Sleep is no longer just pyjamas and pillows. As technology is incorporated into almost every aspect of our lives, and as wellness becomes everyone’s watchword, the pillow menu is fast falling behind. With a wave of new companies, including Casper, Tuft & Needle and Yogabed, all dedicated to improving every aspect of sleep, it’s time for hotels to catch up.
A 2016 report by Casper highlighted that sleep itself has become something of a commodity. With travellers and workers under pressure to be alert and available at all hours, the bedroom is seen as more of a sanctuary than ever before. “Buying better sleep is an imperative for high productivity workers, luxury-minded consumers, and all the stressed-out masses in between,” reads the report.
Brands and artists alike are turning their attention to a globe full of exhausted people. Actor Jeff Bridges’ Sleeping Tapes album is designed to soothe sleepers at night, while musician Max Richter performed to hundreds of pyjama-clad listeners in the Sydney Opera House. Designers are thinking up new ways to help restless nappers – including incorporating robotics to create a pillow that ‘breathes’ with the sleeper to soothe them to sleep, and creating headbands that monitor brain activity and emit sounds to encourage deep slumber.
There are also sleep symposiums, sleep conferences, sleep tours, and a burgeoning ‘nap industry’ that caters to the more in-between moments. Companies including Uber and Google are all creating nap pods for tired-out workers, encouraging them to take a business siesta. Elsewhere, nap cabins have sprung up in major cities, offering guests pre-sleep snacks and piped-in scents and sounds to create the optimum environment.
All of this adds up to the pillow menu being ripe for expansion. It’s no longer just about simple comfort: it’s now about lighting, electronics, sleep concierges, massages, aromatherapy, air quality, slumber kits, ambient music, sleep channels, sleep elixirs, and sleep technology. Hotels around the world are experimenting with one, or all, of these, offering not just a room to relax in, but advice on exactly how to do it once you get there. And as technology improves, the opportunities become ever greater – with a 2011 report by futurologist Ian Pearson suggesting that sensors incorporated into bed clothes and mattresses could feedback information that lets a room automatically adjust through the night to give sleepers the optimum experience.
As the world wakes up to the importance of sleep, there’s clearly no shortage of options for catering to guests that expect more than a nightly turndown, a comfy mattress and a soft pillow.
Emma Tucker is a freelance writer and editor specialising in design and visual culture. She has written for publications including Eye on Design, Dezeen, Creative Review, Grafik, The Pitch, The Spaces, Wrap and Riposte.