Sometimes, counting sheep doesn’t cut it. Maybe it’s jet-lag. Maybe something’s on your mind. Or maybe there’s no sensical reason whatsoever, falling asleep just feels frustratingly far from achievable. And when you do drift off, you don’t stay asleep. You’re not alone, the National Initiative for Tracking and Evaluating Sleeplessness at the University of Pennsylvania shares that 35% or more of Americans suffer from insomnia.
The Sleep Foundation tells us that insomnia is caused by high levels of stress, anxiety or depression. Drugs or alcohol abuse contribute to it also. Time is of the essence. According to the UPenn study, even two to four weeks of insomnia can increase the risk of depression and interfere with your ability to recover from it.
Wondering what the secret was to that smooth transition from daytime to dreamland, we sought the advice of experts whose careers are dependent on creating great sleeping environments—hoteliers. Good news that the team at Classic Journeys has a quarter of a century of relationships with the finest hotels around the world. So we asked our friends who run then to share their most soporific rituals and sleep hacks.
Make a calming mug of chamomile, find the comfiest corner of your home and consider these ten tried and tested techniques for deep, dreamy sleep.
Meditative breathing before bedtime
India’s Taj Mahal: a powerful symbol of love and architectural symmetry greets guests morning, noon and night at Oberoi Amarvilas.
Designed to mimic the Taj’s Mughal majesty, the Oberoi hotel is a sumptuous sandstone palace with terraced lawns, fountains and fine pavilions.
Amarvilas’ General Manager, Vishal Pathak, recommends the age-old Indian practice of deep breathing: “In Indian culture, meditation is very important and the ability to quiet your mind and find calmness is my favorite way to wind-down before bedtime. There are many ways to do this—one is to simply sit in silence, breathe slowly and soak up your surroundings (if you’re staying with us, you can focus on the ever-changing color of the Taj Mahal from your balcony). Or, lie on your back in bed and practice this Prāṇāyāma breathing technique: inhale for 7 seconds, hold for 2 seconds and slowly exhale for 11 seconds. Our hotel has a service where you can call a yoga master anytime for a private stretching and reflecting session.”
Take a break from your bedroom
Tucked away in the silent countryside of south Iceland, the Ranga sleeps under sensational starry skies and rises to the volcanic view of Mt Hekla.
Owner Frederik tells us, “Some nights you just can’t get to sleep. Rather than lying in bed and feeling frustrated, I find that it helps to get up and do something different until you feel tired again. I am lucky to live in Iceland, where a middle of the night change of scenery can mean incredible stargazing. I built my hotel to have an observatory, where guests can do exactly this. Some of our best northern light sightings have been seen on sleepless nights!”
This is wholeheartedly seconded by Melissa, from the Belton Chalet in Montana, "If you're lying in bed not sleeping, your brain starts to associate being in bed with wakefulness. So get up and do something, then return to bed when you're tired again. And the best thing to get up and do, is to go outdoors and look at the stars. Montana isn't called the Big Sky state for nothing! The view of the night sky, including the Milky Way (sometimes even the northern lights!) is unforgettable. Stargazing when you can't sleep is the perfect distraction for your thoughts, and with the darkness and fresh air, you can gently unwind until you're ready to sleep again."
Soak up natural light to improve your sleep cycle
Its name derived from the Moroccan word for magic, dreamy Hotel Sahrai is by far Fez’s finest place to stay.
Desert tribes inspire Sahrai’s Directeur General, Awa, to recommend daylight. “Berber tribes in the desert hardly use artificial light; their body clocks follow the movement of the sun and the moon which creates a natural, regulated sleep routine. This makes me think that we cannot underestimate the power of natural light, in fact, French designer and architect Christophe Pillet built our hotel specifically around this, so sunlight floods in throughout the day. That would be my advice: make sure you get as much natural light as possible in the day, peel back curtains, be outside when you can. When the sun goes down, dim indoor lighting accordingly and then make your bedroom as dark as possible (or use an eye mask) when you are ready to sleep.”
Snooze to the sounds of the ocean
Basking on the beachfront of the idyllic Isabela island, the boutique Iguana Crossing hotel—the only eco-hotel in the Galapagos—is built and managed by local islanders.
