Travelling The Sleep-Friendly Way
Whether that mattress was stuffed with corn cobs or broken crockery, there is no telling, but I rolled about a good deal, and could not sleep for a long time. At last, I slid off into a light doze, and had pretty nearly made a good offing towards the land of Nod, when I heard a heavy footfall in the passage, and saw a glimmer of light come into the room from under the door.
Herman Melville’s words capture the essence of travel from the days we have left far-far behind. Ah, the times when inns were havens of relief for weather-worn and exhausted travellers. Inns were the places where hooves and feet of all kinds got a warm loaf of bread, a soothing mug of milk and a fuzzy bed to vanish into. The innkeepers made sure that tired travellers got a good night’s rest before they resumed their long journeys the next morning. And that was it. Demanded and hospitality providers supplied more amenities. Luxuries became selling points. Chandeliers and valets, old wines and new pianos, carpeted floors and plush pools became the hallmarks of a good hotel. And soon for airlines, trains and coaches too.
Funnily enough, the pattern continues. Human civilization jogged at such a fast pace that today sleep has become a luxury, and hence, the perfect feature (again) for a good hotel or travel vehicle.
As the idea of a good, relaxed and rejuvenating sleep becomes elusive, hotels and travel players are attempting to introduce that indulgence into their menu cards too. The Spouter Inn is back.
Sailors and Horsemen – Get ready to sleep
Let us look at some numbers that seem desultory at first. But have patience.
Ponder over the U.S. sleep market was pegged at about $28.6 billion in 2017 and is forecasted to dart ahead at a 4.7 percent average annual growth to 2023, as per a report from Marketdata LLC.
Now turn to the global sleep aids market, which, as calculated by BCC Research, is supposed to touch as much as $76.7 billion in 2019.
Where do you think this market is going to derive its fuel from? The consumer segment alone cannot be adequate for the vast numbers the future beholds. A lot of the potential for those smart pillows, for those aroma-brimmed rooms, for those sharp clocks, for those intelligent sleeping apps, and for those sleep stores/labs is blanketed inside industries like hospitality and aviation.
Creating sleep-friendly experiences for travellers is now a major goal for many future-forward hotels. At Westin, for instance, you are likely to find a ‘Sleep Well Menu’ that is made possible with a well-curated list of sleep-enhancing super-foods. In New York, the WestHouse has started offering mattresses with special support, along with sleep masks and aromatherapy oils. In Las Vegas, names like MGM Grand are using ambience to its ultimate rescue for sleep. The Four Seasons introduced a customizable bed. Some hotels have installed dawn-simulator alarm clocks that make the ambience light up gradually, like a sunrise and they also have blackout shades. If that is not enough, and you are unable to fall asleep, you can also order a sleep concierge, to answer any sleep-related questions at The Benjamin New York. We even heard that the hotel had promised to refund the guests if they were not happy with the sleep they got there. What else can you ‘dream’ of with a hotel stay?
Chains like Marriott and Hyatt have started experimenting with technology for that perfect sleep time. They are investing in the Internet of Things (IoT) so that they can give truly- connected hotel rooms where offerings like smart lighting, personalised/intuitive/adjustable smart beds and other accessories are made possible with the power of insights and connectedness. In Virginia, Lorien Hotel & Spa has begun giving dream buttons on the phones. Guests smell grapefruit or other complimentary, relaxing scents the minute they wish to. And order milk and cookies too.
like the ones brought out by Six Senses Spas, have given the industry concepts
like sleep ambassadors and sleep curation already. Hotels are conducting tests
and swinging by factories to invest in the
best beds for their guests.
At a recent Sleep Set design challenge, we saw new feats and leaps in this space. HBA London tried to take guests almost completely into another world by awakening the curious explorer in everyone to walk into unexpected surroundings. There was designer Yasmine Mahmoudieh too who created a narrative based on different Penguin Books so much so that each area within the room set brought themes from the books to life.
The most unusual and spot-on is the offering of pure-sleep-oriented stays for on-the-go travellers who are looking for room availability for short-term and cheaper stays so that they can just refuel their sleep and move on.
As Dr Ian Pearson unveiled in a special report on the travel industry’s future, ‘when we need to stay in hotels in 2035, we will still want a good night’s sleep in comfortable surroundings. The key difference is that our experience will be personalised to our individual needs and taste via virtually invisible technology.’
These predictions have their roots in some hard-to-refute arguments. The increasingly-tired society, where every year we need the same amount of sleep and every year we get less of it, has shown why in 2035, sleep will still occupy a third of our lives. Do not count on technology to change our basic need to sleep, Dr Pearson warned. But he did hint that – ‘the way in which we satisfy our appetite for slumber will change markedly.’ He also noted how it is often harder to sleep when away from home. That led to why and where the 2035 hotel room could improve sleep quality by emulating the home environment.
The chase of good sleep would be conducted with everything possible in a room – from the surface, the wall paint, the fabric in the room, the smell inside, the speakers and clocks around to the sights that envelope a guest. Anything that can be used for sleep enhancement is being used or will come into play soon. The mattress is becoming adaptive and the room scent is becoming optimized for a guest’s sleep as we speak.
This would also entail monitoring guests, albeit in a non-intrusive way. As a corollary to helping good sleep, anything that can interrupt good sleep would be relentlessly kept away. So, do-not-disturb facilities, anti-noise and ambient audio are kicking in.
But do not be surprised if you find a hotel promising dream management too. After all, we are living in the age of Pokemon so combining augmented reality (AR), neuroscience and sleep cycles can deliver miraculous sleep experiences any day now. There is a strong chance that orchestrated dreams powered with virtual reality (VR) tools, video, audio, smells, and tactile experiences – can be fresh and chief features of a hotel.
Consider what Dr Pearson observed– ‘Dream linking to other people will be possible – so if a friend is dreaming at the same time, it may be possible to communicate with them via your dream. Sleepers will also be able to play games in their sleep using feedback from image recognition and emotion detection.’
In fact, hotels could go a step further. Nightmare-management. They can assure you that while you are parked in their beds, the use of skin-conductivity tools plus sensors armed with smart alarms and intelligent monitoring systems can ensure that nightmares become the headache of the hotel, and not yours.