windows or strange people knocking on our doors offering dubious services.

Technically, it's an area of your left hemisphere that doesn't shut down.

The left hemisphere controls the right side of your body. In this research, when scientists played noises into the right ears of the sleeping participants they woke more often than when they played noises in their left ears.

The researchers admit, however, that they still don't have all the answers. They were only able to measure the first, slow-wave sleep phase.

What happens later in the night is still unknown. It could be that the right hemisphere takes over. It could also be that both hemispheres shut down, now feeling more confident that nothing untoward will happen.

We're not alone in having this active area of the brain that keeps us alert while we try and sleep. Marine mammals also have this facility and scientists assume this is because they need to wake up for air occasionally.

Though this research is fascinating, I wonder whether it truly reflects enough factors around sleeping in strange places.

Personally, I find that I sleep better in any hotel in which I can actually open and window and get fresh air. Noise is far less disturbing to me than heat and stale air.

Indeed, being able to fully regulate the temperature in your room is also important when it comes to sleep.

Of course, in certain instances it must be true that you're so tired that it doesn't matter what sort of hotel you're in.

You get into the room, take off your clothes, wash if you can manage it, turn off all your gadgets and flop down on the bed.

Even your hemispheres give up the ghost and just hope that the hotel room isn't haunted.

Of course, there are always sleeping pills, but those can make you feel a little rough in the morning.

Perhaps, then, hotels should focus a little more on making our left hemispheres feel secure.

This much I know: Hotels instituting new, annoying charges doesn't help my left hemisphere.