If you’ve ever found yourself sat on the tube in the morning struggling to keep your eyes open before the working day is even begun, then you’re not alone. Here in the UK, The Sleep Council estimates that almost 70% of us don’t get enough kip; while everyone’s needs differ slightly, it’s recommended that adults get between seven and nine hours of shut eye per night. As it stands, the average sleep time in the UK is a comparatively stingy 6.35 hours per night.
But no matter how tired you were, would you take a holiday with the sole intention of getting some rest? Not as in laying on a sunbed all day, but really getting some rest. Trading in the hiking or the skiing for a soft pillow and a snooze-monitor. While there seems to be a retreat for almost everything ‘wellness’ – yoga, nature, silence (still not convinced on that one), a sleep retreat might just be the dreamiest, and the most beneficial of them all.
What is a sleep retreat?
Well, the clue is in the name really. Sleep retreats are focused on helping you catch some zzzs, helping to relax your body and mind, and establish good sleep hygiene patterns to get you back into the pattern of sleeping throughout night. You don’t have to be experiencing fully-fledged insomnia to attend one; as you probably know by now, getting enough sleep is of crucial importance to just about every single one of your body’s jobs. In fact, a lack of sleep has been linked to everything from diabetes to heart disease.
Central to the idea of sleep retreats is the resetting of the circadian rhythm, which is also known as the sleep/wake cycle and functions our body’s natural ‘clock’; spanning 24 hours, it can impact everything how we feel emotionally to how many hours sleep we get. Stress, screen time and stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol are just some of the factors that can disrupt its natural processes. So how is this done?
What actually happens at a sleep retreat?
Well, it depends what approach the centre itself takes. Some, such as Sleep Well at Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda
, rely on more holistic methods, drawing on practices such as yoga, massage, meditation and aromatherapy to help you destress and switch off. Others, such as the Diagnostic Sleep resort at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, Switzerland
, take a more science-based approach, incorporating techniques such as polysomnography, nutrition plans and medical consultations, then giving you more tailored advice.
One thing that they do have in common is that they often require some level of sacrifice, albeit temporary. If you’ve ever looked into joining a silent retreat, you’ll know that these kind of wellness experiences often require you to resign your phone and other worldly goods to the bottom of your bag for the duration of your stay, and sleep retreats are no different. “We ask each guest to commit to zero screen time after sunset (around 6 pm) and to not switch on any devices until after breakfast,” says Amatara Wellness Resort, in Phuket,
So, do sleep retreats really work? Well, it seems like they have the potential to, given that the NHS advises that the only way to compensate for a lack of sleep is by getting more sleep; anything that helps aid this is surely a good thing. However, while these kind of trips may give you some much needed downtime, you can't expect them to have an instant impact, especially if your sleep deprivation has been long term: "It won't happen with a single early night. If you've had months of restricted sleep, you'll have built up a significant sleep debt, so expect recovery to take several weeks." Still, anything that prescribes yoga and a long lie-in is worth a shot, eh?