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Introducing the Sleep Tourism Trend

Jan 27, 2024

Here's a sentence I never thought I’d write: Last week I slept on a $200,000 bed in hopes of getting a solid night's rest. Like most pop culture aficionados, I knew the Lotte New York Palace hotel as the home of Gossip Girl's Van der Woodsen family, but in real life, it plays host to the Hästens Ultimate Sleep Suite. The primary bedroom (yes, there are two bedrooms) boasts the king-size Vividus bed — a cloud-like wonder that requires 350 working hours to build, all by certified craftsmen, of which there are just nine in the world.

Why all the fuss over a bed? Because roughly a third of American adults don't sleep well, per a recent Gallup survey. But you can rest easy (see what I did there?) thanks to sleep tourism, the latest wellness travel trend. Slumber-cations have been designed with specially curated elements — from bedding to lighting to room temperature to onsite activities — so guests leave feeling refreshed and reinvigorated. It's like we finally have permission to do nothing and not feel bad about it.

Illustration by Frank Moth

The hospitality industry has responded accordingly, tapping everything from advanced technology to hard-core experts in the name of a good night's sleep. Case in point: California's Post Ranch Inn has partnered with "Sleep Doctor" Michael Breus for its curated program. Spain's Six Senses Ibiza has an exclusive experience that involves sleep tracking, sound healing and an aptly named dream catcher massage. And Switzerland's Tschuggen Grand Hotel has designated Dream Butlers who help curate bespoke sleep rituals.

All of these are a far cry from the Middle America motel rooms of my childhood, where beds were dressed in stiff floral bedspreads and occasionally accompanied by a Magic Fingers relaxation device that not-so-gently vibrated you to sleep for 25 cents. My dad, who passed away in 2005, peddled mattresses for a living in our hometown of Springfield, Missouri. He worked mostly at discount furniture stores dressed neatly in a suit and tie, inviting customers to try out "a mattress made for movie stars." Unless the star was a local meteorologist, this was a serious exaggeration. Nonetheless, the importance (and the excitement!) of a mattress was not lost on me.

Which brings us to the Lotte New York Palace Hästens Ultimate Sleep Suite. A stay here includes a take-home set of signature pajamas and slippers, which are conveniently hanging in the walk-in closet as if to insist that guests don't leave the room under any circumstances. I happily obliged and spent the day reading on the sofa, taking a leisurely bath in the soaking tub, getting back into my plaid pajamas and ordering room service for dinner. Come nightfall, I dimmed the lights with the push of a button and fell fast asleep in a bed that costs more than some single-family homes across America. The next morning, I ordered room service once again and sipped coffee in my pajamas while taking in the stunning city views. That's it. I did nothing more.

One could feel silly spending a night in a hotel room and never stepping foot outside, especially in a place like New York City. But instead, let's call it self-care. Because after just one night, I left the hotel more rested than I’ve ever felt after a weeklong tropical vacation. Was it thanks to the gigantic apartment-style guest room I had all to myself? Or the extra comfy pajamas with matching eye shade? Maybe the bathtub bigger than my galley kitchen? Probably. But above all, let's chalk it up to the fact that I actually took the time to indulge in the art of doing nothing — which is the entire point of slumber-cations.

As I took the train back uptown that day, I thought about my late dad, the mattress salesman. He had never been to New York City. He would have loved walking among the chaos of Times Square and soaking up the serenity of Central Park. He would have loved drinking two-at-a-time pints at McSorley's Old Ale House and talking to/annoying quiet commuters on the subway. But most of all, he would have loved that mattress truly made for the stars.

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

Tags: California, Hästens, Lotte New York Palace, Michael Breus, New York City, Post Ranch Inn, Six Senses, sleep, Sleep Tourism, Slumber Tourism, Spain, Summer 2023, Switzerland, Travel, trend, Tschuggen Grand Hotel, Wellness