Sweet Dreams…

15th February 2010
Pól Ó Conghaile

If I can’t sleep, I count hotel categorisations.

We have boutique, business, resort and design hotels. We have country castles and airport pods. Were James Joyce writing today, he’d surely revise Leopold Bloom’s famous puzzle to to cross Dublin – or any city – without passing a hotel.

But for all the marketing money invested in modern hotels, relatively little is said about the reason we stay there in the first place – the bed.

A hotel bed can be the making or breaking of a place. Staying at Belfast’s Merchant Hotel (above) not too long ago, I flopped onto a King Koil Pillow Top mattress, a cloudlike confection that made me feel like I’d gained, not lost eight hours.

At No.1 Pery Square, the new Georgian townhouse in Limerick, a bed hand-crafted by Limerick’s Natural Sleep Company made me feel like Rip Van Winkle. 

Give me a bad night’s kip however, and Mr Hyde comes out the other end. I’ve stayed in package holiday beds that felt like benches, and one 4-star  in which the mattress dipped so badly, I woke feeling like I’d been sat on by Marlon Brando.

The trade has been cottoning on, however. At Westin hotels, the ‘Heavenly Bed‘ (the original super-scratcher) contains a mattress with 900 individual coils; three sheets ranging in thread count from 200 to 250 and five varieties of pillow.

Sheraton’s ‘Sweet Sleeper Bed’ offers a “cushy mattress”, “petal soft blankets” and hypoallergenic pillows. I slept on one of these recently at the Fota Island Resort in Cork, and was moved to price the mattress on the internet. It’s yours for €2,000.

But sleep-savvy is not only the preserve of high-end hotels. Travelodge, the budget hotel chain, counts amongst its staff a Director of Sleep.

Amongst his projects are hi-tech therapeutic pyjamas, downloadable ‘Nodcasts’ and scented rooms in which guests can add aromas of fresh-cut grass, baby powder or chocolate to their pillows and sheets.

“Because we’re all leading such hectic lifestyles and trying to cram so much in 24/7, we tend to sacrifice sleep,” Leigh McCarron told me some time back. “That’s probably the most detrimental thing we can do.”

On a similar theme, the UK Independent highlights new sleep products at Asian hotels like the VIE Hotel in Bangkok.

“It may sound like a fad, but hotels are growing ever keener to promote a good night’s sleep an equal offering, up there with good restaurant or luxurious swimming pool. Last month, Crowne Plaza introduced “Sleep Advantage” into select Japanese hotels, offering Quiet Zone floors, relaxing CDs and aromatherapy amenities for guests.”

So enough with the seaweed treatments, golfing lessons and cookery classes. Let’s reign in the vitality pools, movie rooms and herb gardens. It’s time for hotels to do what they were designed to do in the first place – give us all a good night’s sleep.