THERE is a commodity which is treasured above gold and precious stones by parents of small children.
It is craved for more than an end-of-day glass of wine by stressed-out executives. It is demanded by top sports people. It is the holy grail of the “chillax” lifestyle guru brigade.
Sleep is the most wanted natural commodity in the world and yet, for so many, getting enough of it appears to be beyond reach.
New technology is keeping us up later at night as we play Candy Crush or sit in bed frenetically Liking our Facebook friends’ updates. Twenty-four-hour TV keeps us up way past our bedtimes just in case we might miss something of importance. Being woken by space-hogging partners doesn’t help. And even bright street lights are ruining our shut-eye, unless we invest in blackout blinds or eye-masks.
But sleep is as important to our health as eating, drinking and breathing. It allows our bodies to repair themselves and our brains to consolidate our memories and process information. Poor sleep is linked to physical problems such as a weakened immune system and mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
And despite the early dark nights and even darker mornings, winter is perhaps the worst time of year for reducing our sleep. Less sunlight means less brain production of melatonin, the very hormone which makes you sleepy.
It’s hardly surprising then that we’re all desperate for a good night’s sleep, and even less so that Edinburgh’s massive hotel market has locked on to it as a useful marketing tool, and not just for business travellers who need to be fresh for morning meetings.
It may seem odd to book a hotel in your hometown rather than go home after a night on the town, but – if you can afford it, and if you have babysitters who are happy to stay over – then the attraction of being able to get a decent kip and a lie-in is almost irresistible.
The Crowne Plaza on Royal Terrace, for instance has, during its £7.25 million refurbishment of the seven townhouses it inhabits, designated eight double rooms a “quiet zone”.
Even the rooms which face out to the front and the cobbled street have had the noise-levels reduced by heavy curtains and sound-proof windows, then there’s the luxury beds, aromatherapy kits, and possibly more important than all of that, a house-keeping ban until later in the day. Checkout by 11am means a long lie is no longer just a dream.
General manager, Lucja Leonard says: “This initiative is new to Edinburgh and we are proud to be offering this unique service to our corporate and leisure guests.
“The feedback we have had from customers is that they love it. One even said he struggled to get out of bed in the morning because it was so quiet and the bed was too comfortable, he had to request a wake-up call.
“It’s been so successful that we have regular guests requesting a room in the quiet zone.”
The Sheraton at Festival Square has been investing in the value of sleep for some time, and each of its rooms has a trademarked Sweet Sleeper Bed.
This features luxurious sheets, a deluxe duvet, a selection of feather or hypoallergenic pillows and a custom-made Sealy mattress.
While the crisp sheets are a treat – who doesn’t enjoy sinking into fresh linen – it’s the mattress that’s the star of the show. With individually pocketed, ultrasonically sealed springs, it’s designed to eliminate uncomfortable pressure points which cause tossing and turning, and also improve your circulation.
So popular have the beds proved, that the hotel group actually sells them to customers through it’s online store.
And it’s not just at the high end of the hotel leisure market where the prospect of a good sleep, and not just a place to crash for the night, is proving a major draw.
Travelodge recently installed “luxurious, bespoke” king-size Dreamer beds to attract the sleeper market. It has a 925-pocket sprung mattress, and again each spring is designed to support and move with the contour of the body – which means if you’re sharing a bed you’re less likely to be aware of the fidgeting movements of your partner, ensuring a better night’s sleep.
Then there’s the quilted mattress topper and to create an ambience of sleepiness, feature walls are painted blue, a colour which our body clocks apparently relate to the hours of darkness.
Sleep expert Dr Irshaad Ebrahim of The London and Edinburgh Sleep Centres says: “It is very encouraging to see that the leisure industry is finally taking sleep quality seriously and using sleep science to inform their interventions.
“A sizeable proportion of people who use hotels are people in transit for work and it is precisely these people who need attention to their sleep quality.”
And Professor Kevin Morgan of the Sleep Research Centre also suggests taking advantage of late check outs to enjoy a lie-in.
“Being in bed for longer isn’t just about a quantum of sleep. Beds are places where far more than just sleep happens and the overall experience of staying in bed longer contributes to our health and wellbeing.”
He added: “It serves as a restorative function both physiologically and mentally.”
Top tips for a good lie-in
1. Remember to switch the alarm off before you go to sleep at night.
2. Unplug any phones in the room and ensure that any radios or TVs are not set to come on at any time in the morning.
3. Make sure you close the curtains – preferably good heavy ones that will block out the daylight that can disturb your mid-morning slumber.
4. Make sure you are sleeping on a good bed. An old one with creaky springs and a chronic roll-together mattress is not conducive to a good night’s sleep, let alone a lie-in.
5. Remember, the bigger your bed, the less the chance sleep will be disturbed by your partner.
6. If you have young children, make sure you and your partner take a lie-in in turns with the ‘on duty’ partner responsible for keeping noise levels down.