In a post-pandemic era, the elusiveness of quality shuteye has turned into a form of luxury that is now as desirable as the next limited edition Hermès Birkin bag. Enter the sleep retreat…
How many times a day do you hear yourself complain about feeling so tired? Or dreading 10pm when it’s finally time to rest your head on your lavender-scented silk pillow and all the worries of the day start to filter back through your brain? If the quality of your sleep has plummeted of late then know that you’re not alone – a recent study carried out by global experts at the UK-based Sleep School showed that more than half of its participants have been unsatisfied with their sleep since the pandemic struck, with a further 53 per cent at a loss over what to do to improve it. While at the height of Covid-19, online shopping sessions and Netflix marathons taking up our precious evening unwind time felt bad enough, now with our calendars filling up and life returning to normal, it’s even more worrying that the all-important shuteye is still eluding us, especially when it comes to our moods.
“Quite simply, sleep is the foundation of our everyday life – of our physical, cognitive and emotional health and wellbeing,” says sleep scientist Dr Kat Lederle, founder of sleep programme Somnia and author of Sleep Sense: Improve Your Sleep, Improve Your Health. “To make it easy, I call these the ‘three pillars of health and wellbeing’. When your sleep is healthy, your foundation is solid and the pillars are supported. However, when your sleep is compromised, your foundation is cracked and your pillars start to wobble. Everything that happens in our body and brain relies on healthy sleep.” Alongside the more commonly discussed health benefits of preventing obesity, lowering heart rates and the optimal functioning of our biological systems, sleep is also critical for our social skills, with more recent research pointing to how sleep and sleepiness affects our motivation to socialise – something particularly important when combatting social withdrawal and isolation. “Lack of sleep also makes you grumpier, more irritable, more anxious and more depressed,” adds Dr Lederle. “These changes in mood and emotional wellbeing can have dire effects on your ability (and desire) to interact with your loved ones or colleagues at work. Lack of sleep causes you to be more emotionally reactive to what you encounter in your day too, and you are more likely to judge things as negative or threatening, even when they aren’t.”
Dubai-based sleep trainer Claudine Gillard of Sweet Dreams Sleep Consulting has seen an increasing number of sleep-deprived clients over the last year, and agrees that insomnia is matter we need to take seriously, and fast. “If we chronically don’t get enough sleep, it has negative effects on many areas of our lives,” she explains. “Mood swings, short tempers and an inability to keep our emotions in check are most certainly a symptom of this, but it doesn’t stop there. Weight gain, increased blood pressure, even damaged hair, skin and nails – I can tell just by looking in the mirror when I’ve not had a healthy night’s sleep.”
But what does a healthy night’s sleep actually entail? According to a study published just last month by Exeter University in the UK, it’s a regular bedtime window of between 10pm and 11pm. But don’t fret if you’re a night owl, as many experts have conflicting theories. “Going to bed on time and sleeping for the right amount of time are the most important aspects of healthy sleep,” explains Dr Lederle. “Together they make up your sleep window, but we all have different needs when it comes to sleep. Some go to bed early, others very late, and the rest somewhere in between. There is no right or wrong, but it’s important to listen to your body when it feels sleepy and needs to sleep.”
When it comes to the battle of the sexes, it’s bad news for the ladies, with insomnia, anxiety and chronic sleep issues even more prevalent among women than men. “Women are more likely to suffer from poor sleep such as insomnia compared to men, at a ratio of 2:1,” explains Dr Kat. “The prevalence of anxiety and depression is also higher in women, which can cause insomnia to develop.” Gillard agrees, adding that hormonal fluctuations from our menstrual cycle and pregnancy to postpartum and menopausal transition can also affect sleep by both disrupting it and reducing its quality: “Sadly it’s a fact of life. We can’t help the fact we have cycles, but we can manage the ways in which we control our thoughts and anxieties through little everyday changes such as turning off your screen an hour before bed, having a bath, stretching and practicing mindfulness and meditation.”
The lack and longing for sleep have made it the ultimate luxury in our maxed-out culture, and if you’re in need of something a little more drastic than 20 minutes on your Calm app before bed, that’s where a sleep retreat comes in. Looking forward to a restful 2022? These international sleep retreats have been designed to help to reset your circadian rhythm, giving your body the rest and rejuvenation it so badly needs.
