Research Blog

Sleep in the news: sleep tourism and silly hats

Part of a semi-regular series of brief descriptions and links to articles on sleep (and sleep justice) in the news.

I won’t apologise for the long hiatus in posting. Life gets in the way of both sleep and work. In this case, some good things in life like travel and moving house. But sleep news waits for no-one, so here are a few articles I’ve bookmarked over recent weeks.

On the topic of travel, apparently sleep tourism is a thing. CNN reports on a growing trend in the hotel industry to promote their rooms as destinations for getting an optimum night’s rest. Premium beds, toiletries, pampering experiences – even sessions with sleep coaches – are on offer to tempt the weary traveller.

Somethings I look forward to when staying in a nice hotel are a large comfy bed and blackout curtains. But intentionally visiting a retreat or guesthouse in order to get a good sleep may set up unrealistic expectations. And according to The Guardian, trying too hard to get to sleep is the worst thing you can do. Falling asleep is a passive process and worrying about it will only keep us awake. Which is hardly news to insomnia sufferers, who are well used to the vicious circle of worry – poor sleep – worry about poor sleep – worse sleep – more worry…

Taking the prize for the oddest sleep aid I’ve seen in ever is the Ostrich Pillow from Amazon. Possibly designed for sleeping while travelling (as opposed to sleep tourism) rather than the office sofa, it will hopefully make you sleep so soundly you won’t care what a dill you look.

While we love to pretend that Covid is over, apparently the pandemic – and the disruption that shut-downs and stay-at-home orders caused to our daily schedules – is still affecting our sleep and contributing to insomnia. This Time article follows the well-worn route of blaming us for our slack schedules and poor sleep habits, without considering that maybe worrying about getting sick, losing our jobs, home-schooling our kids and safeguarding our elderly parents while the Government showed itself spectacularly ill-prepared to manage a health crisis just might have had something to do with it.

Finally, Vox tempts us with the subversive suggestion that we can still take an afternoon nap and muck about on our phones in bed and not ruin our sleep. I didn’t find anything particularly new here – the answer is moderation, apparently. But the article is noteworthy for the fact that it actually acknowledges that societal not just personal factors affect sleep, and many of them are outside our control. A couple of quotes:

Sleep deprivation is, ultimately, a systemic issue, and people shouldn’t feel broken for the societal issues impacting sleep.

…if [some] solutions are not feasible for you because of space, finances, or work, it is not your fault. Our built environment’s negative impact on sleep is not on you to fix.

The societal factors they list include the neighbours’ bright lights, shift work, caring for children and snoring partners. While this is hardly exhaustive, let’s hope this starts a trend of popular articles on sleep that acknowledge it’s not all about (poor) personal choices. A poorly designed society has a big role to play.