By Jessica Pfister

Sleep deprivation is quickly becoming a major health epidemic, affecting an estimated 45 percent of the world’s population, according to the World Association of Sleep Medicine. With the busy lifestyles we lead in our professional and personal lives, it’s no surprise that sleep disorders are on the rise. A lifestyle of poor sleeping patterns and lack of quality sleep can contribute to various health concerns down the road.

“Sleep disorders have increased in recent years and are now seen as a public health problem,” notes Dr. Luis Felipe Menezes Martins, clinical director at Kurotel Longevity Medical Center and Spa in Gramado, Brazil. “Sleep insufficiency can lead to various health disorders and chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.” Today’s consumers are looking for long-term solutions to their sleep issues, not just a quick medicated fix. It seems evident that now more than ever spas should provide sleep treatments to their customers.

Pinpointing Treatment Options

There are different levels of sleep deprivation and the severity of the disorder can vary from person to person, and although spa treatments can be beneficial to all, it is important to know the specifics of the disorder to properly treat the issue. “Spa treatments can help those who suffer from sleep disorders in many ways as it is the perfect setting to boost relaxation, manage stress, eat healthy and practice guided physical activity,” adds Dr. Martins. “First things first, an accurate diagnosis will make all the difference in administering the most beneficial treatment.”

Kurotel Longevity Medical Center and Spa offers a Polysomnography test, which is a sleep study that detects primary sleep disorders. In addition to this test, Kurotel offers a very specific program to identify and treat sleep disorders through a stress and anxiety assessment. This diagnosis tool, based on scientific evidence, matches up the disorder at hand with special therapies such as sleep hygiene, behavioral cognitive therapy, meditation, yoga, Watsu, Shiatsu, and massage sessions, which can all help treat sleep disorders at the origin and not just the symptoms alone.

As most spas don’t have access to these extensive tests, it can be difficult to hone in on exactly what your customer is searching for. A one-on-one consultation between client and therapist before the first treatment can work wonders in getting to the root of a guest’s individual problem and allows your therapist to customize treatments to their specific needs. Another great idea might be to partner with a local sleep clinic or specialist to provide their patients with special sleep therapies. A partnership like this could mean more accurate treatments as well as additional referrals to the spa.

Helping Guests Recognize Relaxation

“Certain sleep disorders require medical attention and evaluation. Many people, however, suffer from stress related sleep disorders,” says Ilana Alberico, founding partner and CEO of Innovative Spa Management. “The stress can be positive or negative but either way it affects their ability to stay and fall asleep. Regular visits to the spa can aid in developing a habit of recognizing relaxation.”

When guests receive a spa treatment, they are given a space to focus on nothing but relaxation: their breathing changes, thoughts shift, they relax. The environment is also enhanced for guests through aromatherapy, high quality linens, lighting, and music. By helping guests recognize this sensation of relaxation, you can teach them to foster it again at home through altering breathing, observing thoughts, meditating and using aromatherapy. Alberico adds, “Once at home, guests can use the same relaxing aromatherapy introduced at the spa in the bath or on their body, which facilitates memory of that relaxed time and ultimately assists in falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer.” By teaching sleep-deprived guests to make spa visits a common practice, they may be able to completely remedy their sleep deprivation.

There are many ways in which spas can help their clients get a better quality of sleep as well as an abundance of products to assist with these treatments including aromatherapy and essential oils. “Spas can really provide a safe, nurturing, quiet environment with holistic treatments that will help one let go of tensions to feel more grounded and start their healing journey,” says Judith Bourgeois, director of education and sales at Shankara Inc., an ayurvedicinspired natural skincare company based in Uvalde, Texas. Shankara’s Calming Body Oil and Calming Essence (aromatherapeutically designed to address sleep conditions), Hair and Scalp Oil or Shirodhara Oil (for professional use only) are products that assist with sleep issues both at the spa and once the client goes home. Using products specifically designed for calming or sleep therapies will help guests into a genuinely relaxed state, which they will eventually learn to mimic at home.

