By Adam Mogelonsky, Larry Mogelonsky
Sleep tourism is in vogue and will be for quite some time because many travelers now value getting good sleep to prioritize their health and wellbeing. With that in mind, we can look beyond just some of the fancier amenities that hotels are developing and look more specifically at insomnia-like conditions with these ten features.
With a big emphasis to start, both of us are not trained medical professionals. These ten features are ideas that we’ve come up with after reading extensively on the root causes of insomnia and how hotel guestrooms or hotel spaces can be redesigned in a value-engineered way to help people who have anxiety or other mental conditions that may be contributing to a lack of high-quality sleep.
And as another preamble, all of these ten can only help with insomnia. Medically speaking, the only recognized treatment for this condition is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) which works over a period of weeks or months for a positive impact. With the average LOS far shorter than this time period, the best that hotels can do is offer a semblance of ‘peace of mind’ for those guests who are enduring through the stress of travel or other life events.
- Great lounge chairs. Without one’s home office setup, the temptation to answer emails from bed is far more pronounced, but this can be a death knell for poor sleep while traveling due to the mental association of the bed with work. To decouple this pathway, hotels should promote their comfortable divans or lounge chairs that perfectly serve the transitionary state between wakefulness and sleep. Another aspect of this improved lounge chair would also be a small side table for resting a laptop or notebook as well as an amber-hued portable nightlight (where too often these are now built as bed attachments to thereby prompt working from bed).
- No visible alarm clocks. Waking up in the middle of the night is more common than you are conscious of. But the sight of a clock can cause you to worry about getting enough to be refreshed for that morning’s events to the point where you have a cortisol release that inhibits you from falling back asleep – a bit of a self-fulfilling fallacy. The solution here is to install alarm clocks or tablets that have a night mode where the screen is dark and the time is only revealed when the guest touches the screen or a button.
- Ergonomic working areas. Many hotels claim to have office desks in the room but these are often so dated and uncomfortable that they all but drive guests to work from the bed. Correcting this may require a guestroom PIP, or better access to a revitalized business center, living room or club area where guests can focus on working efficiently with access to other amenities like snacks, beverages, printers and auxiliary computer monitors.
- Angling the television. If the TV is bolted to the wall facing the bed then where do you think you are nudging guests to watch TV from? While watching TV from bed is a more passively engaging activity versus writing work emails or texting on the phone, it’s nevertheless a trigger for people with sleep issues. Fixing this one is hard in that it may require articulating mounts or repositioning the sofa, but something to consider.
- Stimulating environments. While blue light from screens has been rightfully demonized of late for their ability to disrupt the circadian rhythm, what’s even more important to attenuating this cycle with the 24-hour day is direct assess to morning sunlight. While modifying a property’s exterior is probably not in the cards, educating on the importance of daytime sunlight exposure and directing guests to quiet places where they can get their daily fix without leaving the environs would be greatly appreciated by future travelers.
- Alleviating afternoon tiredness. While I’m sure the barista at your favorite café may disagree, due to caffeine’s average half-life within the body of 12 hours, late afternoon or evening coffee consumption should be strongly avoided in order to maximize sleep quality. Instead, hotels should elsewhere for ways they can help address that midafternoon bout of tiredness we all experience, with options ranging from access to an outdoors setting or a quick walking route to healthy snacks, a greater selection of decaf coffee options and nootropic herbal teas.
- Electrolytes. Of course, poor sleep is associated with bad nutrition. In vogue right now are the various magnesium supplements as well as the classic milk of magnesium, whereby a deficiency in this specific mineral has been widely researched with regard to sleep quality. While sleep is far more than just this particular substance, what’s implied here is that hotels looking for a cheap addition to augment their sleep programs might investigate some of those electrolyte pack providers or other sleep-friendly beverage vendors.
- Exercise. Through pure ‘sleep inertia’, if you exhaust your body during the day by using more calories, it’s going to be significantly harder not to feel sleepy come nightfall. Yet, when we’re traveling we often do not prioritize exercise or feel as though we have access to the right facilities to keep up with our at-home levels of exertion. Hence, hotels looking to boost their sleep programs would be wise to simultaneously look at their in-home exercise programming as well as the ease of access to the fitness center.
- There’s an app for that. Whether it’s an app that offers guided mindfulness, meditation or light stretching programs for some evening relaxation, or one focused explicitly on CBT-I or NSDR (non-sleep deep rest) for helping someone process racing thoughts and relieve any anxieties over getting proper sleep, there are software solutions that can be applied to insomnia. While we haven’t yet encountered one specifically for obstructive sleep apnea or other interruptive sleep conditions, a hotel could create some on-demand oropharyngeal (that is, tongue muscle) exercises or sketch them onto a piece of cardstock as part of the downturn service.
- One-click sleep mode. While on the topic of integrated tech, modern guest-facing tablet providers can now help hotels set up preset room modes, acting as universal remotes for all the various technologies in place. As it concerns insomnia sufferers, the most critical here would be the goodnight button that simultaneously lowers the curtains, turns the temperature down, silences any noises and dims the lights. Another would be an intermediate evening mode that sets the lights to a low-intensity amber hue that prepares the mind for sleep.
There’s obviously a lot more that hotels can do to help guests naturally drift off to sleep to then wake up feeling both refreshed and fully satisfied with their choice of hotels. The key here is crafting your messaging around peace of mind. As the sleep tourism trend has shown, guests are willing to pay extra for some form of guarantee that they will get a good night’s sleep. This is a huge opportunity for hotels to boost rate and carve out new product categories. So, do what you can and your customers will inevitably reward you as well as spread the good word about how great a rest they got.
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