Designed to help you sleep: how hotels are leading the way in the sleep revolution

Sonox Robot, image courtesy of Geniuspharm / Circadian Sun progression, image courtesy of HowToGeek.com

With growing awareness of the importance of sleep to health, and the rising incidence of insomnia, it is not surprising that sleep is a hot topic. So much so that the first ever conference in London devoted to the subject was held in 2018. Even the most accomplished slumberers can find it hard to sleep in a hotel room due to something called the ‘first night effect’, where one half of your brain is alert to its new surroundings while the other sleeps more deeply.

Three key factors which can help or hinder sleep include: light, sound and the comfortableness of the bed.

The biological cycle of wakefulness that repeats approximately every 24 hours is known as the ‘circadian rhythm’. It plays a large part in governing hormone release, body temperature and sleep/wake cycles, in a natural environment this would be triggered by sun rising and setting. Handheld electronic devices emit a blue light, also found in LED bulbs, which mimics the brightness of the sun suppressing the release of melatonin.

While hotels are unlikely to take the bold step of confiscating electronic devices, they can make sure that natural light is maximised in daytime and minimised at night. This could be as simple as providing blackout blinds or lined curtains. Some hotels at the luxury end are going even further and using circadian lighting control systems to mirror the variations of intensity and colour that are intrinsic to the sun’s daily cycle. State-of-the-art wellness rooms at the Four Seasons, Beverley Hills, include circadian lighting as well as air purification and a guided meditation by Deeprak Chopra.

Noise is one of the most frequent causes of guest complaint. Hotel design needs to allow for soundproofing to eliminate, or at least significantly reduce exterior noise. Some hotels enable guests to create their own masking ‘soundscape’ of ambient sound/white noise. ITC Hotels Luxury Collection in India offers a sleep TV channel with specially commissioned music as well as a bedside sleep box with essential oils, ear plugs and an eye mask.

Last but not least – the bed. Four Seasons has partnered with Simmons Bedding Company to create an exclusive bed experience. Guests can specify their desired level of firmness by selecting one of three mattress toppers.

Getting the right body temperature is key to falling asleep faster, sleeping deeper and longer. Body temperature starts to drop as we approach sleep and rise as we approach morning, to prepare for wakefulness. Natural, breathable bedding helps regulate body temperature. The Four Seasons mattress has patented GetTouch Foam Center heat-absorption technology to keep guests cool.

If you really like it, you can even take the Four Seasons bed home, by ordering directly from your hotel or resort with your chosen mattress topper.

There are other things that can help guests get a good night’s sleep. Complementary shades of grey, blue, or green are known to create a calming effect. Natural elements such as wood, can help instil a sense of tranquillity through connection to nature. Some hotels are removing desks to encourage guests to view the room as a place of relaxation rather than work, and replacing the traditional notepad next to the bed with mindful colouring books.

As concern about lack of sleep rises so do the number of gimmicks and gadgets promising to fix it. Air purification systems with a choice of natural aromas and essential oils can aid relaxation. Westin hotels provide a special sleep menu promoting lighter options. Somnox Sleep Robot claims to help you sleep faster and longer by synchronising your breathing to that of the sleep robot.

It should be noted that when it comes to helping us sleep, one size does not fit all.

What is one man’s soundscape might be another’s nightmare. Perhaps most important is the ability for guests to customise their surroundings with light, bedding, temperature, sounds and smells to suit them.

In the past sleep was seen as an indulgence; it is now an essential. Lack of sleep can increase the risk of poor health and common mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Over half of travellers in a recent TripAdvisor survey say they look for reviews addressing sleep quality when choosing a hotel. It is clear that hotels can, and should be doing all they can to help their guests sleep well; not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it makes commercial sense.