Need More ZZZ’s? Sleep Retreats Are a (Glorious) Thing - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Need More ZZZ’s? Sleep Retreats Are a (Glorious) Thing

Need More ZZZ’s? Sleep Retreats Are a (Glorious) Thing

By Stephanie Vermillion


Because everyone needs sleep.

By Stephanie Vermillion

At Canyon Ranch, in Tucson, Arizona, palm trees and massive cactuses are guests’ closest neighbors. The serene 150-acre wellness resort offers desert-view yoga and peaceful hikes through the Santa Catalina Mountains. Dramatic scenery is a key selling point for the Southwest escape, but it’s not the only one. Some of Canyon Ranch’s most life-changing experiences happen when your eyes are closed.

Sleep tourism, like Canyon Ranch’s physician-led sleep enhancement program, is the latest trend in the lucrative wellness industry. Given that 1 in 3 adults doesn’t get enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and that wellness travelers reportedly spend nearly 60 percent more than the average international tourist, it was only a matter of time before sleep tourism took off. The industry was a $639 billion market in 2017, a figure that’s expected to top $900 billion in 2022, according to the Global Wellness Institute.

The effects of sleep deprivation are ugly. The retreat destinations where you can address it are anything but.

According to U.K.-based sleep expert Alison Francis, it’s about time the world took sleep seriously. “The way that people live and the stress people are under suppresses sleep hormones,” says Francis, who runs her own private sleep retreats around the world. “Unless we can come back into some kind of human being balance, [sleep deprivation] is just an epidemic.”


Group meditation at Canyon Ranch.

Source Canyon Ranch

While the effects of sleep deprivation are ugly, the retreat destinations where you can address it are anything but. Mauritius, Switzerland, Spain and Southeast Asia are just a sampling of popular sleep getaways. On the Gulf of Thailand, the Kamalaya Koh Samui island wellness resort — a favorite among royals like Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York — offers guests five-, seven- or nine-night sleep-enhancement packages. Here, wellness mentors help guests adopt healthful habits like creating nightly rituals that capitalize on being unplugged and in bed by the time the body’s melatonin kicks in. Massages overlooking the gulf-view spa don’t hurt either. 

But you don’t have to travel halfway around the world to sleep better. On a smaller scale, hotel chains are capitalizing on sleep tourism. Westin Hotels, for example, offers a 24-hour “sleep-well menu” with selections intended to promote quality snoozing (e.g., grilled wild salmon with walnut quinoa and oatmeal tabouleh).

The 40-year-old Canyon Ranch, one of the first wellness getaways in the United States, offers physician-driven sleep programming at its locations in Tucson and Lenox, Massachusetts. (With a clientele that includes January Jones and Debra Messing, it’s no surprise that a stay at the resort comes with a high price tag — prices start at around $1,600 per night.)

bellefontaine-mansion-canyon-ranch-wellness-resort-lenox (2)

The Canyon Ranch resort.

Source Canyon Ranch

Paying thousands of dollars just to sleep may raise some eyebrows, but the experience is more than simply rest, rise, relax and repeat. The facility’s board-certified physicians analyze guests’ sleep and tailor plans to help them overcome problems like sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs syndrome and sleepwalking, as well as other health challenges, including chronic pain, menopause, heart health, brain health, stress and grief.

Guests have two sleep-training options. The first is an in-room sleep screening test where you snooze with Food and Drug Administration–approved sleep gear to track periods of unrest. For a more thorough approach, you can participate in an all-night sleep study with a physician monitoring and analyzing your zzz’s in real time as you snooze in the sleep lab (which is outfitted like every other guest room). 

After a night of snoozing, or perhaps a night of wakefulness, it’s time for the results.

“Once we have a diagnosis or key factor, then we can address the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual opportunities toward best health,” explains Dr. Param Dedhia, Canyon Ranch’s director of sleep medicine. That can mean more exercise, eating balanced meals, getting morning sunshine and reducing blue-light exposure from smartphones — positive sleep-hygiene habits that are easy to practice back at home, Dedhia says.

That’s all great in theory, but is it really worth Canyon Ranch’s hefty starting rate?

Celebrity trainer Steve Jordan went to Canyon Ranch to experience its sleep-enhancement programming in 2018 while planning the curriculum for an upcoming fitness retreat. Energized by the results — he reported increased awareness of his sleep needs and greater mindfulness about how sound sleep aids health — Jordan ended up recommending it to his retreat participants.

But if the idea of dropping a lot of money to sleep while being analyzed by doctors sounds more stressful than soothing, fear not. Wearables to the rescue! At CES 2020, Withings announced that its ScanWatch will track sleep apnea via SpO2, or oxygen saturation, sensors. The watch has been submitted to the FDA for clearance, and the company anticipates a $250–$300 retail price and a mid-2020 launch. 

Such devices mean sleep retreat tests without sleep retreat prices — but don’t forget to keep your cellphone on silent.

Go There: Canyon Ranch

  • Location: Set in the mountainous deserts of Tucson, Canyon Ranch is 115 miles south of Phoenix and an approximately 40-minute drive from Tucson International Airport. Canyon Ranch also offers sleep medicine at its Lenox, Massachusetts, location.
  • Cost: Prices start at $1,600 per night. That includes meals, classes, activities and a daily $160 credit toward services such as massage and body treatments or one-on-ones with physicians. Airport pickup is also included.
  • Pro tip: Don’t skip the Saguaro National Park, whose nearly 92,000 acres are home to two dozen cactus species, including the massive saguaro, which can grow up to 60 feet tall.   

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