2018 has been a good year for the domestic and hospitality industry. According to BCD Travel, a global travel management provider, 2019 will see continued growth in the hotel market with demand outpacing supply. Growth in the United States could be as high as 3%, meaning hotels around the country could be poised for a very profitable year. With hotels potentially in a financially positive position, this could be the time for hotels to make investments in their future.
An impactful area for investment is lighting. Recently, the hotel industry has considered lighting as a means for energy savings, with the average American hotel spending $2,196 a year on energy per property room. As energy efficient light bulbs have entered the picture, light quality and its impact on sleep and wakefulness has largely been ignored.
If you stay in hotels as frequently as I do, you quietly acknowledge that sleeping in a hotel room can leave much to be desired. From room temperature issues to noise problems, a hotel room is not the ideal environment for quality rest. Slowly, hotels have worked to change this by offering more amenities that can help improve the quality of sleep travelers receive.
Not a thick foam pillow fan? Not a problem. We have thinner down pillows available, hotels say. Noisy neighbors? Please make use of the foam earplugs we have provided next to your bed. Had a rough day? Let the relaxing meditative music from this sound machine drift you off into a peaceful snooze.
While all of these features are helpful, they are not necessarily game changers. “Come stay with us and enjoy our unlimited foam earplugs” is not going to put guests into beds. What if, in addition to offering trinkets and music filled with ocean sounds, hotels began to change the fundamental environment in which patrons sleep? What if light, one of the biggest modifiable contributors to sleep quality in an environment, could be manipulated in a way that not only enhanced the ease with which travelers fall asleep, but also how well they sleep and how refreshed they feel upon awakening?
Hotels now have access to lighting that is not only full spectrum (which is important for helping individuals feel more awake and properly align their circadian rhythm), but blue-free lighting as well. It’s important to note that blue-free light does not have the properties of full spectrum light that promote wakefulness. In essence, completely blue-free lighting supports circadian rhythms by helping guests wind down without the energizing, alertness-inducing presence of blue light.
In addition, the use of health-oriented blue-free lighting has been incorporated into the WELL Building Standard. The WELL Building Standard incorporates healthy design into modern building practices in an effort to improve the health and wellbeing of inhabitants. Hotels now have the opportunity to be WELL certified, a clear message to potential consumers emphasizing that their health (and sleep) is a priority.
Fundamentally, a hotel is a place to sleep when your own bed is not available. In the past, the hotel room has been looked upon as a passable substitute for your home bedroom environment. With hotels experiencing a period of economic vitality, this could be the time innovative hotels move away from “room substitute” and embrace their role as “room prototype.” This room would not only be a draw in terms of people choosing these rooms for sleep-related benefits, but these rooms would also serve as a blueprint for what their own bedrooms and living environments could be.
Imagine checking into a lobby that the front desk person explains is already calibrated to help you prepare to sleep in your room. Imagine walking into a room that is preset to offer the perfect blue-free light in which to shower, wind down and eventually fall asleep — with or without foam earplugs.
Interested in learning more about blue light’s effects on the human body and mind? Explore these suggested readings from Dr. Winter:
- “Blue Light Has a Dark Side,” Harvard Health Letter
- “How Lights Affect Sleep,” Sleep.org
- “Night Lights Have a Dark Side,” Science News for Students
Dr. Winter’s sleep medicine career spans 25 years. A fully board certified neurologist and double board certified sleep specialist, Dr. Winter helps people sleep better through his private clinic, group consultations, professional athlete consulting and dynamic media presence. His first book, The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken and How To Fix It, has been recognized both in the United States and internationally.