You remember sleep, right? I’m talking about that blissful feeling when your head hits the pillow, and you know you’ll have several hours of uninterrupted rest and the ability to wake up at your leisure. What about vacation? Not with kids, but before kids — where you could sip as many margaritas as you wanted poolside without a care in the world. Now, what if I told you a new travel trend called sleep tourism merges both those worlds? I assume I have your attention.
Sleep tourism has brought about a rise in hotels and resorts globally offering stays that incorporate programs and products to make sure you get optimal sleep. Some hotels curate custom sleep experiences. Others have entire retreats backed by science with methods to help reset and reboot sleep.
What is sleep tourism?
Michael Liben, CEO of Chai Travel Advisors, tells us, “The increased focus on sleep and rest is part of the growing wellness trend in travel. The best hotels are adapting to the new reasons people are traveling, including the pursuit of an exceptionally good night’s rest.”
And don’t we need it! The Sleep Foundation says women lose over an hour of sleep each night once a baby is born. And they don’t see it return to pre-pregnancy levels until their oldest child is 6 years old… if at all. Additionally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in three adults in the United States reported not getting enough rest or sleep every day. So, that’s, like, a lot of us.
If you have the time and budget, a sleep retreat awaits you. Arizona’s Castle Hot Springs offers a sleep retreat experience. Beyond the perks of a wellness resort like this one — yoga, hiking, spa-ing — the experience is shepherded by a sleep expert, Dr. Rebecca Robins, who leads the retreat with discussions and guidance on how to get the best shuteye.
East Coasters can drive up to the Mayflower Inn & Spa in Connecticut and visit The Well. The Well is a wellness destination that offers several holistic health programs, including their newly launched Better Sleep. The Well’s chief medical officer, Dr. Frank Lipman, developed the program, which includes health coaching sessions, workshops and retreats, a guided sleep meditation, a guidebook with yoga, breathwork, and journaling tips.
Lipman shared with us that sleep and travel are often not congruous. “While traveling, getting quality sleep often comes with challenges due to jet lag, lack of control over one’s environment, change in eating habits and more — and inadequate shut-eye, in turn, can negatively impact mood, cognition, skin health, energy levels and more. Our Better Sleep program is designed to make it easier for guests to restore and optimize their sleep health through science-backed tips.”
And this trend is going worldwide. From Northern Italy, where Preidlhof Resort offers a seven-day Sleep Better retreat that involves a fully personalized sleep assessment, to Koh Samui, Thailand, where Kamalaya offers a Sleep Enhancement program inclusive of IV therapy, massages, and your own personal Life Enhancement Mentor, you can find a sleep-focused trip in more places than you’d ever imagined.
How did this all begin?
A lot of experts attribute it to the pandemic’s rise.
“Sleep tourism has been of interest for some time, but the pandemic has further fueled its popularity over the last three years, with a large shift towards prioritizing one’s well-being. As the desire to travel continues to increase, more people are seeking out wellness experiences that help them reset and improve their overall health — which sleep plays a critical role in,” Lipman says.
Beyond the all-encompassing retreats, hotels everywhere are adding sleep-enhancing benefits to your stay. Many are using the latest in sleep technology to offer the best beds, pillows, and lighting. For example, Rosewood Miramar Beach has Bryte Sleep Suites where guests sleep on Bryte Restorative Beds, which personalize either heating or cooling technology based on the individual sleeper, allowing for a better night’s sleep. The Park Hyatt New York and Chicago similarly offer a special sleep suite featuring Bryte Balance, a mattress that has some really unique features like Somnify, which is a relaxation experience that pairs sleep-inducing sounds with soothing motion. And you thought your son was the only one with a robot bed!
In downtown Los Angeles, the Hotel Figueroa has created its Rest & Recovery Suite. They partnered with several brands that help make for a better night’s sleep. Guests will find things like the Revive red-light therapy lamp, which uses red-light wavelengths to aid sleep and maintain natural circadian rhythms by enhancing natural melatonin production. There is also an Eight Sleep Pod Mattress that smartly adjusts temperatures throughout the night (your core body temperature lowers for sleep, and you want to maintain it for the most restful slumber). They even offer a quick quiz in advance of guests’ arrival to find them the best Pluto pillow based on their sleep preferences.
Particular treatments at spas are also being tailored to restorative sleep. At the spa at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles, they have a new biohacking program that has been shown as a solution to sleep health, in which they combine infrared technology, neuroscience, and compression therapy while guests relax on an anti-gravity bed. Guests wear NuCalm® headsets, which use healing sound waves to calm the mind and nervous system. It sounds a bit woo-woo, but it’s actually very scientifically based.
“These things [sleep enhancements] matter — it is common to hear from clients that their loyalty to a particular brand stems from the comfort they have with the brand’s bed,” Liben says.
Taking Sleep Tourism for a Test Drive
As a new mom to a four-month-old, a good night’s sleep seemed like a dream come true (pun intended). I wanted just one solid night where I could go to sleep without fear of being woken up. I wanted to wake up without the alarm of a crying or babbling baby. So, I did just that and booked myself an overnight at the Hotel Figueroa, where I tried out their Slumber in Style package.
Within minutes of my arrival, I had a bathrobe on, hair mask in, and eye masks applied. The silence was a novelty and one I relished. Calming tea provided a nice wind-down beverage (after a glass of red wine). One of my favorite skincare brands, OSEA, was supplied in the room in their Vagus Nerve Travel Set (according to the brand, “the vagus nerve activates the body’s relaxation response and helps regulate stress”). I enjoyed its crisp and fruity smell, which I generously spritzed all over my pillows.
I decided to follow good sleep recommendations and leave the television off. I read a book I started before my son was born, and after half a chapter, my eyes closed. Off on my sleep adventure I embarked.
Sure, for some, a hotel is just a place to rest their head. But it can be so much more. Sleep truly is a basic need, and when you get some, everything else in your life is so much better. The sleep tourism trend has certainly infiltrated luxury travel — but with these advancements comes a price. To be blunt: It ain’t cheap. Especially now, as data from the travel site Hopper shows that the average hotel cost has gone up 54% since last year.
If traveling to one of these places isn’t in your budget, you can still jump on the bandwagon and plan a sleep-cation at your own home. If you have a partner, ask for one night alone, ideally in an extra bedroom where you’re off baby/kid duty for the night. Use a white noise machine (something your baby or kid probably already has) for your own benefit. Wind down with some calming tea, a lavender-scented candle or spray, and resist the urge to use the TV or your smartphone. Surely you can get just one night for yourself.
After my evening away, I felt refreshed and eager to get back to my little guy. Sleep has always been a favorite activity of mine, as has traveling. Funny enough, I also enjoy luxury. So yeah, I’m all about the sleep tourism trend. I hope it’s here to stay.