Clinique La Prairie, Switzerland
Clinique La Prairie has long been dedicated to improving guests’ wellbeing through medical advancements and innovative beauty programmes, and now it’s going one step further with its new six day, five night Better Sleep Program. It addresses the seasonal variations that cause disturbed sleep patterns and other important triggers including the body’s functional and psychological changes too. Designed by a team of highly trained specialists in neurology, pulmonology and psychology, all clients are given a detailed questionnaire examining their sleep patterns and analysis of overall lifestyle habits, while CLP’s medical experts personalise the programme to suit the body’s needs. This is followed by an overnight respiratory polygraph for the diagnosis of sleep conditions as well as medical evaluation by a lung specialist, while a dietician consultation, session of therapeutic hypnosis, relaxation techniques and introduction to sleep hygiene are all incorporated into the stay. Add to this a personalised consultation at the retreat’s lavish medical aesthetics centre along with two personal training sessions and complete access to the plush spa facilities, and you’ll leave brimming with a number of stress relieving techniques to help instil peace long after your return home. Book Now
Set in the lush greenery of the picturesque island of Koh Samui, head to this multi-award-winning wellness sanctuary and holistic spa to rediscover the magic of sleep in complete and utter paradise. Lasting from seven to nine days, you’ll have access to a naturopathic lifestyle consultation, massages and herbal remedies at Kamalaya’s Sleep Enhancement programme, all curated to help get your body back in sync. Developed by the resort’s co-founder Karina Stewart, the sleep retreat itinerary addresses sleep difficulties by combining core treatments and therapies. Drawing from naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, yoga, Shirodhara, Royal Ayurvedic massage and meditation, treatments also include herbal foot baths with hand and foot massages to open the heart chakra. Guests can also knock themselves out with hydrotherapy, steam caverns, fitness and yoga classes, creating the optimum environment to get some zzzs. Book Now
Six Senses Thimphu Resort, Bhutan
Nestled deep in the Himalayas, the mountainous Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan is well known for its magical monasteries and valleys. It’s here you’ll find the ultra luxurious Six Senses Thimphu Resort, considered one of the top sleep retreats in the world. Underpinned by the deep-rooted Bhutanese philosophy of Gross National Happiness, its all-encompassing sleep retreat is part of the Six Senses Spa Thimphu Wellness Programme, combining advice and practices from its resident sleep doctor with the many benefits of yoga and meditation. Lasting from three to 10 nights, not only does it incorporate a personalised wellness screening, Hatha yoga, singing bowl meditation and Bhutanese hot stone baths, you’ll also enjoy sleep-inducing massages. All designed to elevate mood and energy levels, strengthen the immune system and deepen learning, wellness therapies and low intensity training that are designed to establish balanced and sustainable sleep patterns are also included. Book Now
Lefay Resort & Spa Lago Digarda, Italy
Carved into the mountainside in a spectacular location above Lake Garda, Lefay Resort is a sanctuary that defines healing, having won scores of awards for its outstanding spa that offers a plethora of wellness experiences. One of those experiences is its five-day sleep programme which, curated according to each guest’s individual needs, combines the preventative principles of classic Chinese medicine and modern Western techniques with spectacular results. Treatments here are unique and have been created specifically by the in-house scientific committee to address sleep-affecting factors, including hormonal changes, digestive disorders and anxiety. Embrace of Morpheus, for example, massages energy accumulated in the head area down through the body and feet, spreading to the internal organs, improving sleep and alleviating various correlated disorders such as neck tension or waking up hungry. Other treatments include an aromahydrotherapy session, acupuncture, reflexology and three moxa treatments which involve heat over the acupuncture points which cause insomnia and stress. Expect all this and more in dreamy surroundings that you’ll never want to leave. Book Now
Shanti Maurice, Mauritius
While the seven-night Shanti Sleep Retreat at the five-star Shanti Maurice resort focuses on getting good quality shuteye, sleeping isn’t the only thing to do at this luxury retreat. Promising to have participants sleeping deeper and longer almost instantaneously, one morning you might find yourself practicing pranayama meditation surrounded by palm trees in the pavilion of the Shanti resort’s spa, while another you might bike along the coast to a strip of woodland on the beach to practice yoga among the spindly casuarina trees. Meditation and yoga are both big components of the retreat, the idea being that incorporating these two practices into daily life relaxes the mind and body, which ultimately contributes to better sleep. As to be expected, there’s also plenty of nourishing food and serious pampering along the way, including a Tibetan sound massage, Shirodhara Ayurveda treatment and 90-minute magnesium sleep therapy – a deep tissue massage using products infused with magnesium, which is well known for its sleep-inducing properties. Just don’t be surprised if you fall asleep halfway through. Book Now
Sleep-Inducing Spa Treatments
If you can’t make it overseas for a multi-day retreat, these relaxing spa treatments have been specifically designed to promote rest and relaxation, right here in the UAE.
Healing Sound Therapy at The EDITION, Abu Dhabi
The wellness buzzword of 2021 that’s set to continue well into 2022, everybody is talking about sound therapy right now – and for good reason. Utilising uplifting chimes and deeply grounding drone-like tones, sound baths start like a massage, except you’re fully clothed and the therapist never actually touches you. Instead, bells, chimes, gongs and chanting send vibrating sound waves throughout the body, bringing metaphysical energies into alignment and helping with everything from stress management and anxiety to insomnia and other sleep disorders. While you’ll find more and more spas offering sound therapy throughout the Emirates, sessions at the Abu Dhabi EDITION are up there with the best of them. Book Now
Opulent Relaxation at St. Regis, Dubai
The first thing you’ll notice when you enter the tranquil Iridium Spa at St Regis Dubai The Palm is a true sense of calm. And while others are racing towards hi-tech treatments and buzzy new devices, this holistic haven is staying true to traditional spa roots and offering complete, unrestricted relaxation. Case in point? Designed to instil a true sense of balance throughout both the body and mind, the Opulent Relaxation treatment is a 90 minute (or 60 if you wish) hydrating and relaxing aromatic body ritual that includes a warmed enzymatic scrub, reflex-inspired foot massage and nourishing warmed shea butter massage immersed amongst the serene scents of cherry blossom and lotus. Book Now
Forest Therapy at Palazzo Versace, Dubai
While the vibrant Versace brand might not be synonymous with a laid-back aesthetic, the spa treatments at Palazzo Versace are the exception. Forest Therapy borrows from the majestic and calming sentiments of the rainforest, kicking off with a 15-minute session in the steam room where the body is brushed with fresh eucalyptus and the airways are opened through a series of deep, relaxing breaths. Next up, step into a rainforest shower and surround yourself with the ferocious sounds of wild thunder and the gentle pitter-pat of a light, tropical rainfall – at once refreshing and soothing. Finally, relax with a 60-minute tension releasing deep massage that uses slow and long moves to de-stress the muscles and mind, while a cleansing mud mask on the hands and feet leaves you feeling grounded and close to nature. Prepare to be lost in a blissful state, ready for a deep night’s sleep. Book Now