A year ago, Allison Howard and her fellow members of the Global Wellness Institute’s Sleep Initiative started hearing a new phrase: “sleep tourism.”
The term was popping up in travel circles as sleep wellness experiences began to proliferate. Last year, Park Hyatt New York debuted its Bryte Restorative Sleep Suites, rooms featuring smart beds specially designed for relaxation and deep sleep. Rosewood Hotels & Resorts launched Alchemy of Sleep retreats in 20 properties across the globe, designed to promote wellness and rest. Canyon Ranch held its first “sleep immersion experience,” inviting doctors and experts to its Tucson, Arizona, resort for five days (and nights) of all things sleep. It appeared “sleep tourism” had arrived.
“We [the Sleep Initiative] tried as a group to pinpoint the origin of that term,” Howard told Hotel Dive. “It’s a term that’s really just existed for the last year or so.”
Whatever the term’s genesis, the Sleep Initiative — a volunteer group of experts from the medical field and related industries dedicated to studying sleep wellness — took note. In the group’s soon-to-be-published trend report obtained by Hotel Dive, Howard and her cohort wrote: “A silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the growing interest of consumers in well-being, and also pent-up domestic leisure travel. [...] Sleep is a fundamental pillar of health and wellness, and also, at the end of the day, a core element of the hotel experience.”
As hotels with wellness-focused amenities look to diversify their offerings, they’re beginning to capitalize on the one thing nearly all guests will do during their stay: sleep. And as awareness of sleep tourism grows, hotels, spas and tech companies are jumping in on the trend.
A good night’s rest starts with the basics — mattresses and bedding — which at some properties are getting a high-tech makeover.
Bryte is a smart mattress startup that has partnered with 18 hotels in the U.S., including the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach, Four Seasons Los Angeles, Rosewood Miramar Beach, Cavallo Point Lodge, Carillon Miami Wellness Resort and Park Hyatt New York. The company’s Bryte Balance mattress allows guests to customize levels of firmness on either side, and Somnify, its relaxation technology, pairs soothing sounds with gentle motion to ease guests into sleep.
“We’ve found from conversations with our hotel partners that guests want purposeful technology with customization, personalization and deep insights,” CEO Luke Kelly told Hotel Dive. “Feedback from our hotel partners on the technology has been extremely positive.”
Bryte currently offers its Sleep Insights — which track users’ sleep metrics such as sleep duration, stages and efficiency throughout the night — to those who own the mattress at home. But the service will soon be available in hotels, Kelly said. In May, the company announced a partnership with Fullpower-AI, a biosensing platform, which will offer even more insights for the sleep-obsessed traveler when it launches later this year tracking sleep patterns, cardiovascular and breathing metrics and apnea.
Hospitality management platform Intelity has also introduced smart mattresses via a partnership with FreshBed, a Swiss-engineered ergonomic mattress that filters the air around it and controls temperature and humidity. Guests staying on FreshBeds, which are currently in all rooms at New York City’s RH Guesthouse, can control their bed’s climate via tablet. The company plans to expand the smart bed’s availability in Europe, an Intelity spokesperson told Hotel Dive.
Even sheets are being specially formulated to help hotel guests drift off. Howard is the founder of Nollapelli, which provides the sheets for Bryte mattresses in some hotel suites. With her engineering degree, Howard designed a patent-pending fabric that stays cooler and drier than basic sheets. Nollapelli sheets can be found at Fairmont and Park Hyatt properties, as well as Florida’s Lake Nona Wave Hotel and Carillon Miami Wellness Resort.
The lasting impact
Providing the full sleep tourism experience, though, comes down to more than hardware.
The right room should play to a guest’s senses, Howard said. “Is it dark enough? Is it quiet enough? Is it cool enough?” she said. “There could be a scent component to it too.” Then there are hotel-wide considerations, such as offering guests a wind-down massage at the spa or an alcohol-free beverage, optimized for sleep.
Some resorts have taken it even further. Bangkok-based Six Senses created a program with renowned sleep doctor Michael Breus available at its resorts in Asia and Europe. Guests who opt into the sleep wellness program receive a tailored schedule as well as services including a meeting with a sleep doctor, yoga nidra, meditation and nutrition advice. The sleep program at Canyon Ranch also offers guests a personalized sleep study with a doctor’s consultation and a nightly group relaxation program.
But not everyone is sold on the promises of optimized sleep at hotels. In his 2018 book “How to Sleep Well: The Science of Sleeping Smarter, Living Better and Being Productive,” sleep expert Neil Stanley noted that people “usually sleep better when you are in a relaxing environment, so the mere act of going to a spa for a couple of days and having massages, body scrubs, relaxing by the pool etc. will help you sleep better, temporarily.”
“However, your life is not one long spa weekend,” he cautioned, so any improvements to sleep may only be temporary.
Howard pointed out that properties like Canyon Ranch that “really lean into the education” may ultimately have the best chance to impact a guest’s sleep habits after they leave the hotel. But sometimes guests just want one relaxing weekend away to catch up on sleep, and there are other reasons for hoteliers to prioritize guests’ sleeping experience.
“If you don't sleep well in a hotel, you are not going to have a good impression of your stay, regardless of what else happens while you're there,” she said.
The Rosewood Miramar Beach in Montecito, California, is seeing the sleep tourism trend take off. After initially offering three Bryte beds in its sleep suites, the property soon realized that wasn’t enough and has since added three more Bryte sleep suites.
“We are also expecting sleep focused treatments to transition from being seasonal or by request to becoming a fundamental part of our wellness options and programming across all our spas,” a hotel spokesperson told Hotel Dive.
And while the origins of “sleep tourism” remain unknown, Howard said one thing is clear: “It’s definitely trending up.”