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Slumber amenities customized to lure sleep-deprived travelers


At Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, new beds allow guests to play Goldilocks and choose one of three mattress toppers, from soft to firm, that feels just right.

In the air, Etihad Airways — after almost two years of research with the American Center for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi — has introduced a sleep program that includes all-natural mattresses, mood lighting, noise-canceling headphones, pillow mist and calming pulse-point oil.

And at sea, Celebrity Cruises has outfitted some suites with mattresses that can be adjusted at the whim of a passenger.

Perhaps you’ve been too bleary-eyed to notice, but sleep is a trendy topic. And no wonder. We’re hardly getting any.

"Everyone in our country is sleeping an hour and a half less than they did last generation," said Russell A. Sanna, executive director of Harvard Medical School’s division of sleep medicine.

"Sleep is the enemy of capitalism," he added, noting that you can’t produce or consume when you’re asleep. Add to that dictum a growing dependency on technology, including laptops, tablets and smartphones — tools Sanna calls "sleep stealers." Mobile devices that enable us to be anywhere and respond to anything at all hours, he said, erase "boundaries and cycles between work, home, sleep, wake."

It’s hardly surprising, then, that the travel industry is dreaming up ways to woo weary consumers. Sleep was once the specialty of a handful of hotels (most notably Westin and its Heavenly bed, which was rolled out 15 years ago). Today cruise lines and airlines are also in the business of selling sleep with high-tech mattresses, slumber-inducing scents and relaxation techniques. Not to be outdone, hotels are hiring sleep consultants and devising sleep-related services.

"It’s the holy grail for hospitality," said Dana Kalczak, vice president of design for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. But brands today can’t be competitive with one-size-fits-all solutions.

When Four Seasons researched what guests desire, it found that people considered mattresses to be too soft or too hard. So, how to please everyone? Four Seasons partnered with Simmons to create three types of proprietary mattress toppers — Signature, Signature Firm, Signature Plush — that can be zipped on or off. If guests don’t like the default firmness, hotel staff members will change it. So far the beds are at the brand’s Santa Barbara, Calif., and Jackson Hole, Wyo., hotels, but all properties will offer them in some capacity by 2016. The beds can also be purchased at a Four Seasons.

Sleep amenities are a step in the right direction, according to Sanna. Yet rather than sell sleep as a commodity, he is advocating a shift in cultural norms. He wants Americans to stop thinking about sleep as a lifestyle choice and rather as the third pillar of health along with diet and exercise.

"Ask people if they can name three mammals on the planet that voluntarily sleep-deprive themselves," he said. "There’s only one."

Stephanie Rosenbloom, New York Times

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