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A Wake-up Call for the Spa Industry

Sleep Therapy Provides Opportunity for Spas to Rise and Shine

Sleep. Our body and mind crave it, but for many people a good night’s sleep remains elusive. It has been especially true with the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and global economic volatility creating anxiety and sleepless nights. However, when we do have a restful sleep we generally feel more positive and energized and ready to take on the world. 

Healthcare providers joined the medical community to create an annual World Sleep Day which this year takes place March 18, 2022. Society and to an extent, the spa and wellness industry, is finally waking up to the importance of sleep after decades of slumber and indifference. 

We hear endlessly from experts about the importance of diet and exercise and many spas and health resorts offer a vast array of nutrition and fitness classes and workshops on how to eat and exercise for better health. But there’s barely a peep about how a good night’s sleep plays a major role in maintaining proper mental and physical health.

Sleep Deprivation Effects

Lack of sleep has many effects on our well-being. The level of seriousness and risk factors associated with poor sleep varies among individuals, but these are the most commonly cited side effects in numerous worldwide sleep studies:

  • Sleep deprivation can lessen the person’s ability to be attentive and conduct tasks.
  • Some studies indicate sleep interruptions are linked to heart disease and stroke.
  • Disruption to circadian rhythms can exacerbate certain mental disorders.
  • People with a disrupted body clock had increased rates of depression, bipolar disorder and mood instability.
  • It can increase the level of tau protein in the blood contributing to the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Bad sleep has been linked with a higher level of obesity and higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Sleep deprivation can lead to mental lapses affecting perception and memory.

Sleep Matters – A Personal Journey

I take sleep deprivation personally. For most of my adult life, I have rarely achieved the optimal seven to eight hours of sleep each night. My previous work operating a tourism and marketing business with clients in multiple time zones across six different continents meant constant travel and time changes, combined with making time for home life with my two active kids. It finally caught up to me. Many days I found myself dozing off at the computer mid-afternoon or barely awake driving on the highway. The incessant snoring didn’t help my better half’s sleeping either. I knew something had to be done with a family history of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

I went to a sleep clinic and after doing an overnight stay to be monitored with a multitude of electrodes stuck to my body, the diagnosis was given – I had severe sleep apnea. My blood oxygen levels plummeted below 80% at times and the AHI (number of apneas or hypopneas recorded per hour of sleep) was far over the minimal five per hour).

That was in 2017. I started using a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure machine) and within a couple of months, my AHI and other oxygen levels returned to normal. I no longer used my computer keyboard as a pillow for an afternoon nap.

Spa Industry Wakes Up

Recently the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) and other spa and wellness organizations have given more visibility to the topic of sleep therapy. GWI in its 2020 Defining the Mental Wellness Economy Report cited sleep as a massive segment of mental wellness, with a range of sleep and sleep-environment solutions from smart bedding and sleep accessories to sleep apps, wearables, sleep retreats, spa sleep ponds and even nap cafes. 

Hotel chains like Fairmont have incorporated many different elements to assist guests with better sleep by partnering with Three Sages to create an app of scenic vistas while being guided through restorative yoga, stretching, breathing and sleep practices. At some of their properties, they provide guests with calming scents like lavender, blackout curtains, pillow menu, sound therapies, and teas such as chamomile which have a calming effect.

Six Senses, Canyon Ranch, Kamalaya, Carillon and Enchantment Resort have all incorporated various sleep programs and elements like sound-proofed windows, meditation programs, jet lag treatments, sleep apps, and special lighting systems and sleep/relaxation rooms.

Spa staff can play an integral role in educating and assisting their clients on how they can improve their sleep patterns. In addition to skin care, let’s add the importance of sleep to the better health equation. Have bags under the eyes? Yes, there are various serums, creams that can help with that. But I know from experience when I get up in the morning after a good sleep, the bags are barely there.

Ways Spas Can Help Their Clients Sleep Better

Here are a few ways spas can easily add as a sleep therapy service or product. It could mean increased revenues and an expanded or additional repeat customer base.

  • Educate staff with a presentation by a recognized sleep doctor or specialist on the effects of sleep deprivation and the benefits of sleep.
  • Have a dedicated sleep-related product section in your retail area. Feature sleep-inducing diffusers, massage oils, sleep trackers – and if you have space, include pillows, gravity blankets, sleepwear, sheets, sleep aids and sleep wearables.
  • In the treatment rooms, if space permits, create a poster highlighting the benefits of proper sleep.
  • Provide a fact sheet for clients on effects of sleeplessness, sleep apnea, sleep clinics, sleep resources, sleep apps, sleep benefits.
  • Link up with a sleep clinic (make sure to validate their licencing and professionalism) – set up special “Sleep Nights” where the sleep specialist can do a presentation – get sponsorship from sleep apps/product suppliers.
  • Create a “Sleep Pod” if space permits in your spa – dedicated space, with special lighting, sound system, and furnishings for “sleep therapy” sessions.
  • On the client questionnaire, add questions about sleep habits – use it as a conversation starter to explore strategies to improve their sleep.
  • Create special promotions with sleep therapy product suppliers.

Everyone needs sleep and the emphasis on the health benefits of proper sleep will only increase in the future. It’s only natural that spas which are a focal point for improving mind and body health be leaders in this sleep therapy awakening. 

Let’s add getting a good night’s sleep to a balanced diet and regular exercise routine and make it a healthy life trifecta. 

Sleep tight and to all a good night.

Chris Ryall

Chris has been a passionate advocate for spa and wellness for more than 25 years while visiting hundreds of spas in more than 85 countries on six continents. He is an honours graduate of the Spa & Wellness Operations Management program from Algonquin College in Ottawa. Chris has run a successful tourism and marketing company for more than 20 years with tourism board, airline, tour operator and resort/hotel clients from Australia to Africa. Chris has written about spas and wellness for numerous national print and online publications in Canada and the U.S. as well as consulted with spa owners and managers on spa operational and marketing issues. Chris was previously on the judging panel for SpaFinder’s annual Wellness Travel Awards and the Asia Spa Awards and since its inception, the Canadian Spa & Wellness Awards. Chris is an advocate for making spa and wellness an integral part of a person’s lifestyle. Chris encourages more men to visit spas and for spa owners to address the needs of this growing market.

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