LONDON — There are few neighborhoods in the world as cacophonous as Piccadilly Circus, at the heart of the shopping and entertainment district in this city of 9 million.
Traffic growls, sirens wail, tour guides babble, buskers with microphones perform for tips, souvenir shops hawk their wares and passengers pour in and out of the Underground. At night, revelers swarm the statue of Eros, god of love and sex.
Steps away, however, is a silence so profound it’s almost palpable. It’s just inside the hidden-away, soundproofed front doors of the Zedwell Hotel, whose entire sales pitch is the promise of a perfect night’s sleep.
Everything here is chosen for that purpose, from the dim lights to the calming aromas of lavender and rosemary. The rooms, called cocoons, are windowless, the air purified, the temperature constant, the sheets Egyptian cotton, the showers like rain. Even the noisy groups of tourists in the minimalist lobby of blond wood and polished concrete are somehow muffled.
The small but growing Zedwell collection — including the newest, which opened this month near the British Museum — is part of a widening appeal to customers who want something on vacation that they’re no longer getting at home: deep and uninterrupted sleep.
“For a hotel, the most important aspect of their business is sleep,” said Whitney Roban, a sleep expert and author who consults for hotels including the Fairmont Century City in Los Angeles.
Hotels are touting soundproofed rooms with triple-pane windows and blackout curtains, high-tech beds, pillow menus, sleep concierges, white noise machines, $60,000 mattresses, sleep masks, earplugs, light therapy, aromatherapy, natural sleep herbs, caffeine-free teas, moonlight meditation sessions, massages, and hypnotherapy. One will even tuck you in at night.
“Sleep has just gone to the forefront,” Roban said. “I think it’s going to spill into all hotels. It’s not just for the five-star guest. Because everybody sleeps.”
A third of Americans report having trouble sleeping, a Harris survey for the American Psychological Association found. It’s a problem that’s become compounded by the blurring of the boundaries between work and personal life since working from home became more common. Sales of over-the-counter sleep aids such as melatonin are way up.
“The single biggest cause of sleep problems is stress and anxiety. And is life becoming more stressful? Yes!” exclaimed Sanford Auerbach, associate professor of neurology at the Boston University School of Medicine and director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Boston Medical Center.
The ubiquity of technology is also contributing to this, said Auerbach. “With all of the electronic revolution and cellphones and the Internet, it’s harder to get away from work,” he said. “People go from work to home and they sort through their e-mails and it follows you everywhere.”
Nor are vacations always inherently restful. Four out of five travelers say they have even more trouble sleeping when they’re away from home, according to a survey by IHG Hotels & Resorts, parent company of Crowne Plaza, Intercontinental, Kimpton, Holiday Inn, and others.
Now hotels are cashing in on this in ways that range from “sleep ritual trays” with recommendations to enhance sleep (The Springs Resort & Spa, Pagosa Springs, Colo.) or a recorded meditation session guests can access from the in-room phone (The Royal Sonesta Benjamin New York) to a “sleep suite” at the Hotel Figueroa in Los Angeles with all the latest sleep technology and products or a “digital detox” at the Villa Stéphanie at Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden Germany that lets guests block phones and Wi-Fi.
In the even more elaborate, newly introduced Rest & Recovery program at the Sensei retreats, on the Hawaiian island of Lānaʻi and in Porcupine Creek, Calif., near Palm Springs, personal guides evaluate guests’ stress levels and provide special menus, spa services and exercises, and a choice of yoga, forest bathing, hiking, and tai-chi. The program starts at $1,720 per night, per person, with a minimum five-night stay, and includes two follow-up consultations.
And the new Sleepy Time Treatment at the O2 Beach Club & Spa in Barbados includes dim lights, aromatherapy, soothing candles, and a moonlight massage on the balcony before the spa technician provides infused tea and lavender-scented pillows and tucks guests into bed.
It’s not only vacationers who are paying more attention to their sleep. Business travelers, often jet-lagged, sleep about an hour less per night when on the road, the IHG survey found. More of them are “opting for accommodation that gives them opportunities to relax and get a good night’s rest,” said Diana Vicheva of ExpoBeds, which specializes in corporate bookings. “The demand for hotels with sleep-enhancing programs and rituals is rising.”
The sleep-health industry in general, which includes everything from sleep monitors to pharmaceuticals, is worth from $30 billion to $40 billion a year, according to the consulting firm McKinsey and Company. That’s a market hotels are eager to exploit.
At Edgewood Tahoe, guest-room TVs show scenic views of Lake Tahoe behind a somnolent custom soundtrack by Sleepy Podcast host Otis Gray reading poetry by Robert Frost. Each of the 20 rooms in the Hotel Saint Cecilia in Austin, Texas, has a $60,000 handcrafted horsehair-stuffed mattress from the Swedish brand Hästens.
The Gabriel South Beach in Miami Beach offers a “Nappy Hour” package, on request, that includes a white-noise machine, scented bath products, CBD lavender lotion, and wine. The Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West features chromatherapy lighting, which changes color, including a “calming” setting to enhance sleep.
The Palazzo di Varignana, near Bologna, Italy, has a deep-sleep program with personalized treatment plans that include such things as sound-wave therapy. Carmel Valley Ranch in California keeps a hypnotherapist on staff, who uses hypnosis to reduce stress and encourage sleep.
And a dining and wellness package called “Deep Sleep” at Milaidhoo Island Maldives includes food that encourages sleep, evening spa treatments, moonlight meditations with the resident yogi and a scented candlelit bath.
There are even programs to get the kids to go to bed. The “sleepy snack time menu” at JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek promises limited sugar and no caffeine.
Auerbach, at Boston Medical Center, said sleep specialists like him encourage these escapes. Sleep problems, he notes, can lead to other kinds of medical issues.
“It definitely helps” to take a break from the routine, by going on vacation, he said. “That’s part of the advice we typically give patients with insomnia. You want to make the environment conducive to sleeping.”
Jon Marcus can be reached at email@example.com.