What is sleep tourism?

Bonnie Evie Gifford
By Bonnie Evie Gifford,
updated on Feb 20, 2023

What is sleep tourism?

With one in eight of us feeling tired all the time, could sleep tourism help us feel more rested and relaxed? Or is it just another wellness trend to get us to book a new kind of vacation?

As a nation, we are tired. According to YouGov, one in four of us feels tired most of the time, while one in eight feels tired all the time. In fact, we’re so tired that two in five of us would rather sleep more than spend time with our families. It’s no wonder that so many of us are willing to try anything to get a better night’s sleep.

What is sleep tourism?

Sleep tourism refers to any kind of holiday with programmes focused on getting a good night’s sleep. Thought to be a top trend for 2023, the travel industry has reported seeing more sleep-related services appearing on hotel and tourism-related websites and packages. Designed to promote restful sleep, relaxation, and overall wellbeing, you can even find specific ‘sleep retreats’ to help guide you towards improving the quality of your sleep.

Why are we focusing our holidays around sleep?

While the thought of building a vacation around rest and relaxation seems natural, the idea of going on holiday to sleep more can seem a little strange. But sleep expert and CEO at MatressNextDay Martin Seely thinks we could all benefit from trying a sleep retreat.

“Going on a sleep retreat could benefit anyone. This is because sleep is essential for many, many reasons. Sleep helps us learn new information and consolidate memories. There’s also evidence that lack of sleep can make you more prone to depression or anxiety by affecting your moods and emotions, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)”.

While the reasons why we may feel the need to seek help to get a better night’s sleep can vary, Martin explains that there are often common themes. “Many people have trouble falling asleep at night because their minds are racing with thoughts about work or life in general. Others have trouble staying asleep due to stress or anxiety about what tomorrow may bring.”

By taking a break from our normal routines, we may be able to help break the cycle of bad quality sleep (and our anxiety surrounding it), helping us to reset and gain a better night's rest.

Counselling Directory member and therapist, Nicole Grilo, (MBPsS, MBACP, FDAP) explains more about the benefits of sleep and how it can be seen as a superpower linked with better health outcomes.

“Sleep is so beneficial and essential, as it facilitates body restoration and repair. Sleeping heals our body and is what [we need] after a day of movement or exercise. Give yourself at least nine hours in bed. Stay away from coffee and sugar at the end of the day. Give yourself time to wind down [and] keep a consistent routine.”

What to expect from a sleep-focused retreat

If you’re considering building a holiday around improving your sleeping patterns and overall feelings of rest and relaxation, there are a number of different wellbeing and wellness-focused services you can keep an eye out for. Many hotels, spas, retreats, and even package holidays now offer these classes and treatments, to help you unwind and reset. These can include:

Massage. Massages aren’t just a fun couples activity to indulge in after a dip in the pool or trip to the sauna. Massage can be used as a way to help relax, revive, and heal your body through hands-on manipulation. Different kinds of massages can be used to help with different issues, including:

  • Deep tissue massage eases muscle pain and tension, and treats injuries. Deep tissue massage can help support recovery, aid with stress management, and improve overall sleep quality.
  • Aromatherapy massage blends together the benefits of aromatherapy and massage as a unique way of promoting relaxation and encouraging mindfulness. Different aromatherapy oils can be used depending on your individual needs, in order to help reduce stress and anxiety, relieve pain, and even improve sleep through the reduction of tension, stress and pain.
  • Hot stone massage uses stones on different body parts to apply pressure and warmth, encouraging muscle relaxation. Many find it can help to ease chronic pain symptoms, promotes restful sleep, encourages natural healing, and can even help improve flexibility.
  • Indian head massage manipulates acupressure points across your head, neck and shoulders. Also referred to as Champissage, this type of massage can help with your all-around wellbeing, with people reporting decreases in eye strain, easing sinus congestion, preventing headaches, improving energy levels and reducing fatigue.  

Reflexology. A holistic therapy that revolves around applying pressure to certain parts of the body to relieve stress and tension, and encourage healing, reflexology aims to help restore balance. Those with insomnia may find reflexology to be soothing.

It’s thought that, through applying pressure to certain points in your hands, feet and ears, your reflexologist may be able to stimulate healing energy, helping it to flow through your body’s energetic pathways towards targeted areas. These movements over certain reflexes may be able to help target hormonal imbalances that can disrupt sleep.

Yoga. Yoga, or yoga therapy (designed to specifically help those with health problems or physical injury), can help us to focus on ourselves and our wellbeing, leading to the release of tension, anxiety and stress – common issues that can keep us up at night. Yoga and Reiki teacher Sarah Wheeler explains,

“People benefit from offering themselves compassion. The more we beat ourselves up for not getting sleep, the deeper these neural patterns become that we cannot sleep and that there is something wrong with us. If we can loosen our grip on judging ourselves, we have a greater chance of dropping into rest. Therapies that can aid sleep [include] Reiki and mindful/therapeutic yoga.”

Meditation. Different types of group or solo mindful meditation can help you to feel more present in the moment, let go of outside worries, and to improve your overall sense of wellbeing. A meditation class can provide a great introduction to techniques commonly used, including visualisation and mindful breathing.

Considering trying meditation? Join Hannah from Happiful in this free guided meditation for complete relaxation

Sleep-specific packages and amenities. Many high-end spa hotels have begun offering specific sleep-enhancing amenities to promote rest and relaxation.

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts introduced their Alchemy of Sleep retreats, combining a number of “sleep-inducing treatments, movement-driven activities, and special amenities”, whilst the Park Hyatt New York introduced specific Restorative Sleep Suites with AI-powered beds to help “fight off jet lag, fall asleep more quickly, and stay asleep longer”, essential oil diffusers, and a mini library of sleep books.  

Is sleep tourism right for me?

If you find yourself struggling to get a restful night’s sleep, turning to holistic sleep aid alternatives can be a big help. Only you can decide if waiting until you go on vacation is really the right option for you – or if there might be some small, significant changes you can mean in the meantime, to promote healthier sleep hygiene and create a sustainable sleep routine.

If you’re worried that you may be experiencing insomnia, speaking with your GP can be beneficial. You can take the NHS online sleep self-assessment before your appointment, to help give your doctor a better idea of the quality of your sleep, any specific sleep problems you are experiencing, and how these are affecting your day-to-day life.  

You don’t need to wait until you go on vacation to try the restorative, sleep-boosting benefits of massage, reiki, reflexology, yoga, or meditation. To find out more and to find an experienced, qualified holistic therapist near you, visit Therapy Directory.

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