With the stresses of the last 12 months foregrounding the importance of sleep health, high-end hotels are making sure they put the provision of restful environments at the core of their offer once more.

The secondary effects of the pandemic have impacted different communities in different ways, but there are a few universals that seemingly transcend borders: chief amongst them, a deterioration in the quality of our sleep. According to the BBC, so called ‘coronasomnia’ has impacted up to a fifth of people in China, a quarter in the UK and 40 per cent of the Greek population. Globally, Google searches for insomnia hit an all-time high last year. 

If you’re nominally in the business of providing customers with a good night’s sleep, 2021 should be ripe with challenges and opportunities. I say nominally, because for the hotel industry, sleep hasn’t felt like it’s been a top priority for some time. During the 2010s the focus shifted elsewhere, towards the food and drink offer, for instance, or fitness facilities, or a plethora of internal and external experience-based services. Competing on core affordances was set aside. As a result, a 2019 survey by consumer intelligence company J.D. Power found that just 29 per cent of US hotel guests experienced a ‘better than expected’ night’s sleep, despite it being a crucial factor in ensuring their return custom. 

Up to a fifth of people in China and a quarter in the UK reported suffering from insomnia last year.

‘Of all the discrete variables of the hotel guest experience we measure, a better-than-expected night’s sleep is the one with the potential to drive the highest levels of overall guest satisfaction for those hotels that can deliver,’ says Jennifer Corwin, J.D. Power senior manager of consumer insights for travel and hospitality intelligence. ‘Delivering a superior sleep experience is a huge opportunity for hotels to differentiate themselves from the pack and earn significant goodwill with guests.’ 

To understand just how costly an oversight that could prove, note that consulting firm Frost & Sullivan estimated the so-called ‘Sleep Economy’ to be worth $432 billion with a 6.3 per cent CAGR when it carried out research for mattress brand Casper’s IPO prospectus. . .and that was published in January of last year. Now, as the fallout of 2020 advances consumer understanding of the importance of sleep to overall mental and physical health even further, it is finally being put at the centre of the wellness equation that has so reshaped hospitality over the last decade, with luxury hoteliers leading the way. 

Amangiri's new four-day sleep retreat starts by assessing guests' chrono-types. Photo: Courtesy of Amangiri

Sleep science

In its most holistic form, this has seen an expansion and elevation of the ‘sleep retreat’ concept. Luxury Utah desert resort Amangiri has just launched its own interpretation in the shape of a four-day experience developed by specialist Dr Micheal Breus that promises to school guests in the ‘art of sleep’. This starts with a one-on-one interview in which each visitor is told their 'chrono-type’, a classification system used to help understand the sleep and productivity schedules to which we are all genetically preconditioned. Each morning being with a ‘practitioner-led wake-up routine’, while the day-time programme includes plenty of yoga, cold-water immersion and lectures on topics like crafting an at-home sleep environment. Wearable trackers help guests monitors their progress.

City-centre properties are also creating sleep-based packages, though ones that fit within a more condensed timeframe. In the UK, Hotel Cafe Royal’s The London Retreat can be booked for as little as 24 hours, and includes pre- and post-sleep spa treatments, silk pillows and eye masks, a copy of The Art of Sleeping by Rob Hobson and a bespoke box of CBD products created in consultation with a pharmacist that’s delivered to your room. Guests all stay in suites that have been fitted with ‘Whisper Quiet Sound Proofing’. 

The Tri Vananda resort has been designed by a consortium of firms, including Habita Architects, P49 Deesign, Arsomsilp Community and Environmental Architect and AvroKO. Image: Courtesy of Tri Vananda.

Designing for downtime 

This last point is particularly important. While dedicated sleep packages won’t fit within every brand architecture, environmental upgrades are universally applicable. Indeed J.D. Power’s research found that the top contributors to quality of sleep and, therefore, higher satisfaction scores, were comfort of bed, quietness of room, and room temperature. They also highlighted how much guests appreciated ‘beyond-the-basics’ sleep amenities such as white-noise machines. 

As the sleep tech market expands, there are an increasing number of rest-oriented upgrades available to brands looking to add extra value to the in-room experience. Startup Bryte is partnering with a number of hotels, such as The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills, to offer guests access to its Restorative Bed product. The artificially intelligent system analyzes the users quality of sleep and adjusts factors such as temperature, pressure points and room environment accordingly. 

Tri Vananda's villas use lighting attuned to circadian rhythms and electromagnetic shielding. Image: Courtesy of Tri Vananda

‘Hotels strive to personalize the guest experience and provide a service level beyond expectations,’ says Francisco Levine, chief business officer at Bryte. ‘[Our system] elevates the whole guest experience and continues the relationship over many visits, as travellers can save their profile, login to any bed on a future visit to retrieve their preferences and effectively "travel with their bed.”'

While much can be achieved through retrofitting and upgrading, new luxury properties are placing sleep at the very centre of their design programme. Due to open in 2022,  Phuket’s Tri Vananda is a wellness resort comprised of 70 guest villas, a medical centre specializing in integrative and functional medicine and cognitive wellbeing, and a wetland nature reserve. Each villa is purpose built to maximize restfulness, from the circadian lighting system to the acoustic insulation, aromatherapy provision, air quality monitoring, WiFi blockers and electromagnetic shielding. 

Hero image: The view from one of Amangiri's suites. Photo: Courtesy of Amangiri