GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA, December 9, New sleep research shows that temperature affects hotel guest sleep quality more than noise or light, whilst sleeping with a partner could reduce sleep quality by 50 per cent.
A recent study released by Central Queensland University Lecturer and Healthy Hotels Program advisory board member Darryl O’Brien, has combined local and international research to dispel numerous myths in relation to the primary factors which determine sleep quality.
Darryl O’Brien lectures in building surveying and built environment engineering at central Queensland University in Rockhampton. The Healthy Hotels Program operates the Healthy Hotels Certification and provides guidelines on indoor environment management to the tourism industry.
Sleep quality is not only a critical component of the guest experience, it is a major economic factor in Australia. According to a collaborative study produced by Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth, Access Economics in Canberra and the Department of Thoracic Medicine at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, sleep disorders cost Australia $7.49bn every year. This includes categories of direct health costs, work related injuries and lost productivity.
It has long been assumed that noise above a certain level or excessive light, are the main factors for sleep disturbance, however according to the latest research, this is not necessarily true.
“In our most recent analysis, we have found that microclimatic factors such as the individual’s thermal comfort (temperature) are the main precursors to the potential for sleep disturbance.” Said Mr O’brien.
The research explains that after falling asleep, body temperature decreases and core temperature stabilisation must occur to ensure slow wave sleep (the deepest stage of the sleep cycles) can occur as each sleep cycle takes place. In the latest research, people exposed to higher temperatures or temperature increases were most likely to experience reduced sleep quality with 25% of people from one study reporting direct disturbance of sleep due to high indoor temperature.
In order to maintain the optimum sleep and remain the most resistant to disturbance from noise or light, the bed climate (temperature in the bed) should be between 32-34 degrees, which is comparable to a room temperature of between 15-22 degrees.
Another often misunderstood component in sleep quality and overall health is light. The latest research has confirmed that exposure to daylight or excessive artificial night light may trigger an involuntary reduction in melatonin secretions (the hormone which helps to regulate sleep and wake cycles) which can cause sleeplessness and premature awakening, thus affirming that the darker the environment for sleep the better. This discovery also supports the theory that avoiding artificial light from televisions and devices such as tablets and mobile phones an hour before bed is supportive of better sleep. Conversely, morning sunlight has been found to increase brain serotonin levels (the hormone which assists in mood regulation) elevating mood, vitality and core body temperature.
The research revealed air quality as being a factor in sleep quality. Separate to guests opening guestroom windows where possible to allow fresh air exchange, it is largely within the control of the property operator to ensure HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) systems are providing sufficient air exchange.
In other research conducted by the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom, one study showed that couples who shared a bed experienced 50 per cent more sleep disturbances than couples who slept separately. Dr Stanley who oversaw the research advises couples to consider sleeping separately adding that prior to the industrial revolution, this was common practise among married partners.
Contrary to popular belief that daytime naps can interfere with sleep, the Sleep Health Foundation of Australia confirms that whilst naps should be no longer than 30 minutes and ideally no later than mid afternoon, a 15-30 minute nap has been proven to improve concentration, mood and energy levels for several hours afterwards and is therefore highly recommended, particularly in place of a common stimulant such as caffeine or an ‘energy’ drink.
Advice from the Healthy Hotels Program for guests
Call ahead before booking to ascertain if the property undertakes sanitising of the guestroom bed and carpet and to ascertain when the last time the air conditioning system was cleaned
Request a room with windows that open if possible and open the windows during the day
At night, set the thermostat to a cool temperature 22 degrees or under – subject to comfort level
Lower the light in the room when preparing for bed and aim to eliminate all light from the room when retiring
Turn off and unplug all electronic devices
Avoid using devices or viewing any size screen at least 30 minutes before bed
Avoid drinking and eating immediately before bed
If guests are hungry before bed, a high protein snack which contains a natural fatty acid will assist in a deep sleep and the production of human growth hormone which helps the body metabolise fat and repair tissue. Avocados are good source, most nuts are also suitable including almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts and pecans
Exercise in the morning instead of afternoon if possible and avoid night time exercise
Minimise alcohol consumption and avoid caffeine in particular after 2PM
Partners should consider sleeping in a separate beds if a good sleep is vital. Evidence suggests couple suffer up to 50% more incidence of sleep disturbance when sharing a bed
Once awake, guests should be mindful of the benefits of exposure to natural sunlight in the morning
Advice for property operators:
Conduct guest education upon check in with a simple list of hints. The guest's overall sleep experience is something education can assist greatly with
Ensure HVAC systems are regularly tested for efficiency and hygiene
Ensure curtains are light proof
Take measures to manage sound, testing can be provided
Have beds, carpets and pillows sanitised regularly to support air quality