Rest and Relaxation: Enhancing the Guestroom Sleep Environment

Getting a good night’s sleep is important to our well-being. It recharges us and provides us with energy to face the new day. But sometimes getting the quality sleep needed to face a day of business meetings or chasing the kids at the beach can be a challenge in a hotel guestroom. Getting a good night’s sleep at a hotel is not just about a pillow-top mattress and high thread-count sheets. It’s about sound, lighting, and creating an in-room experience focused on wellness.

The demand for wellness dates back before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Peter Scialla, president and chief operating officer of Delos, the company behind Stay Well rooms. Stay Well hotel rooms incorporate state-of-the-art wellness technologies to help improve indoor air and water quality, nutrition, sleep patterns, and physical comfort, as well as reduce exposure to germs and allergens.

“We had seen back in 2013-2014, when we first started commercializing our efforts in the hotel space with Stay Well rooms, a lot of work and a lot of market surveys indicated that wellness was a trend that was long-lasting and durable,” Scialla explains. He cites research conducted by Delos across properties with Stay Well rooms, which found that travelers are willing to pay 15-20 percent more for a Stay Well room versus the same room class without the Stay Well program.

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“There’s so much information from the scientific community about air and water quality, the effects that sound has on the mind and body and stress levels, the importance of sleep, and how to get better sleep,” Scialla says. “It’s not surprising that consumers are demanding that.”

Noise is indeed a critical factor affecting guests’ sleep quality—in fact, it’s one of the biggest complaints of hotel guests, says Matthew Carter, division lead – hotels, at MODIO Guestroom Acoustic Control by LogiSon, which provides sound-masking devices for hotel guestrooms. “We know that noise is a big issue in the industry—it’s one of the top issues for every category of hotel,” Carter explains. “For guests, it’s a big issue as well. And 85 percent of noise problems from guests either go unreported or unresolved, which is a huge number,” he adds, referring to findings from the 2011 J.D. Power North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index.

The traditional approaches to managing acoustics that hoteliers and guests have taken over the years have not achieved proven results, Carter says. “Hotels are built in the pursuit of silence. But it’s silence that is exposing the guests to noise,” he says, adding that the average hotel room has a background ambient decibel level of about 30 to 32 decibels, which is “pin-drop” quiet. In silence, he explains, the ear picks up on even more noises. So it’s not the noise coming into rooms that is the problem—it’s that the noise is highly noticeable, which causes guests to have a poor night’s sleep.

“If you think about the middle of the night, it’s perfectly calm, perfectly quiet—your ear becomes even more sensitive, and you can hear everything around you whether it’s a cricket or a car driving by miles away,” Carter says. “But if you’re in that same environment and there’s a wind blowing, the ambiance of that environment is higher, and you can no longer hear those things. You just have the tranquility of the wind going by. And that’s sort of what MODIO does.” MODIO raises the background ambiance of a guestroom in a very controlled and comfortable way. “All those noises outside of the room, whether it’s traffic, trains, planes, music, or other guests, are no longer audible,” Carter says. “And the guest gets a great night’s sleep.”

There are many other variables that go into ensuring restful sleep for hotel guests, Scialla says, adding that Sleep Well has been studying the importance of sleep for almost a decade. One obvious area for consideration is the mattress—not just the comfort level it provides, but how its material components affect guests’ health. For instance, some mattresses emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). “There’s tons of research to support that higher particulate matter in the air is disruptive to sleeping patterns and high-quality restful sleep,” Scialla notes.

Light is another component of providing guests with quality sleep. Controlling the light that enters the room by installing blackout curtains or shades helps create an ideal lighting situation for sleeping. Scialla adds that light exposure before bedtime via televisions, smartphones, and laptops can trick the body into thinking it’s not time to sleep. “We’re getting way too much exposure to light at night when we’re not supposed to be,” he explains. “It’s telling our bodies it’s 11 a.m. when it’s actually 11 p.m. And it’s creating energy as opposed to preparing for rest. That’s disruptive.”

The light the body is exposed to before waking is also an important variable in providing quality rest. “You should gradually increase the lights; do dawn simulation sequences,” Scialla says. “That’s a much better way to wake up than a nasty loud alarm clock.”

Wellness, Carter says, is an in-demand amenity hoteliers can add to their list. In addition to allowing guests to have more control over in-room lighting and temperature, hoteliers can enable guests to manage the room’s acoustics as a piece of the overall wellness offering, not just a solution to noise.

“I see the future of this technology as terrific growth because guests are asking for it,” he says. “They’re asking us for lists of hotels that carry the technology because they only want to stay in rooms that are treated with MODIO so that they get a better night’s sleep.”

The future of hotels, especially post-pandemic, is not going to be just about providing a safe environment for guests, Scialla says. It will be about human health, and how it can be influenced by changing the indoor environment in a cost-effective way with lighting, water, and air quality, sound, nutrition, play, stress reduction, and—of course—providing a restful, quality sleep.

How it Works: Sound-Masking Technology

Matthew Carter, division lead—hotels, for MODIO Guestroom Acoustic Control by LogiSon, shares with LODGING how sound-masking technology works. Hotel owners/operators can install a MODIO device in rooms with consistent noise problems or in every room to prevent complaints. The device mounts to the back of any flat-screen TV, furniture, or wall, allowing installation to be handled by hotel maintenance staff in approximately 10 minutes, Carter says. The location means the device is virtually hidden and ensures the masking sound is evenly diffused into the bed area and across the room.

The sound spectrum—or “curve”—MODIO produces is specifically engineered to balance acoustic control and occupant comfort. The company recommends customizing the curve to each guestroom using specialized software and a sound analyzer, a service offered by MODIO representatives. However, in cases where this option is not feasible, a default setting can be used, which still delivers industry-leading sound-masking performance in guestrooms, Carter notes.

Instructions on the control pad and in the guest services guide tell guests about the purpose and use of this amenity. The dial on the control pad allows an occupant to easily set their room’s background sound level according to personal preference or as needed to cover disturbances.

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