Goodnight room: Hotels and resorts put focus on sleep

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Photo Credit: TW illustration by Thomas R Lechleiter
It's been a year since Six Senses Resorts introduced a package designed to help guests sleep better, though it could be argued that Six Senses all but ensured that its guests would sleep well by making them travel through multiple time zones to get to the brand's often remote locations.


Then again, getting a good night's sleep with severe jet lag is no easy task.

"In order to get to a Six Senses Resort, it's often quite a journey," said Anne-Marie Houston, the company's Bangkok-based corporate director of operations. "By the time they get to us, they're generally weary."

In the ever-evolving competition for wealthy hotel guests, hotels and resorts are trying to differentiate themselves by offering everything from a more curated food and beverage program to better personalization and activities that are more in tune with the local environment.

They are also focusing on sleep, an activity for which there might seem to be little opportunity for differentiation.

Beyond providing amenities such as blackout shades, high-end pillow-top mattresses and soothing lights, some hotel companies are putting a new wrinkle on wellness-oriented goods and services by touting programs designed to ensure that guests get sufficient sleep, which is generally accepted to be between seven and nine hours a night for adults.

Lodging operators are deploying sleep specialists to work with staff and offer guest consultations. The goal is not only to ensure that the guest is getting sufficient sleep on property but that he or she will leave the resort better versed in ways of maintaining good sleeping habits at home by altering the day-to-day routine that can compromise a full night's rest.

Resort operator Six Senses, which debuted its Sleep With Six Senses initiative at five properties in 2016, has added amber-lit fixtures to help guests get better sleep. It also includes “sleep bags” containing bamboo-fiber pajamas, nasal neti pots, earplugs and a jasmine sleep spritzer.
Resort operator Six Senses, which debuted its Sleep With Six Senses initiative at five properties in 2016, has added amber-lit fixtures to help guests get better sleep. It also includes “sleep bags” containing bamboo-fiber pajamas, nasal neti pots, earplugs and a jasmine sleep spritzer.

A case in point is Six Senses, which debuted its Sleep With Six Senses package at five of its 10 resorts last September. In addition to deploying what it calls a sleep ambassador who prepares for a guest's arrival based on answers to an online questionnaire about his or her sleep and living habits, guests are provided with "sleep bags" containing amenities such as bamboo-fiber pajamas, nasal neti pots, earplugs and jasmine sleep spritzer.

Arizona's Miraval Resort & Spa, which was acquired by Hyatt earlier this year, has had dedicated sleep programming since 2012. Among other things, it offers guests a choice of firm or soft bedding and either 90-minute workshops or individual and couples consultations to broaden their range of caffeine-free beverages.

"When people understand that what they are doing all day long and the timing of their behaviors are really setting themselves up for bad sleep, most people are willing to make those changes," said Sheryl Brooks, a board-certified registered nurse and sleep expert who works with Miraval. "Corporate America has embraced the idea of being 'on' all of the time, but it's beginning to understand that sleep does matter."

Larger organizations are also taking notice. In 2012, hotel-casino resort operator MGM Resorts International began collaborating with Delos, which works with real estate developers on wellness-oriented design and amenities, to create a hotel-room concept called Stay Well.  

Delos incorporated amenities such as lighting designed to reduce jet lag, which can be exacerbated by the blue lighting that simulates sunrise and is often emitted by mobile devices. It also added antimicrobial coatings to fixtures and furniture that reduce the spread of bacteria as well as memory-foam mattresses made from plant extracts.

MGM Resorts retrofitted 42 rooms on the 14th floor at the MGM Grand Las Vegas into Stay Well rooms that first year and since then has retrofitted the remaining 129 rooms on the 14th floor of the hotel. Delos added amenities such as memory-foam mattresses made from plant extracts to the Stay Well initiative. Additionally, six Marriott properties, including the Charlotte Marriott City Center, Atlanta Marriott Marquis and Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, have added Stay Well rooms.

Hotel operators said they can realize a return on such investment because guests are willing to pay more for that category of room.

Delos’ Stay Well-branded rooms, available at properties such as the MGM Grand Las Vegas, above, include special lighting and anti-microbial coatings on fixtures and furniture that reduce the spread of bacteria.
Delos’ Stay Well-branded rooms, available at properties such as the MGM Grand Las Vegas, above, include special lighting and anti-microbial coatings on fixtures and furniture that reduce the spread of bacteria.

Delos would only say that the costs to retrofit a room to Stay Well specs "vary based on the specifics of the project." It estimated that Stay Well rooms at the Marriott properties are priced at about a $30 a night premium. For weekend stay in mid-October, the MGM Grand Las Vegas' Stay Well Grand Queen rooms were priced at $302 a night, $20 a night more than the standard Grand Queen.

At Six Senses properties in Oman, Portugal, Seychelles, Thailand and Vietnam, guests pay $165 per person or $225 per couple extra for Sleep With Six Senses packages on the first night and $30 per guest per night thereafter.

Packages and special programming aside, some high-end brands are adding sleep-related amenities. In 2013, Marriott's JW Marriott luxury brand started its Nightly Refresh Program complimentary turndown service, which includes a "dream bar" made with organic oats and blueberries; an all-natural "revive oil" with ingredients such as rosemary and grapefruit that guests can use in the bath or shower; and a "sleep treat" from Astor Chocolates that includes milk chocolate, orange and valerian, an herb that is said to help people sleep.

Such upscale hotels appear to be trying to address a problem that health experts say has become more prevalent among U.S. adults whose work habits, lifestyle and unwillingness to disconnect has led to an epidemic of sorts.

