With soaring stress levels, there has been a growing movement towards prioritizing self-care and wellbeing. Enter sleep tourism, one of the newest forms of self-rejuvenation, a novel concept that has been gaining in popularity amongst weary travelers who are seeking experiences where they return home rested and refreshed—and one of the biggest trends in tourism to date.
Sleep has become such a precious commodity that even some of the biggest brands around the world are offering experiences that promote healthy sleep. About a year ago, Park Hyatt New York launched five swanky sleep suites that utilize AI-powered beds while London’s Zedwell hotels were designed to be a “luxurious cocoon where you check in to tune out”. In addition to tech-forward beds some hotels like Switzerland’s Clinique la Prairie, one of the world’s oldest longevity clinics, even offer pillow menus with more options than one could ever imagine was in the realm of possibilities for pillow choices. Six Senses, a luxury hotel brand, even offers a variety of full sleep programs ranging from three to seven days at a number of their properties.
The whole concept of sleep tourism may sound a bit ridiculous on first blush. But if you think about it, we live in incredibly anxious times exacerbated by the economy and what seems to be general chaos all around us—and the pandemic only worsened it. So, whether people are traveling for work, pleasure, or a combination, it makes sense that hotels and resorts are offering guest experiences that put a premium on improving sleep quality during their stay.
What is Sleep Tourism?
Sleep tourism or travel is part of the larger category of wellness or longevity travel and is all about destinations offering their guests various ways to improve sleep quality during their stay and even beyond. Since sleep plays is a huge role in our wellbeing that affects our physical and emotional health, not getting enough or not having quality sleep can affect your health in the long run.
Depending on where you choose as your destination, how travel destinations incorporate sleep-focused wellness may be different. This could look like a special room designed to calm the overstimulated mind, technology could be utilized in various forms to collect sleep data points, or wellness programs could be offered to help calm the mind and body through nutrition and other mindfulness-based practices.
Some destinations have taken it a step farther and have partnered up with clinical sleep specialists or clinics that veer into medical tourism. Mandarin Oriental recently partnered with CENAS, a private medical sleep clinic in Switzerland, at their Geneva location to offer their guests a curated three-day program where guests’ sleeping patterns are observed to identify potential sleep disorders.
Benefits of Improved Sleep
Quality sleep is one of the most overlooked keys to healthy living. When we sleep, our bodies heal themselves. Sleeping seven to eight hours a night helps improve cellular and tissue health, hormone levels, improves cognitive function, immunity, energy levels, and our metabolism.
So, what are the potential benefits of staying at destination that offer ways to promote healthier sleep during your stay that can positively influence your sleep quality at home whether it be mindful practices, lifestyle modifications, or technology? Below are just a few benefits of how improved sleep can benefit your overall health.
- Improved Immunity: Our body’s first line of defense is our immune system. During sleep, our immune system produces substances like antibodies and cytokines that help the body fight off pathogens that can make us sick. When our sleep is compromised, our body may not be able to fight off these invaders. Additionally, recovery times from illness may also take longer.
- Healthier Skin: The body’s circadian rhythm not only regulates our internal clock telling us when we are tired and when it is time to sleep, it also plays a role in regulating our body’s organs, including our skin. The skin is made up of several proteins including collagen and elastin that help keep the skin firm and plump as we age. Research suggests that insufficient sleep can affect the quality and strength of both collagen and elastin, which can potentially lead to wrinkles and skin laxity.
- Cognitive Improvement: In the short term, lack of sleep can make processing information less efficient, our reactions to be slower, and even affect our mood. Over the long term, chronic sleep issues can even lead to a higher risk of cognitive decline and diseases like dementia.
- Weight & Metabolic Improvement: Studies have shown that lack of sleep affects the body’s metabolism and its ability to process insulin, which is needed to turn food into energy. When this happens the body has trouble processing fats and other foods from the bloodstream and stores them as fat, which can lead to weight gain.
The idea that people can travel and come back refreshed is a fairly new concept. As sleep tourism continues to grow, it will be fascinating to see who pioneers the space especially since there are many avenues that have yet to be explored when it comes to the science of sleep and travel.
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