Hotels have woken up to better sleep as a selling point

A $200,000 Vividus king bed is the centerpiece of the Hastens Ultimate Sleep Suite at the Lotte New York Palace.
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Amid the competitive wellness hospitality landscape, a handful of luxury hoteliers are making a good night's rest their specialty, hoping to lure guests with amenities like weighted blankets, melatonin gummies and even a $200,000 mattress.

Of course, the idea of better sleep as an amenity is far from new. Westin, then part of the Starwood portfolio, was among the first to pioneer the concept with the launch of its Westin Heavenly Bed in 1999. The brainchild of former Starwood Hotels & Resorts chairman and CEO Barry Sternlicht, the Heavenly Bed -- a fluffy, all-white bed anchored by a plush pillow-top mattress -- promised guests enhanced comfort and more restful slumber.

The Heavenly Bed proved to be a game-changer for the brand, with Westin reporting improved guest satisfaction and other high-end hotel chains quickly following suit by outfitting their own guestrooms with better-quality bedding.

Numerous other sleep-focused amenities, including pillow menus and blackout shades, have also become ubiquitous over the past two decades.

But despite hospitality's progress on the sleep front, recent surveys indicate that the industry as a whole still has a way to go. According to last year's J.D. Power North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, quality of sleep is one the biggest drivers of customer satisfaction, but just 29% of guests surveyed reported having a "better-than-expected quality of sleep" during a hotel stay.

According to Rebecca Robbins, a sleep expert and co-author of the book "Sleep for Success! Everything You Must Know About Sleep but Are Too Tired to Ask," sleep has become an even higher priority for many amid the Covid-19 crisis.

"During this pandemic, people are more stressed and sleeping less," said Robbins. "But this is actually the time to really prioritize sleep, because it's one of the most important things needed for a healthy immune system."

Robbins has served as the dedicated sleep expert for the Benjamin hotel in New York for roughly a decade, helping the property put together a comprehensive sleep program and training hotel staff on best sleep practices.

This spring, the Benjamin enlisted Robbins to develop the hotel's new Sleep Suites, which feature sleep-friendly extras like aromatherapy oils, white noise machines, a pillow menu, blackout curtains, linens made with natural fibers and lighting designed to better sync with the body's circadian rhythm.

Other highlights include melatonin gummies and weighted blankets, the latter of which Robbins said can have a calming effect and "make people feel like they're getting a big hug."

"The guest sleep experience is a significant predictor of [a guest's] willingness to return to and talk about a property," said Robbins. "And it's an area that's still relatively unexplored by hotels."

Hastens-branded pajamas are part of the hotel's sleep suite experience.
Hastens-branded pajamas are part of the hotel's sleep suite experience.

Taking a page out of Westin's playbook, the Lotte New York Palace in Manhattan has put sleep front and center via a recent partnership with ultraluxe Swedish bedmaker Hastens.

The hotel has rolled out Hastens beds across all of its suite accommodations and has also launched a two-bedroom Hastens Ultimate Sleep Suite, which features a $200,000 Vividus king bed by Hastens, made of wool, cotton, flax, horsehair and pine as well as Hastens-branded linens, sleep masks, pajamas and slippers.

"All Hastens products are made with natural materials, because they promote airflow," said Sanja Tegeltija, Hastens' head of global public relations.

Additionally, Ultimate Sleep Suite guests have access to bedtime tea service and to the Lotte New York Palace's "sleep curator," who can field queries about pillow preferences.

"Traditional, luxury hotels will maybe leave a chocolate on the pillow, but then your sugar levels go up just prior to bed," said Tegeltija. "We really wanted to step away from all that."

Meanwhile, at the wellness-focused Equinox Hotel, also located in the city that never sleeps, every guestroom is essentially a "sleep suite." 

In developing its rooms, the property consulted with a variety of health experts, including sleep psychologist Jennifer Martin, centering its sleep ethos around offering guests spaces that can quickly transition to being dark, quiet and cool. 

Equinox accommodations feature extensive soundproofing; high-tech Lutron temperature, lighting and room control systems; blackout blinds; and all-natural mattresses made with layers of coconut fiber, cactus fiber and horsehair, among other natural materials. Other amenities include access to a sleep coach as well as in-room "AM + PM Rituals" video content, which offers stretching and breath-work tutorials.

"Regeneration and rest is an absolutely essential pillar, yet hotels can be extraordinarily tough places to be able to relax and 'power off,'" said Chris Norton, CEO of Equinox Hotels. "We believe optimal health comes from a balance of movement, nutrition and regeneration and have found that many of our guests feel the same." 

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