In a study released last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that some 35% of U.S. adults report that they average less than seven hours of sleep per night. The CDC has linked lack of sleep to everything from heart disease to obesity to depression. U.S. regions where the problem was particularly acute included the southeastern U.S., Hawaii and, not surprisingly, southern Nevada.

As a result, Rand Europe said in a study released last year that the U.S. economy loses more than $400 billion a year in productivity, a result of the 1.2 million lost working days attributable to employees suffering from sleep deprivation.

"A lot of this has to do with diet as well as the role of modern-day technology," said Houston, who estimated that 80% of Six Senses' resorts will include the Sleep With Six Senses program by next year. "And we're not taking into consideration the time it takes to get to sleep."

The subject's relevance was sufficient enough for the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association to bring Huffington Post co-founder and self-described sleep evangelist Arianna Huffington to speak about the subject at the group's annual investment conference in New York this past June.

"The primary service of hotels is sleep," said Huffington, who cited the Four Seasons Orlando as a property that had gone out of its way to ensure that any light was blocked from her room during a recent stay. Huffington, who wrote the book "The Sleep Revolution" (Harmony Books, 2016) and who said she travels with masking tape to cover up light-emitting fixtures, asserted it was employers' responsibility to ensure workers get enough sleep, adding, "If you don't put the employees first, they're not going to put the guests first."

With that in mind, hotels are touting, and upcharging for, such amenities as part of achieving broader health and lifestyle goals. One case in point is the 294-room Corinthia Hotel London, which last November replaced the Sleep Retreat Package it had launched in 2014 with a program called the Brain Power Residential Package.

With a starting nightly rate of about $815, the package includes a king-size bed with a Hypnos mattress, cashmere bed socks, lavender sleep spray and a bedtime melatonic drink as well as heated marble bathroom floors (to encourage barefoot walking, which helps with sleep) and a pillows menu.

The Corinthia Hotel London reworked its Sleep Retreat Package in late 2016 and reintroduced it as the Brain Power Residential Package. It includes a king-size bed with a Hypnos mattress and a Brain Food menu with dishes like organic salmon with green mango carpaccio.
The Corinthia Hotel London reworked its Sleep Retreat Package in late 2016 and reintroduced it as the Brain Power Residential Package. It includes a king-size bed with a Hypnos mattress and a Brain Food menu with dishes like organic salmon with green mango carpaccio.

The package also includes an in-room massage and dinner and breakfast from the Brain Power menu, which highlights food such as salmon, olives, melon and quinoa and removes all caffeine products after 2 p.m.

Although many hotels appear to be stepping up efforts to get guests to sleep better as more sleep data is compiled, the concept is not a new one.

In 1999, Westin started touting its hotels' all-white Heavenly Bed -- a combination of a pillow-top mattress, linens, down blanket and duvet -- and even started selling Heavenly Bed products to the general public a year later.

Since then, Westin and its retail partners, which charge $995 and up for a Heavenly Bed mattress and box spring, have sold about $150 million worth of the products, including 100,000 mattresses and 175,000 pillows.

"The retail foray was essentially a response to inquiries that unexpectedly poured in, with guests asking where they could buy the bed," the company said in a statement.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts followed suit in 2014 when it started its partnership with mattress-making giant Simmons to produce and sell the Four Seasons Bed, touting it at the time as "the first fully customizable hotel bed."

Citing a 2013 Ipsos survey of more than 3,100 hotel guests, the luxury hotel company said that 90% of respondents had a specific mattress-firmness preference and almost a third of the respondents said they wanted to take either the bed or linens from a hotel room home with them.

As a result, Four Seasons is selling mattresses that start at $1,649 for a twin and range up to $2,999 for a king-size set. Neither Four Seasons nor Simmons responded to requests from Travel Weekly for sales figures on the bed products.

Virgin Hotels also entered the field when it started selling its "lounge beds" online in 2015, the year it debuted the brand with its Chicago property, but it has since discontinued the product.

Marriott International’s Westin debuted its Heavenly Bed in 1999 and started selling it to the public the following year.
Marriott International’s Westin debuted its Heavenly Bed in 1999 and started selling it to the public the following year.

Some suppliers in other travel sectors are also following suit.

In August, Celebrity Cruises debuted its Mindful Dreams program on the Celebrity Equinox and the Celebrity Summit. It is adding it to the rest of its fleet this month.

Developed in partnership with Celebrity's spa concessionaire, Canyon Ranch, the program includes massage and meditation services as well as access to expert lectures and classes that teach guests about what Celebrity calls "a holistic approach to mindful sleep both on land and at sea."

It is difficult to gauge what percentage of hotel or resort guests seek out sleep-related programming or how successful such programs are. The Corinthia Hotel London declined to say what percentage of its guests have booked the Brain Power Residential Package.

Six Senses' Houston estimated that as much as 15% of guests at the company's properties that offer sleep-oriented programming have chosen it. Six Senses is preparing to add the program to properties in France, Cambodia, Indonesia and Fiji.

"We find that our guests are giving really positive feedback and are feeling much more rested than when they arrived," Houston said.

Programming and packaging aside, the left-leaning Huffington couldn't resist a political shot at Donald Trump, the hotelier-turned-president, to make her point about how lack of sleep impacts productivity.

"He kind of exhibits symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation by waking up in the middle of the night and tweeting incomprehensible things," Huffington said. "He definitely needs more sleep than he's getting."

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