From the comfort of my bedroom to the beauty of Costa Rica, I went searching for the perfect night's sleep.
I had “Corona-somnia” before it was a thing. A combination of anxiety, bad habits, and chocolate keeps me up most nights; I often wake before dawn. But according to the many, many ads I receive about sleep solutions, I am not alone. So, if, like me, you wouldn’t mind a more restful lifestyle, slip into your favorite pajamas and join me on my research trip through the newest, most wonderful…and most insane wellness trends that promise a trip to dreamland.
Experts say that one-third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep. According to the CDC, our insomnia is caused by a 24-hour workday, stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyles, and—as we know—our screens. Research shows that disrupted sleep leads directly to a host of ills, raising risks for cancer, depression, bad eating habits, and cardiovascular disease. But if we can’t retire from worry and have a hard time avoiding “doomscrolling” and Girl Scout cookies, how can we retrain our brains to enjoy the benefits of a good night’s rest?
What Hasn’t Worked, and What Has
If you’re in the mood to throw money at the problem of sleeplessness, you are in luck. From meditation apps featuring stars reading dull stories to canned elixirs and mystical creams, hopeful (if scientifically dubious) remedies are but a PayPal click away. In desperation, I ordered just about everything.
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It’s important to note that I exercise daily and have had Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for insomnia; I’ve eaten Melatonin gummies, avoided electronic devices after 8 pm, and made sure my bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. If you have not tried these options, experts advise you give them a shot.
Alcohol is a proven sleep foe, so I tried sipping a can of Som and a fizzy brew of Calm Magnesium Drink. The Som was yummy—tart and sweet—but did nothing to help, while I felt that the Calm drink made me a bit calmer (maybe?). I enjoyed my Zoom sound bath class, Breethe meditation app, and lavender diffuser, but none put me to sleep. Nor did pricey CBD sublingual sprays, lotions, or tinctures.
I borrowed the $350 Apollo Stress Relief Wearable for a week. The wrist (or ankle) device emits low-frequency inaudible sound waves, buzzing along depending on what “mode” I choose. I was in the middle of rolling my eyes at the absurdity when I realized I felt a deep sense of stillness. I continue to use and adore the Apollo Neuro. It never puts me to sleep, but it does seem to alleviate anxiety and gives me something to focus on when I wake in the middle of the night.
Finding Sleep Beyond My Bedroom
More and more spas and hotels are offering getaways that promise not just a vacation but sleep retraining, technology, and wellness services. As the luckiest insomniac in the world, I packed my pajamas and went on the road.
Lake Austin Spa Resort
The Lake Austin Spa Resort is located on the shores of deep, blue Lake Austin (and accessible by a gleaming “boat taxi” from the city). “At the LakeHouse Spa, we have two services curated specifically to support healthy sleep,” says Robbie Hudson, Program Director.
I arrived at the property, a wonderland of gardens in bloom, changed into a sumptuous robe and was led into a room filled with a light show of stars. The “Restful Reprieve” deep tissue massage combines some of the newest wellness technologies, from infra-red LED light to compression massage.
This futuristic and fabulous treatment was followed by the “Deep Rest” massage with “Slumber” aromatherapy (notes of Patchouli from Indonesia, Russian Rose, French Lavender, Valerian Root, and Ylang Ylang from Madagascar) and long, soothing strokes of Swedish massage with influences of Lomi Lomi massage practices of Polynesia and Hawaii. I was relaxed after my treatments, especially the Lomi Lomi flowing strokes. I vowed that for my next visit, I would book a tranquil room for the night and go straight from my massage to bed.
The Retreat, Costa Rica
When I heard about the “Art of Resting” package at The Retreat Costa Rica, a luxury wellness boutique resort and spa founded by celebrity chef Diana Stobo, I booked a trip. The property offers an easy shuttle from the San Jose International airport, and set up my Covid test for a seamless return to the U.S.
I enjoyed three days of delicious, anti-inflammatory organic meals; a jaw-dropping suite with a bathtub that seemed to float in the rainforest due to its floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the valley and the Pacific Ocean; and treatments like an Abhyanga massage with the resort’s Ayurveda doctor, Dr. Vinod Balakrishnan (I met a few guests who had traveled to Costa Rica just to work with him), and a transportive facial with an ancient Ayurvedic facial tool called a “Kansa Wand.”
I loved the invigorating yoga classes and new friends I met at the resort, the set meal and yoga times leading naturally to conviviality. The aromatherapy massage was a standout, and I appreciated having a few days to live in a new way: eating well, taking time to exercise and rest, even sitting on my deck quietly enjoying the view of the surrounding coffee plantations. I packed a vial of the resort’s lavender essence in my luggage, but I also brought home wisdom and new knowledge of what was possible.
The Rosewood Miramar Beach
At the Rosewood Miramar Beach, an idyllic coastal California retreat, the new “Alchemy of Sleep” program combines private classes like sunset yoga on the beach with a choice of spa services and a stay in a Restorative Sleep Suite, outfitted with “The Restorative Bed by Bryte” promising the ultimate slumber.
The Rosewood property is gorgeous. My Grand Bungalow was spacious and featured a living room with a fireplace and a full kitchen. I approached the Bryte Bed with trepidation. It had what looked like iPad screens on either side, allowing me to adjust the mattress temperature and firmness. When I hit a button labeled “Relaxation,” the bed shifted underneath me soothingly, as if I were floating on a raft in a tropical sea.
That night, after a scrumptious dinner in the Revere Room and a Gua Sha Tension Release Facial, I opened my “Sleep-to-Go-Box” containing bath salts, a sleep-focused journal kit, crystal eye mask, pillow spray, Kerstin Florian, and EviDenS products, and signature sleep tea.
I lay in the Bryte bed, which was perfectly warm and not-too-soft. When I woke in the middle of the night (as always), I activated the Relaxation mode on my Bryte bed and actually fell back asleep. I fell back asleep! This is the first time I have fallen back asleep in the middle of the night without medication since I was maybe 13.
In the end, I think the elements that add up to a perfect night may vary for each of us. As it turns out, all I need for a good night’s sleep is a heavenly aromatherapy massage, a day of organic meals, a private yoga session on a beach at sunset, and a biofeedback device set to “Sleep,” and a $6,500 bed. Maybe someday, I will enjoy another night of this bliss.
In the meantime, I’ll be dimming my lights, slipping on my Rosewood Miramar sleep mask, breathing in my lavender oil from Costa Rica, and—if I’m still wide-awake—opening a notebook and planning my next dreamy adventure.