In a world of non-stop notifications, demanding schedules and Netflix binging, sleep has become the ultimate luxury, but it is an unattainable one for many. According to a report by Statistics Canada, 35 per cent of Canadian adults have a hard time shutting off at bedtime. Nothing disturbs our sleep patterns like travel and its incumbent jet lag, and hotels have started to take note. 

Rebecca S. Robbins, a sleep researcher at the New York University School of Medicine, and co-author of Sleep for Success!: Everything You Must Know About Sleep But Are Too Tired To Ask, partnered with The Benjamin hotel in New York City to help guests get a better night’s sleep. Rooms are designed with dimmable lights, and thick windows and curtains to cut the noise from the street. There is also a sleep therapy program for guests, called Rest & Renew, featuring a pillow menu and tip sheet on how to take a good nap. Robbins shares her insight into how to sleep better, whether at home or on the road.

Sleep researcher Rebecca S. Robbins, photo by Grant Friedman.

What’s the biggest reason people aren’t getting enough sleep?

“Healthy sleep is not just about slipping into the sheets and turning off the lights. What we do over the course of the day matters for the quality of our sleep. People who are on their phones or doing work until the minute they fall asleep, [well] that’s not going to be helpful to their rest. Instead, people who power down their phone, slip into this mindset of good rest and sound sleep. They have a bedtime ritual. They’ve [also] made exercise a priority. People who get exercise are deeper sleepers and report better sleep.” 

Do people have a harder time sleeping when travelling?

“When we travel, we’re in a new environment, so the first night of sleep is going to be less restorative. We’re less able to quiet the mind and slip into a deep sleep because our sympathetic nervous system is on higher alert and we’re trying to identify threats. It’s a very evolutionary response that fundamentally limits the quality of our sleep.”

Tell me about the pillow menu at The Benjamin.  

“You can check into the hotel and get any number of pillows delivered to your guest room that are designed for you. [For example] we have a section of the pillow menu devoted to side sleepers and how they can realize healthy sleep with these pillows that are specific to them.”

What’s your tip for better sleep?

“One of the most important things is to transform your bedroom into a sleep sanctuary. Create a soothing space that signals to the brain that it’s time to sleep, like we did at The Benjamin. If you’re tossing and turning, get up and go to another room and come back to bed when you’re tired, because [staying] can make us view the bedroom as a stressful place.”

3 More Hotels Where You Can Get a Good Night’s Sleep

The Wellness Suite at the Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui, photo by Brandon Barré/The Fairmont Kea Lani.

1. Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui

The Wellness Suite invites you to dive into highly breathable, soft Comphy sheets, which research shows help people sleep better. Before bed, hop in the tub for a muscle-relieving mineral soak, or choose a vitamin C shower that detoxifies and reduces stress to combat insomnia symptoms.

2. Nita Lake Lodge, Whistler, B.C.

A good sleep starts with a kundalini massage incorporating chakra alignment, sound healing and an essential oil blend to realign the body. The hotel’s Sleep Therapy Package  includes a lavender bubble bath and a therapy pillow filled with aromatic Swiss pine that relieves fatigue.

3. Four Seasons, Toronto

When you order room service at the Four Seasons, Toronto, add a bespoke mattress topper in soft, standard or firm to set yourself up for optimal sleep. Each room is constructed with noise reduction in mind to block out sounds from neighbouring rooms. Request an eye mask from the front desk and drift off to dreamland.

[This story appears in the March 2019 issue of WestJet Magazine.]