Stressed Customers Looking to Spa

“Since quality of sleep is important to the overall wellness of an individual, in addition to the physical therapeutic elements of a traditional spa experience like body work or skin care, guests look to spa professionals to aid in that wellness,” says Kate Morrison, spa director at The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa In Ojai, California.

Continued ISPA research proves that the number one reason people go to the spa worldwide is to relieve stress. Reducing stress has a direct correlation with a more restful sleep. “People who are struggling to sleep due to overstimulation and stress need help unwinding,” says Alberico. “Spas can provide atmosphere, education and treatments that foster stillness, mindfulness and wellness. Spas can utilize many holistic approaches to sleep disorders ranging from acupuncture, aromatherapy, parasympathetic massage techniques and more. Any treatment that helps a guest unwind and relax will ultimately reduce their overall stress.”

Nancy Deaton, spa director at The Lodge at Woodloch in Hawley, Pennsylvania feels strongly that being away from the stressors and anxieties of everyday life will allow guests to feel what it is like to ease into a relaxed state of mind. When spagoers seek thera peutic treatments for sleep disorders, they are typically seeking ways to unwind and relax. The development of treatments in the spa industry that cater to those suffering from sleep disorders has now become more important than ever and the availability of these treatments in the spa environment is highly sought out by clients visiting spas.

“People are becoming more and more aware that good sleep is part of a healthy lifestyle,” says Deaton. “A good night’s sleep is monumental in making good decisions, staying in a good frame of mind, feeling active, looking beautiful and even maintaining a healthy weight. Leaving sleep off the menu at a spa is like leaving one of the pillars of health behind.”  

The Lodge at Woodloch’s special treatment, the Restful Retreat features a specially designed chair that embraces guests in comfort and is shaped to contour the body in a relaxed lounged position. The specially crafted oil blends used in the treatment feature sleepinducing herbs from a local aromatherapists and are applied with gentle massage techniques to the head and feet to help ease guests into a restful state.

At The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, an intuitive healer and certified hypnotherapist, Nancy Furst, offers sessions to guests that begin with a blessing of Native American prayer song accompanied by soft drumming. A selection of crystals, stones and wisdom cards initiate a path of self-discovery and clarification, lovingly inspired by her intuitive skills.

“Many guests are drawn to Nancy to help address sleep disorders,” notes Morrison. “One suggestion she offers is to create a bedtime ritual to manifest a sense of peace and calm at night. This can be accomplished by writing down any lingering thoughts or feelings from the day and ceremoniously placing them out of your mind and into a journal.” Other techniques include sound therapy, breathing rituals, connecting to nature, or meditation. These tools are useful to create a sense of calm and peace, to slow the mind and close the day free from negative feelings or concerns.

While day spas don’t have the luxury of treating guests over a long period of time, they do have an added flexibility of offering guests multiple treatment sessions that promise continued treatment of their sleep ailment. All spas can host sleep-specific events that will draw in customers seeking help with their sleep issues. This not only promotes repeat customers, but also encourages guests to continue to seek out the spa for continued and effective stress relief.


Dr. Martins Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Your guests aren’t the only ones who need some shut-eye. Follow these tips for getting your much needed rest.

1. Turn off the lights of your bedroom (the blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is especially disruptive) to stimulate melatonin secretion, the sleep hormone. Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark.

2. Have a relaxing ritual before going to bed: take a warm bath, meditate, listen to soft music, read a book by a soft light and control your mind with positive thoughts to help to release serotonin—a key hormone that helps to promote healthy sleep.

3. Be smart with what you eat and drink. Avoid caloric food within three hours before going to bed to help with digestion. Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol stimulates the central nervous system, avoid them within three hours of your bedtime. Also, drink water, but try not to drink anything after 8 p.m. to avoid waking up to go to the bathroom.

4. Vigorous exercise just before bed can make you alert; it may be best to exercise late in the afternoon.

5. Avoid self-medication. Besides increasing the risk of mortality, sleeping pills can have a damage effect and worsen the quality of your sleep. You also may experience a light drunkenness effect in the following day, which can lead to car crashes.