Spas no longer just offer massages, facials and pedicures: Sleep is also offered on a growing number of spa menus. Sleep services range from comprehensive sleep studies to meditation, aromatherapy massages and pillow menus — and the programs are more popular than ever.
Sleep specialist Michael J. Breus, PhD, believes it makes sense for spas to offer sleep treatments, explaining, “Spas are no longer just luxury destinations, but they’re starting to become health destinations — meaning that now we are seeing services that address not just beauty (which sleep does have a large effect upon) but also health. Sleep is so fundamental to the process of health and wellness.”
More than 50 million adults have a sleep disorder according to the American Sleep Association. Insomnia and lack of sleep ranked as top issues, each affecting more than 1/3 of adults.
Barbara Jinete, sleep specialist at Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa in Miami, Florida, believes spa guests want to find out what’s causing their sleep issues and learn strategies to achieve a lifetime of good, quality sleep.
“A lot of people have sleep issues,” she says. “Doctors will give them pills to help them sleep, but that isn’t addressing the real issue.”
FINDING ROOT CAUSES
At Pritikin, board-certified sleep doctors administer sleep studies to address the root cause of sleep issues. A healthier diet could be one of the recommended interventions. (Research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed poor eating habits had a negative impact on sleep while a diet low in saturated fat and sugar helped improve sleep.) Massage and other stress-relieving spa treatments can also help guests unwind and slip into sleep, notes Jinete.
The program includes sleep assessments and sleep ambassadors available to recommend services based on specific sleep issues.
Breus consulted on the sleep program at Six Senses Spas. The program includes sleep assessments and sleep ambassadors available to recommend services based on specific sleep issues. A guest who has trouble sleeping might benefit from a relaxing massage before bed; and someone who wakes up in the middle of the night might need a snack before bed to regulate their blood sugar until breakfast, for example.
WHY SPAS WORK
Unlike sterile medical environments, spas are luxe destinations — and fluffy spa robes and slippers are much nicer than paper-thin gowns; sleep studies are often done in the comfort of guest rooms, not hospital beds. Moreover, Breus believes spa-based sleep treatments can be more comprehensive than those offered in a traditional medical practice.
“If you go to a sleep specialist, they are really trained only in identifying medical sleep disorders and providing treatments for [issues like] sleep apnea, narcolepsy or insomnia,” Breus says. “At a spa, far more things can be addressed; a [sleep] ambassador can spend more time with the guest, educate them on things like sleep hygiene, sleep environments, [diet] and more.”
While there are not apt to be downsides to making a selection from the pillow menu, asking a sleep butler to cue up relaxing music or scheduling an aromatherapy massage before bed (studies show lavender, citrus and bergamot can reduce stress, lower heart rate and blood pressure and alleviate insomnia), it’s important to remember not all spas are equipped to deal with serious sleep issues.
“Buyer beware,” Breus advises.
Before booking a spa retreat to deal with sleep issues, make sure a board-certified sleep doctor designed the programs and qualified medical professionals are on staff to administer them.
If you’re just looking to unwind, making a spa appointment should still be on your to-do list. Studies have found massage helped improve sleep quality, alleviate insomnia and lower levels of cortisol, which could help you slip into a restful slumber.