Solving the Equation of a Good Night’s Sleep

December 10, 2019


It may seem silly to compare hotel management with theoretical physics. The big names in hospitality – Cesar Ritz, Conrad Hilton, Ian Schrager – can’t measure up to scientific giants like Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein or Niels Bohr (unless, of course, we’re talking about profits).


In a way, though, hoteliers and physicists have a similar goal: To take a complicated set of phenomena and find simple solutions that broadly apply. An equation like E = mc2 is ground-breaking not because it is complex and specialised, but because it is simple and universal.


Getting back to basics


These days, there are plenty of things about hotel management that seem complex and specialised. Managers who previously spent their days tightening up the physical nuts and bolts of hotel operations now wrestle with booking engines, dynamic pricing, property management software, and the fickle nature of social media campaigns. These tools and services are designed to make the job simpler, but in practice, they sometimes have the opposite effect and end up a time-consuming black hole.


It’s refreshing to remind ourselves that simple, universal rules still apply to the practice of hospitality. A welcoming smile and a personalised detail can go a long way. An elegant guestroom, a smart amenity, a useful common area – these qualities are as fundamentally valuable as ever.


And a good night’s sleep – well, it’s hard to put a price on that. Sleep is the one variable that can make a hotel experience work, even if there are inconsistencies in the formula. It’s also the one thing that can turn a hotel experience bad, even if other aspects of the equation are flawless. In fact, guests of all hotel scales agree that a comfortable bed is one of the negotiable parts of a good stay.


There are innumerable studies that tie adequate sleep to better cognition and overall health. There are sleep clinics, sleep doctors, even sleep training workshops. Wearable tech is collecting more and more data on quality of sleep. In short, the age-old regenerative power of shut-eye is taking its rightful place at the centre of the wellness universe.    


An equation worth solving


Hoteliers are primed to capitalise on the growing movement for better sleep. Guests come through our doors for many reasons, but zzz’s are number one. The question is, what can we do to strengthen the sleep of our guests, and in the process, strengthen the reputations of the properties we manage?


If we’re a global chain like Wyndham, we can team up with a wellness company (whose board of directors includes Deepak Chopra) and design new guestrooms around high-quality sleep. We can boost the quality of mattresses and pillows – two of the pillars of good sleep – to the point of creating a commercial demand, as Westin has done with its Heavenly Bed.


We can take a fresh look at lighting options, including curtains, circadian lighting, and even dawn simulators. We can pay closer attention to air quality, using in-room filtration systems and aromatherapy to create a healthier and more relaxing vibe. We can offer more sleep-friendly beverages and snacks (i.e. sugar- and caffeine-free) or look at automatically dropping the temperature during sleeping hours.


Sound is another area to explore. We can offer lullaby and sleep-sound options, whether through the TV or a bedside apparatus, to help guests zone out. If we’re feeling bold, we might even throw in some guided meditation.


Good sleep = the ultimate amenity


In short, hoteliers can do more to let guests know that we care about their quality of sleep, and that we are in the business of providing a restful experience. Some of the measures mentioned here may sound luxurious, or even outlandish, but so was free Wi-Fi at the turn of the millennium.


Einstein himself is known to have slept 10-11 hours every night, without fail. He took frequent cat naps, and claimed that some of his most important scientific insights came to him whilst dreaming. Granted, his brain may have been working a little harder than most – but the fact is, everyone is happier (and more capable) when they wake up refreshed.


As we seek to refine the formula of the guest experience, we should pay more attention to the basic, elegant, beautiful value of a good night’s rest.



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