From air travel to the hotels you stay in, the travel industry is becoming obsessed with helping customers get a great sleep. With configurable beds in hotels and noise-cancelling headphones on airplanes, companies are doing everything they can to sell sleep as an amenity. Armed with new “sleep programs” and a bounty of additional sleep accessories, the question still remains, is the travel industry doing enough to help you get a great sleep?

It’s common knowledge that airplanes can be the most difficult place to get sleep. But airlines such as Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, and Delta Airlines are taking measures to change consumers expectations.

In general, the airline industry has been so focused on in-flight entertainment and food and beverage service and less on creating great sleep environments. When asked about their approach to helping travelers sleep, Anna Brownell, the head of product development and innovation for Etihad Airways said, “we hadn’t focused enough attention on one of the things our guests are most interested in.” Anna is now focused on extending that five-star hotel experience to the sky.

Last year Etihad began providing free noise-cancellation headphones to all of its passengers to help minimize ambient sound. And in first-class, the suites have specially crafted mattresses made from natural materials. They have even gone as far as spraying their down duvets and pillows with a scented mist as a kind of “sweet dreams” gesture.

Delta Airlines also took steps to help travelers sleep. They now offer premium bedding in all of its BusinessElite international flights and some domestic flights. Delta also added a white noise channel on Delta Radio. And, to keep cabins quieter, flight attendants are trying to be more mindful of announcements.

But some travelers still believe airlines can do more. Many travelers  prefer airlines focus on the amount of ambient light in cabins. Some have even suggested that airlines supply sleep masks that eliminate all the distracting light including TV’s, and other passengers personal electronic devices.

Although offering a good night’s sleep has always been important to hotels, their approach has mainly been using “one-size-fits-all” bedding. While trying to please everyone, some hotels have actually pleased no one. But things are changing.

Armed with research suggesting travelers considered mattresses to be either too soft or too hard, Four Seasons set out make everyone comfortable. Four Seasons created three types of zippable mattress toppers varying in firmness. If guests don’t like the default firmness, hotel staff members will change it. Although these beds are exclusive to certain hotels, all properties will offer them in some capacity by the end of the year.

Hotels, like the Four Seasons, are off to a good start, but travels are still complaining that hotels should be doing more. A frequent traveler, Sandy Bradley, says her main sleep-reducing issue in hotels is the level of ambient light.  She hopes that hotels change their focus to provide devices that don’t have bright lights even when not operating (TVs, clock radios), doors that allow light to seep in from corridors,  and light-blocking window treatments. While most travelers can expect to sleep with a sleep mask on planes, Sandy says “in a hotel where I am paying hundreds of dollars for a place to sleep? It does not seem fair.”

With other travelers, their concern is how hot hotel rooms can get, particularly in the offseason. Many hotels turn off air conditioning, during the offseason. Big hotels often get quite warm inside during the day and have poor window ventilation or are in areas too noisy to leave the windows open. This results in a hot, uncomfortable night with little or no sleep.

Unfortunately, even with all the new sleep programs, it will most likely fall on travels to take the necessary steps to ensure a great sleep.  Here are some things to consider before you take your next trip.

Protect against ambient light:

Besides being generally distracting, light is also one of the most important factors for sleep. Exposure to light impacts the brain’s ability to signal the release of hormones that play a role in making us feel sleepy or wide awake. Too much light may prevent you from getting a good sleep. If you don’t have one already, purchase a sleep mask to eliminate your exposure to light and control your body’s internal clock.

Take control of your sleep environment:

The environment can have a significant influence on your sleep. Consider packing your own blanket. You might have to check another bag, but a temperature regulating blanket can keep you from getting too hot or too cold on the airplane and in your hotel room where you can’t control the temperature.

Bring your favorite pillow:

Bring your pillow with you so you can get a great night’s sleep without throwing my neck/back out of joint. Plus if you own a temperature regulating pillow, you can stay comfortable in any environment, especially ones where you can’t control the temperature.

Get a pair of noise canceling headphones/ earplugs:

As for noise, although background sounds such as the airplane’s engines may relax some people, the volume level must be low. Otherwise, increased frequency of awakenings may prevent transitions to the deeper stages of sleep.  Get a quality set of noise canceling headphones or earplug to eliminate sleep disturbances.

 

Sleep Well,

William