Sleep, or rather the lack thereof, has become big news of late – from new studies linking poor sleep to dramatically increased error rates among physicians and air traffic controllers, to emerging reports of the behavioral risks associated with hypnotic-sedative drugs (like Ambien and Lunesta), including “sleep-driving.” In short, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that we, as a society, have a sleeping problem, and that it’s having a major impact on our health, productivity and lives.
The sleep-health connection is an issue that Russell A. Sanna, Ph.D., the executive director of Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine, understands well. According to Sanna, “Medical studies conducted over the past 25 years are clearly showing us that, along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep health is vital to our overall well-being and optimal daily performance, both intellectually and physically.” Given how relatively few people actually enjoy good sleep health, that’s a disturbing assessment. Indeed, according to an online consumer survey by Spa Finder, Inc., sleep deprivation has become the norm, even among Spa Finder’s health-focused web visitors:
- Only 20% of those surveyed say they get at least eight hours of sleep. Twenty-seven percent say they get six hours or less, and 12% say they get five hours or less.
- Roughly 80% of survey-takers say they have difficulty sleeping – either “frequently” (35%) or “sometimes” (45%); and 65% describe themselves as either “very often” or “sometimes” sleep-deprived.
- When asked to name the primary cause of their sleep problems, the largest bloc of respondents (44%) cited stress – “it’s just hard to relax, unwind and stop worrying.” Nineteen percent cited an irregular schedule (late-night TV, reading, etc.), and 12% attributed their poor sleep habits to “a busy schedule/not enough time.”
- Fifty-two percent say they use prescribed and/or over-the-counter sleeping pills/aids – either “frequently” (11%), “sometimes” (15%), or “rarely” (26%).
That final statistic helps explain the 50 million sleeping pill prescriptions that were penned by doctors last year. But there are other ways to address stress, insomnia and poor sleep; and spas, which have historically been on the cutting edge of health, fitness and wellness innovation, are once again playing a leading role. According to Spa Finder, dozens of influential spas are beginning to actively promote sleep health for their clients, both during their stays and when they return home. More and more day spas, for example, are providing post-treatment relaxation rooms where clients can catch a 20-minute nap following a massage. Resort and hotel spas are soothing guests to sleep with aromatherapy, feather beds, meditation/breathing CDs, and other in-room offerings. Numerous medical and destination spas, meanwhile, are offering comprehensive, physician-guided sleep programs featuring overnight sleep evaluations, consultations and cutting-edge treatments including cognitive behavioral therapy and state-of-the-art CPAP treatments. “I commend Spa Finder and the spa industry for their leadership in focusing on the issue of sleep health,” added Dr. Sanna. “In our 24/7 society, the average citizen lacks a basic appreciation of the essential restorative biological functions sleep fulfills for our bodies and minds. That’s why we’re looking forward to working with the spa industry in their educational efforts about this important pillar of health.”
10 spa sleep leaders
The following is Spa Finder’s overviews of 10 sleep leaders in the spa world, including the sleep management treatments and programs they provide for guests.
Red Mountain Spa (St. George, UT) – The spa is currently offering “The zFactor Sleep Skills Workshop,” hosted by safe-sleep author and natural sleep innovator, Robert de Stefano. The program provides practical take-home techniques for creating an ideal body, mind and environment for sleep.
Canyon Ranch (Tucson, AZ and Lenox, MA): Sleep enhancement/insomnia relief programs are run by board-certified physicians and include overnight, in-room polysomnography testing and consultations with behavioral therapists with follow-up recommendations/treatments that include breathing, meditation and/or visualization exercises to help reduce anxiety.
Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa (FL): A complete medical sleep health management program, including comprehensive sleep/fatigue assessments and an in-house sleep specialty program that performs all testing and treatments by the end of the guest's stay.
California Well Being Institute (Westlake CA): A comprehensive sleep health management program featuring a state-of-the-art preventive-care medical clinic with the latest diagnostic radiology equipment and a science-based, luxurious rejuvenation spa. Overnight sleep testing is administered in guests’ Four Seasons rooms.
Chiva-Som, Thailand: Two sleep programs are available. The “Informational” program addresses minor sleeping problems and includes in-depth education, organic supplements and sleep hygiene and relaxation programs. The more comprehensive Natural Insomniac Treatment program (part of the spa’s anti-aging focus) includes a 3-month melatonin program to restore the sleep-wake cycle. TCM and acupuncture are also offered for sleep improvement.
Mayflower Inn and Spa (Washington, CT): The spa’s personalized “Sleep Better, Sleep Well” program teaches healthy sleep habits through stress management, nutrition, hypnotherapy, dream analysis, sleep yoga, “sweet surrender” massage, and an MP3 player loaded with sleep programming.
The Lodge at Woodloch (Hawley, PA): The Lodge is currently launching a "Healthy Sleep Program" (based on meditation and herbs) and offers a large post-treatment relaxation lounge (“The Whisper Lounge”), which is separate from the appointment lounge to encourage post-treatment napping.
Yelo, NY (Midtown Manhattan): A sanctuary spa-like facility dedicated solely to napping and reflexology, promising brief but “cocooning” naps. Sleeping “pods” feature special lighting, sounds and bedding to promote 20- or 40-minute power naps. Pre-nap reflexology treatments are also available. The company describes itself as a corporate wellness center to help stressed workers power-nap in a busy day.
Wellmax Center for Preventative Medicine (La Quinta, CA): This full medical spa at La Quinta Resort offers comprehensive sleep management testing and overnight sleep observation.
Sundara Inn and Spa (Wisconsin Dells, WI): The spa program includes the “Sundara Sleep Experience,” featuring bio-therapeutic massage to treat insomnia, a special sleep-friendly turn-down service (with feather beds, lighting, music, etc), and a range of “Signature Collection Sleep Experience” products to promote healthy sleep at home.