01 Oct 2022 Spa Business Handbook
 

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Spa Business Handbook - Golden slumbers

US research

Golden slumbers


There is no true wellness without great sleep and wellness practices are the ideal place to start addressing sleep issues. Dr Michael Breus reviews the latest research in talks best practise in designing a sleep programme...

There is no true wellness without great sleep Yuri Shevtsov/shutterstock
Our activity through the day impacts our sleep quality fizkes/shutterstock
The wellness industry is the ideal space to run sleep programmes fizkes/shutterstock
Covid has left a trail of sleep issues in its wake famenic181/shutterstock

Sleeping well is an integral factor in longevity and in protecting mental and physical health across our lifespan. A routine of plentiful, restful sleep helps to keep in check many of the forces which accelerate the biological ageing process.

During sleep, the body undertakes significant cellular repair and rejuvenation. Our glymphatic system – which is largely disengaged while we are awake – goes into high gear during the sleep phase to flush out harmful waste and toxins from the brain.

Our nervous system moves into low, resting gear, stress hormones drop to their lowest levels and our immune system reboots. Our cognitive and psychological health relies on the sleep phase for memory processing, hormone production and regulation and the cellular renewal which takes place during sleep.

When we don’t get enough consistent, high quality sleep, we miss out on the full impact of its deeply restorative powers. Poor sleep increases inflammation, which is a powerful driver of biological ageing and a significant factor in age-related disease, from heart disease to cancer to neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimers. Poor sleep, even a single night, directly affects the ageing of our cells.

Nightmare scenario
Insomnia and other forms of disrupted sleep existed at epidemic levels before Covid came along, but the pandemic has brought a surge of new, disturbing sleep problems. Multi-study, multi-nation research analyses have found more than a third to a half of the global population is experiencing problems with sleep. Research also indicates there has been a significant rise in the use of sleep medication during the pandemic. One recent study found a 20 per cent increase in the consumption of sleep medications since the onset of the pandemic.

Another study identified a significant rise in prescriptions for z-hypnotics, benzodiazepines and serotonergic medications which are prescribed for insomnia, as well as anxiety and depression.

Not surprisingly, research has found the escalation of sleep troubles in the pandemic are associated with higher levels of psychological distress. Disrupted sleep often takes on a life of its own and persists even after the factors which trigger its onset have been resolved. So, the sleep difficulties unleashed and exacerbated by the pandemic will not disappear, even after Covid has been controlled. There is, and will continue to be, an urgent unmet need to provide education and guidance to address sleep problems.

Designing a sleep programme
There’s a deep natural alignment between sleep education and the wellness experience. The wellness community has a tremendous opportunity to educate guests about sleep and help them to make lasting changes to their sleep routines, for the benefit of their emotional and physical health, their longevity and their quality of life.

Sleep education in spas is at its best when it combines knowledge and experience and puts sleep at the centre of the wellness journey. I work regularly with organisations in the wellness industry to create sleep programmes. These are three questions I use as a starting point, when talking with spa professionals about their approach to sleep education:

Is it comprehensive?
The science of sleep is constantly evolving, and spas must keep pace with the latest research to stay current and provide guests with best practices fully informed by the latest science. The public remains under-educated about sleep and how to make lasting changes.

A sleep education programme developed in collaboration with sleep specialists, preferably someone who is board certified, provides guests with an opportunity to learn the fundamentals of sleeping well.

Comprehensive sleep education means not only helping guests learn how to sleep better but also helping them identify specific problem areas, and guidance for follow up consultations with board-certified sleep practitioners, whether directly through your organisation or independently at home. If a client has undiagnosed sleep apnea no spa treatment will be nearly as effective.

Is it integrated?
Healthy sleep is a 24-hour process. Our nightly rest is deeply influenced by every aspect of our waking lives, from the time we rise in the morning. Spas have a unique platform to incorporate sleep into guests’ experience.

Movement and exercise programmes, dining and nutrition education, mind-body and psychological wellness programmes, can and should be actively sleep-informed. There are countless ways to do this, from highlighting sleep friendly food and drink on restaurant and in-room menus, to offering movement classes optimised for pre-sleep exercise and guided sleep meditations as an in-room amenity.

Giving guests the opportunity to interact with sleep information throughout their day, will teach them new ways to tend to their nightly rest and begin the process of assimilating those skills into long-term routines.

Many guests never think about sleep until the end of the day. Use wellness treatments earlier in the day to educate and inform your clients about how these can help them sleep at night.

Is it personalised?
Sleep is not a one-size-fits-all endeavour. Our sleep is affected by our environment, our mental and physical health, our habits and routines and our genetics. Individual biology has a profound impact on how each of us experience sleep.

Some of the most interesting and exciting work happening in wellness today personalises sleep education. Depending on your guests’ travel and their individual biology, they’ll have different needs for adjusting their circadian sleep-wake rhythms to align with your destination. Beyond jet lag, most will be sleep deprived and out-of-sync with their sleep rhythms before they begin their journey.

Personalised recommendations for eating, napping, activity, and light exposure will set them up for optimal sleep throughout their stay.

Know your sleepy customer. What are the potential issues and what are your solutions for them.

• Provide adjustable mattresses and customisable mattress toppers help meet individual preferences for firmness, comfort, and support. A “pillow, topper, and duvet menu” enables guests to select the equipment that suits their sleep posture, sleep position, and individual needs for head and neck support.

• Offer sleep tracking and analysis helps guests identify sleep issues, with customised sleep solutions to address them.

• Incorporate an understanding of chronobiology and individual chronotype—which captures our unique, genetically determined biological rhythms and preferences for sleep and nearly every aspect of waking life. Working with’ chronotypes opens up a world of personalisation, for optimising daily routines for sleep, sex, movement, eating and deep-work productivity.

About the author:

Dr Michael Breus is a clinical psychologist and a diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He has consulted widely within the hospitality industry and commented widely in the media, as well as written three books on sleep.


Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2022 edition

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