It took a while for manager Mauricio to realize that the white noise effect of the ocean was his key to a good sleep. “So many times, when I have stayed away from the island, I struggled to sleep. Something was missing. I realized that it was the sound of the ocean. The soothing rise and fall sound of the waves is like a lullaby, it distracts your mind and eases you into a deep sleep. We are lucky to be on the oceanfront, where we have the lulling sounds of waves all the time. Now, when I stay away, I use an app and listen to recorded sounds of the waters.”
Stop screen time for deeper sleep
Resting in the rolling hills of Chianti, the Renaissance Villa La Barone has been in the Della Robia family since the 16th century.
Count Aloisi de Larderel (aka our friend Corso) is a firm believer in avoiding screens as night draws in. “In this day and age, we are so used to seeing bright screens (phones, tablets, televisions) right up until the moment we fall asleep. Yet so many studies show how the light emitted by those screens can cut one’s sleep considerably. Therefore, my advice would be, put the screen off!
We make a point at Villa Le Barone that televisions are provided in bedrooms only upon request, and you would be surprised how little they are requested. While the initial intention was to maintain the historic, tranquil feel of our villa, this also allows our guests to spend quality time together and get good sleep.”
Eat well, exercise well
A California Wine Country foodie’s favorite, the historic Healdsburg Hotel brings together chic rooms, gorgeous gardens and food and wine you’ll dream about for years to come.
The hotel’s wine director, Patrick Holihan says, “Good food, good walks, great sleep is my motto. Here in Northern Sonoma County, we like our long, slow lunches (especially the ones made by our head chef, Charlie). But don’t let that mean you bypass dinner, because you should never go to bed hungry. Even if it’s just a light snack a few hours before you go to bed. In between meals, get as much fresh air and exercise as you can. If you were staying here, I’d point you in the direction of one of our many wine routes, which are stunning around golden hour.”
Bath time before bedtime
Painted sunshine yellow, the boutique BesteBakken hotel brims with Nordic charm. Alpacas graze peacefully on surrounding pastures and Norway's lake and mountain scenery surrounds you.
Host Lindis tells us, “A long, hot soak in a bath or jacuzzi (we have both at BesteBakken!) an hour or so before you go to bed is my secret to a better night’s sleep. Even better if you use chamomile or lavender which are naturally calming. The warmth melts away any tensions from your day and afterwards, as your temperature lowers, it sends a message to your body that you are ready for to fall asleep.”
Siestas are the secret
An eco-friendly resort in the tropical rainforest of Costa Rica’s Punta Quepos promontory, the Parador Resort rubs shoulders with the Manuel Antonio National Park.
Marianella from the front office says, “Ticos adore our naps! If I am not working and the afternoon arrives, you won’t be able to find me because I will be taking a siesta. When the heat of the day hits its peak, find a peaceful spot—indoors or out—and just switch off for 20 minutes, 2 hours, whatever you need. I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to enjoy the rest of my day in beautiful Costa Rica, then come nighttime I sleep soundly.”
Go with the flow
A former monastery and protected national monument, the beautiful Belmond Hotel Monasterio in Cusco, Peru is blanketed in history. The spectacular chapel with its glistening gilt-framed artwork was built in 1595 and a 300-year-old cedar tree marks the center of the elegant courtyard.
Arturo, General Manager, argues the case for good quality air, “Some of our rooms are enriched with oxygen to help guests sleep well at altitude, but even if you’re not high up above sea level, good ventilation--just leaving a door or window open, or having a fan--improves air quality which leads to a better night’s sleep.”
Talk to your pillow
French-Colonial chic in a Vietnam's vibrant city of Saigon, this hotel gives guests Park Hyatt’s world-famous five-star treatment, from wake up to turndown.
Phong, who takes care of guest services, tells us, “You can be in the most scenic location in the world, but scenery doesn’t help you sleep well, a good bed however makes all the difference. Think about how you sleep: on your side, back or front? Do you wake up with neck or back pain? And invest in a pillow and mattress that suit your sleeping style. Then add the icing on the cake in the form of luxury bed linen! This is worth thinking about when you travel, too. Most hotels have a pillow menu or even mattress toppers.”