Nancy: I’m not a partier so I really have to step back and say, ‘Ok, Nancy, what do people really do when they travel, what kind of time are they having?’ But I really do believe it. The majority of the time you spend in the room is while you're asleep. If you don’t have a good night's sleep because of the bed or the noise, you’re not going to go back to that hotel. And every hotel has the opportunity to enhance its guests' sleep. I’ve met so many people who need a vacation after a vacation. But to play Devil’s advocate, when you’re on a leisure trip, it’s a good time to sit back and relax, too, especially at a ski destination like the Park Hyatt. Not everyone is out all night and they use the time at night to relax after a day on the slopes. Some look at their sleep as something they don’t do so well at home and they’re looking for a vacation to catch up on it, a time when they can get exercise during the day and get some rest at night. Which is pretty much what our program’s all about. One thing we all have in common is that we feel better after a good night’s rest.
HC: Oh, you don’t party? Rats. We were hoping you had a remedy travelers who like to stay out late and have a cocktail or two while on the road.
Nancy: Okay, I’m a realist. I was just talking to a friend who does PR in New York and she was saying when she gets back from vacation, she needs a vacation. I said it’s all about choices. There's no magic solution except to not stay out all night. I suppose you could take precautions. If you plan to party the whole trip and stay out late, maybe the night before you leave you should get to bed early. If you go to bed at 4 a.m. after a night of clubbing, some would say you should always get up at your normal time and then take a half-hour nap in the afternoon. But truthfully, I would say if you stay out to 4 a.m. and have really been drinking and playing hard, sleep those extra hours into the late morning and do your best to get to bed at your usual time that next night to avoid accumulating sleep debt. Drink water during the day to be sure you’re hydrated. There are two issues at work, the part about staying up and the part about alcohol, and you can reduce the impact of the former by going easy on the latter.
HC: Okay Nancy. Well if you’re so good at sleeping, why should we listen to you while you’re awake?
Nancy: I've been devoted to the field of sleep for 7 or 8 years now, and yes, I'm really a full-time sleep ambassador and consultant. Sleep ties into everything we do, and most don't get it quite yet. People spend a third of their lives sleeping, but yet you can have a Master's Degree or a PH.D and still not know much about what happens during the night. We don't learn about sleep in school and yet it directly impacts our lives on a daily basis. There’s a lack of understanding about sleep. My goal is to raise conversation and awareness of the importance of sleep. If I had my way, there’d be courses in kindergarten about how to develop good sleep strategies.
HC: We’re kinda wondering what you do before you go to bed at night.
Nancy: The main thing I do is turn off the computer at least a half hour before bed. If I do have to stay on it, I wear special glasses that block out the blue light. I usually read in bed with a dim light and spend a little time doing relaxation techniques. Most nights I take a warm shower or bath before bed. I pretty much practice what I profess to everyone. I don’t drink caffeine, I don’t exercise within three hours of bedtime, and I sometimes do child’s pose over the covers before lying down.
HC: Woah. Special glasses? Are there any specific non-stretching strategies you can recommend to help us get a better night sleep while on the road?
Nancy: Well, follow the basics for starters. No caffeine after 4 p.m. (it stays in the body for 8-12 hours), try not to drink or eat a big meal close to bed, and don’t exercise within three hours of bedtime. No television, and put your technology to bed. Obviously, you don’t want to do anything stressful.
HC: Wait, no television? What else are we going to do in a hotel room? And didn't you come up with a “Sound Sleep TV” thing for the Park Hyatt? What’s so special about this music channel? Wouldn’t the local eleven o’clock news do the trick?
Nancy: Blue-spectrum light from televisions, smart phones, computers, and iPads can inhibit our sleep and stimulate the mind. All of those devices affect sleep because they affect melatonin levels, so get them out of the bedroom. We thought about this problem for the Park Hyatt. People have their TV on when they’re going to bed, what can we do in the rooms that can help people with their sleep? We created a “sound sleep” channel on the television that’s a black picture with music composed by Neuroacoustic Research and Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, a brain and sleep expert. He’s the one who created the sounds that are layered in the Bookstone noise machines. The layered sounds are known to enhance a person’s sleep. The theory is that our brains are so conditioned to constant change and motion that they’ve lost their ability to relax so to speak. This music over time helps the brain learn to relax.
HC: Okay, no television, no ice cream before bed. Got it. So, what should we do then?
Nancy: People have come up with all sorts of interesting strategies. So long as it’s a good conversation, talking on the phone is a great thing to do before bed. I keep a journal beside the bed, and I read, of course, but I also find talking to be very effective, especially when you’re on the road by yourself. Calling a spouse, partner, or friend and having a nice conversation at bedtime can be very relaxing. We all have to go back to some simplicity, give our brains a rest. Even something as simple as folding laundry can do the trick, although you probably wouldn’t do that in a hotel room.
HC: Um, we don’t fold it at home, so why would we on the road? What else you got?
Nancy: My favorite sleep tip is to not look at the clock during the night. I did a survey about the clock. It showed that if people woke up before 3 a.m. and looked at it, they were generally happy because they had many more hours of sleep to come. But if it was after 3 a.m., they’d see the clock and think, ‘Oh, I have to get up soon,’ and they’d start to stress about it.
HC: We could have totally been a subject in that study.
Nancy: Cover the clock and don't look at it during the night. Try it for a month. People have told me that it’s changed their lives. After a day or two you’ll feel anxious, but not looking at the clock is liberating and you'll love it after a month. Sleep is a time of rest for the body and the mind, and when you look at the clock your mind takes back its power and starts impacting your physiology. At a hotel, ordering a wake-up call is a good way to avoid having to deal a clock altogether.
HC: We also see the room-service menu offers something called a “sleep elixir.” Tell us more. We like the sound of that. It sounds like something we’d buy at a concert.
Nancy: The menu features food and drink that has been known to induce sleep. Think apple cider mixed with chamomile tea, warm almond milk, or spritzer with lavender. One of the foods particularly good for sleep is the banana because of its high melatonin content. They're just ways to help people make better choices when staying at the Hyatt.
HC: Anything else?
Nancy: The oatmeal cookies are great, but don’t eat too many!
HC: We’re so glad you weren’t around when we were kids. Thanks for your time Nancy!
So, any thoughts? Are you counting the sheep she's selling? What are your pre-bedtime hotel rituals? Share your comments and tips with us in the comments below.