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Why is sleep tourism so popular?

Getting a good night's sleep is serious business, helping minimise stress and maximise wellbeing. So, could a spa break help?

Sleeplessness and stress

Mental Health UK estimates that 79% of us struggle to switch off at bedtime and 60% of us wake up in the night with thoughts of work and other worries. It's also a common refrain for people to talk about difficulty sleeping or perpetual tiredness. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports:

"Various studies worldwide have shown the prevalence of insomnia in 10%–30% of the population, some even as high as 50%–60%."

The correlation between sleep and stress is also widely reported - a lack of sleep is linked to feelings of stress, and stress is linked to a lack of sleep or poor sleep quality. For example, the American Psychological Association writes:

"When they do not get enough sleep, 21% of adults report feeling more stressed. Adults with higher reported stress levels fare even worse — 45% feel even more stressed if they do not get enough sleep."

The impact of sleep on our wellbeing

Sleep is fundamental to our wellness, providing rest and recovery as well as improved quality of life. The NIH notes:

"The consequences of insomnia are significant, such as depression, impaired work performance, work- related/motor vehicle accidents, and overall poor quality of life."

However, in another article they go into further detail, highlighting the wide reaching importance of sleep for our overall physical and mental wellbeing. In their article Why Sleep is Important, they write:

"During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development. Getting inadequate sleep over time can raise your risk for chronic (long-term) health problems. It can also affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others."

Within the article, they draw links between sleep and:

  • Heart and circulatory health
  • Hormonal wellbeing
  • Metabolism
  • Respiratory and immune systems
  • Thinking and memory

Sleep tourism

With that in mind, hotels, and in particular spa hotels, have evolved so that they are not merely places to lay down for the night when you're away from home, but seeking to be places that enable you to rest well. Wellbeing is no longer something added to a getaway, but an integrated part of it with the rise of dedicated sleep tourism. That includes dedicated packages and experiences focused on improving sleep, as well as a wider, integrated approach to proactively improving sleep for all guests.

What was once a focus on a good thread count and sound insulated windows, has matriculated into detailed considerations to help guests get a good night's sleep. Many include features such as in-room meditation guides, relaxing herbal teas and bath oils, eye masks, pillow mists and even pillow menus in some cases.

Conde Nast Traveller reported: "Hotels with dedicated sleep programmes allow guests to focus more intently on improving their sleep and sleep health away from the distractions of everyday life, often over several days/weeks. Those with a diagnostic component to their programmes will work to determine the root cause of a guest’s sleep difficulties, examining everything from barriers to sleep to testing how deep your sleep is; they can also suggest treatments and therapies to help rectify such disturbances."

Spas and sleep

Spas, with their particular focus on relaxation, also have a powerful role to play in supporting better sleep for guests during their stay and beyond.

Getting a good night's sleep is not only influenced by what we do at bedtime, but what we do during the day as well, making sure we're not overstimulated by the time we lay down at night. In particular, when it comes to stress, there's a compounding effect of the spa experience.

Back to our initial hypothesis, Malminder Gill, Harley Street hypnotherapist and sleep expert is quoted by Conde Nast Traveller, saying:

“Typically, stress and poor sleep are associated. Stress may impair the quality of your sleep and your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Insufficient sleep increases stress, producing an unbreakable cycle,”

Helping to counter poor sleep quality, spas and sleep retreats with activities ranging from yoga and walking to meditation, reflexology and massage can help guests to relax in mind and body to help break those cycles and improve rest. Spa treatments, especially massage, can play an important role, helping us recover from accumulated fatigue and prepare the body for rest.

For example, a study carried out by the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) reported: "Participants receiving massage therapy reported experiencing less pain, depression, anxiety and their sleep had improved. They also showed improved trunk and pain flexion performance, and their serotonin and dopamine levels were higher."

A study on the beneficial effects of massage therapy for insomnia in postmenopausal women found: "the present research group found improvement in sleep patterns by polysomnography, including a significant decrease in REM latency and sleep stage 1, and a significant increase in sleep stages 3 and 4, in addition to significant improvement in anxiety and depression."

The paper also noted that in general: "The triggering of neurochemical reactions such as relaxation, improved sleep, tranquillity, wellbeing, decreased heart rate and breathing, peristalsis, increased diuresis, dysmenorrhea reduction, and restoration of homeostasis can be clinically observed."

While there's no one-size-fits-all approach to stress or sleeplessness, spas and spa hotels are a wonderful way to explore holistic opportunities for supporting wellbeing and focusing on individual needs. From massage to aromatherapy, hydrotherapy and dedicated sleep retreats like The Good Sleep Retreat at Ockenden Manor, or simply having the time to stop for a minute.

Discover our sleep well spa retreats

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