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Lingering effects of the pandemic on sleep may be giving rise to a new trend: Sleep tourism

By Kirsten Dorman
Published: Monday, November 13, 2023 - 7:15am

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Sky Schaudt/KJZZ

Many things have changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including how many of us sleep well. The increased focus on sleep health has translated into a rising trend: sleep tourism.

Sleep tourism is all about getting good sleep while you travel. That can mean anything from finding a hotel with a comfy mattress, to retreats designed to give participants new ways to rethink their rest.

Lingering effects of the pandemic on sleep may have given that rise a boost.

Rebecca Robbins, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard, runs a sleep retreat at the Castle Hot Springs resort in Morristown.

“The pandemic also shed a light on just how important preventative health measures are,” Robbins said. “So, I would really argue that while wellness travel or interest in being healthy while you travel may be kind of a niche market before COVID, I would sense it’s almost the market in the wake of COVID-19.”

Robbins said the biannual retreat she runs helps people try out changes in their routine, like early exposure to morning light by hiking and eating lighter dinners.

“My hope is that people will walk away and feel change,” she said. “They will have learned something about sleep, and hopefully they can take that back with them.”

Beyond changes to sleep quality and duration, Robbins said the pandemic altered a lot about our approach to it. Many people changed their habits — which for some, included travel.

Nick Wise stands against what looks to be a low concrete wall that comes up to his waist. He is wearing glasses, a jacket, polo shirt and blue jeans, smiling at the camera with his hands in his pockets. A large body of water is seen behind him.
Nick Wise
Nick Wise is a professor at ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development.

Nick Wise is a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Community Resources and Development. He said sleep tourism is also riding on the wave of another, larger trend.

“I would really categorize the sleep tourists as those with the slow tourists,” he said. “Those who want local experiences.”

Slow tourism has been on the rise for a few decades.

Still, Wise said: “We try to say, ‘Look how we’re fitting these trends.’ But each individual will really drive what they want to do and where they want to go.”

Like camping also gave rise to glamping, he said there’s still room for sleep tourism to evolve.

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