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Sleep tourism – Cashing in on the sleep deprived

Dr Neelam Batra Verma


What is the one most important yardstick for good health? Cutting across all medical practices, the science and beliefs, one unanimous answer to this is -A good night’s sleep. A whole science supports it, backed by a range of research from ancient times to the present. Yet, by and large, the world remains sleep-deprived. Now, the tourism sector is waking up to pitch in and cash in on ‘sleep-deprived’ travelers. They facilitate all that one can require for a ‘good night’s sleep,’ complementing it with packages for comfortable stays.

Medical tourism for Good-Sleep!

Medical tourism has become a buzz word in these times, but its roots extend far back into history. While the concept may seem modern, historians trace the earliest known instances of medical tourism back to 4000 BC, when the Sumerians developed health complexes around healing hot springs. The practice continued to flourish through ancient civilizations, with therapeutic temples thriving under the Ancient Greeks by 300 BC. Similarly, in India, the traditions of yoga and Ayurveda have attracted medical travelers and spiritual seekers for thousands of years.

However, it wasn’t until around 2007 that modern medical tourism truly took off, with hundreds of thousands of Americans seeking healthcare abroad. By 2014, this number had surged to 1.25 million, marking a significant shift in healthcare trends.

Now, a new trend is emerging on the tourism scene – sleep tourism. Surprising, as it may sound, post-covid, sleep tourism has become a booming industry projected to surpass $400 billion by 2028, according to unofficial reports. As March marks National Sleep Awareness Month, it’s only fitting to shed light on this burgeoning trend.

Sleep tourism

So, what exactly is sleep tourism? According to the Global Wellness Institute, sleep tourism revolves around travellers seeking experiences centred on achieving a restful night’s sleep. While the concept was introduced around 2022, it gained traction in 2023. The idea is to vacation not for sightseeing or culinary adventures, but to simply relax and sleep. Hotels are now designing environments within rooms to facilitate uninterrupted sleep, free from distractions like gadgets, emails, or crying babies.

The pandemic played a big part in creating awareness about your health and benefits of deep undisturbed sleep. Numerous studies have shown that a good night’s zzzzzz is important for cognitive functioning, our physical and mental health, memory consolidation and immune functioning. Sleep is also important for your physical performance and longevity. Ironically, not many people are experiencing a good night’s sleep, with reports indicating that as many as 50-70 million American adults are sleep deprived. If reports are accurate, India ranks as the second most sleep-deprived state after Japan. According to a study conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bengaluru, one third of Indians experience severe dyssomnia, a term encompassing various issues such as insomnia, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and waking up feeling tired and exhausted.

Increasing sleep deprivation Post Pandemic

Post pandemic, there has been an 11% spike in people waking up tired. According to the report, about 67% of women reported feeling sleepy during work hours compared to 56% of men, which an increase of 21% people feeling sleepy during work hours. As is well known today, social media is the biggest culprit.

The 2023 Great Indian Sleep Scorecard, an annual nationwide survey that has been published by the sleep solutions start up for six years, confirms this—87% of Indians use their phones before bedtime, with 78% of people in the age group of 25-34 staying up late browsing social media. It also reports a 38% increase in the number of people staying up late at night worrying about their future. Yet another study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine after pandemic found that more than 40% of the adults who took part reported reduction in their sleep quality since the start of pandemic.

The global pandemic appears to have played a huge part in this. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that 40% of the over 2,500 adults who took part reported a reduction in their sleep quality since the start of the pandemic.

Travelling for a ‘Good Night’s Sleep’

We all know the basics of a ‘good night’s sleep’-

  • Read before you go to sleep
  • Don’t sleep in a room with electronic toys, including TV
  • Keep your phone on silent mode and in a different room
  • Don’t scroll aimlessly on your phone at least 3 hours before bed time
  • Have a fixed bed and wake up time Meditate, exercise, massage your feet before bed
  • Drink a glass of milk before you sleep and so on and so forth

All this is now common knowledge so what is different these resorts or hotels are offering that you cannot do at home, apart from taking your money? These hotels are known to charge from $419 a night upwards for help in getting you to sleep. Cashing on the trend, many hotels are offering Sleep well packages with a promise of total night relaxations.

AI fitted mattress

Many hotels and resort are offering an AI fitted mattress with smartphone connectivity. But how does that help when it is the smart phone that is the culprit affecting people’s sleep? According to Tech radar, the most exciting feature of DeRUCCI T11, the Pro Smart Mattress is its diagnostic capabilities. It analyses your sleep habits along with your age, location and any other information it collects from your smart devices to provide AI generated warnings of potential health issues. According to Tech radar, there are 23 AI sensors that are packed into this mattress and as you sleep, these sensors get to work to adjust your bed via a series of airbags and other support props inside the mattress instead of the usual coil and foam that is the filling of a regular mattress.


Some hotels or spas are also offering SmartGoggles, which eases tension and relieves eye strain, targeting pressure point which improves your quality of sleep along with offering you herbal teas and mocktails to put you to sleep. Some hotels use a wearable Whoop and a guide that helps to monitor your quality of sleep, your biomarkers etc. Others offer a great range of spa treatments, infrared lights and even pillow menus along with access to medical professionals, naturopaths, and consultation with a wellness coach.

Wellness expert Jane White, a naturopath at a spa and wellness center in the Peel region of Ontario, states, “Many find it difficult to sleep well at home and wake up feeling unrested, then navigate through their day feeling like a zombie. Not all devices or treatments work for everyone. Each person needs to be assessed individually, and their assessment scorecard will guide their treatment. For some, aromatherapy and herbal teas alone ensure a good night’s sleep, while for others, changes such as a new mattress and adjustments in lighting with soothing scents or flickering candles might help. Additionally, for some individuals, a good body massage and acupuncture could be beneficial.”

Sleep packages

As luxury hotels and spas roll out enticing sleep packages, it’s worth pausing to assess your own needs before indulging. While these offerings may be appealing for those with disposable income, for many, a return to simple, time-tested remedies may prove just as effective. Remember the wisdom passed down from generations: a gentle massage of the head and feet, a soothing conversation with your pillow – these age-old practices have stood the test of time.

Guided Yoga, meditation and spa services

Many luxury hotels include these services as part of their packages. Now, even travel and tour companies custom-design their offerings to attract travelers solely for indulging in such specialized services. These packages claim to provide specialized services like ‘Ayurveda diet, detox, and massage’. Additionally, they offer the services of trained practitioners who can cater to specific needs based on medical conditions. And people are happy to pay for it.

Traditional Indian remedies, such as the Ayurvedic practice of Shirodhara, have gained global recognition. The travel industry is also keen on adding these specialized services as an integral part of their travel facilities. They offer a rich tapestry of experiences, including the slow pouring of warm oil onto the forehead and massages with therapeutic oils.

With Ayurveda gaining global recognition as one of the oldest healing systems, it’s worth exploring these ancient therapies. Before succumbing to yet another commercialized solution, taking the time to delve into these traditional treatments may prove beneficial. After all, when it comes to restorative sleep, sometimes the most effective remedies are the simplest ones.. Happy zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzing!

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