More travelers are forgoing itineraries jam-packed with activities from dawn to dusk. Instead, they’re consulting pillow menus and retiring on the early side.
Welcome to the age of sleep tourism, where a growing number of hotels are offering amenities and services, including access to a slate of in-house sleep experts, to help guests get a healthy dose of rest. The sleep tourism market is estimated to grow by nearly 8% and by over $400 billion between 2023 and 2028, according to an analysis by HTF Market Intelligence.
“Guests are increasingly valuing sleeping when they’re traveling and getting a good night’s rest on the road,” says Rebecca Robbins, a sleep scientist at Harvard’s Division of Sleep Medicine and co-author of Sleep for Success!.
The growing $814 billion wellness tourism industry has capitalized on an overwhelming interest in “slow travel”—voyaging for relaxation and reconnecting with wellness habits. In one recent survey, a vast majority of respondents—over 94%—said they want to experience slow travel. This comes as more hotels across the globe are becoming ambassadors in sleep tourism, offering sleep trackers, retreats and guidance from sleep doctors.
“Gone are the days of traveling and coming home exhausted,” Robbins says. “The idea that travel could restore you—to cognitively learn things and experience new things and also physically and mentally get the rest you need to power your trip and to allow you to return home rested—is a really exciting proposition.”
In a survey of over 600 travelers, Robbins, who also teaches sleep science classes at Sonesta hotels, found only one in three were satisfied with their sleep during their last travel experience. “One of the most important outcomes from that study found that sleeping while traveling was a significant predictor of the likelihood a guest would return.”
Robbins says while hotels often focus on promoting their nightlife options and restaurants, they can also benefit from travelers’ desire and need to improve their sleep. “After all, hotels are the core provider of a good night’s rest,” she says.
Sleep tourism hot spots
Hotels have long provided amenities like masks, blackout shades, and comfortable pillows, but many brands are expanding their suite of sleep-boosting offerings. Several of Hilton’s locations offer “power down” amenities, including temperature-adjusting mattresses and dim light settings, according to Amanda Al-Masri, the vice president of wellness at Hilton.
“We know a good night’s rest can make or break a trip as well as provide major positive benefits for creativity, mood, and brain health,” says Al-Masri, who notes that Hilton’s latest wellness trends report found the number one reason for travel is to rest and recharge.
Other Hilton properties are similarly expanding their sleep-boosting services. The Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, offers guests pillow menus, while Conrad Bali has an additional paid experience called SWAY, where guests enjoy a 60-minute sleep therapy session while suspended in cocoon hammocks.
“Travelers engaging in sleep tourism are taking that extra step and seeking out unique experiences, amenities, and environments that help them achieve their sleep and relaxation goals,” says Al-Masri.
Park Hyatt New York offers a Bryte Restorative Sleep Suite, a 900-square-foot room with an AI-powered smart bed to adjust mattress pressure points. The room also has essential oil diffusers and sleep-related books. London-based hotel Zedwell offers soundproof rooms free of distractions like TVs and monitors. Sonesta’s Rest & Renew program at the four-star Benjamin Royal in New York offers sleep kits with masks, a sleep lullaby music library, white noise machines, ten different pillow options, and a power napping kit.
For those who want to dedicate their entire getaway to wellness, Six Senses, with locations across the globe, including in Greece, India, and Fiji, gives guests a curated sleep program. The stay includes sleep meditations and a two-night sleep tracker, providing insights into sleep duration and quality, along with guidance from in-house sleep doctors. A five-night stay starts at over $1,000, and guests can typically go from three to 10 nights.
The prioritization of sleep education
Robbins says the collective sleep epidemic plaguing many is cause for concern as optimal sleep remains a vital pillar of healthy physical and mental well-being. One in three adults do not get the recommended hours of sleep each night, perpetuated by 24/7 technology and the rise in mental health conditions like anxiety and depression that can keep people awake.
The discrepancy paints a larger picture highlighting the undereducation in sleep science, Robbins says. “There’s really no formal education,” she says. “There’s a tremendous opportunity to improve our collective sleep health.”
For many, there’s no better time to prioritize sleep than on vacation. For those who can access them, amenities that can help improve sleep quality and duration include thick curtains to block out light, a distraction-free room, and resources on wind-down routines such as mindfulness guides.
Travelers who return feeling rejuvenated just may use what they learned in their daily life once the hustle commences.