By Sue Zeidler
LOS ANGELES, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Feeling like all you want for Christmas is a decent night's sleep?
If that gift does not come at home, hotels across the United States are looking to profit from the sleep deficit this holiday season by offering sleep packages to a growing population of "wired and tired" guests.
"We've become a nation of walking zombies. We don't value sleep. We treat it as a luxury," said Dr. James Maas, a psychologist and sleep expert who coined the phrase "power nap."
About two-thirds of Americans say they do not get enough sleep during the week, with most saying they need 7.5 hours to feel their best, according to a National Sleep Foundation poll, which found blinking lights from pervasive use of electronics are exacerbating this problem.
Hotels in big cities and quiet deserts alike have woken up to the trend and are dimming lights, removing digital clocks in rooms, hiring sleep concierges, offering meditation, pillow menus and relaxation massages. Guests might even find themselves hooked up to an intravenous infusion.
In a crowded hotel market such as Manhattan, The Benjamin wants to be known for guaranteeing a good night's sleep. It recently hired sleep consultant Rebecca Robbins, who co-authored "Sleep for Success!," with Maas to oversee the sleep program, train staff in sleep care and consult guests.
The hotel has removed digital clocks from rooms, offers guests pillows with names like "Swedish Memory" and helps jet-lagged guests power nap.
That level of dedication keeps California fundraiser Armando Zumaya coming back to The Benjamin even if there is a bit of noise in the Midtown location.
"When I've gone to other New York hotels, I didn't sleep as well," said Zumaya.
At the Montelucia Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, the Joya Spa offers guests an aromatherapy and massage-based "Restorative Sleep Ritual" and the "Sacred Sleep/Healing Dreams" meditation.
"Many of our guests are stressed and not getting enough sleep. We help them relax on a deeper level," said Erin Stewart, director of the Joya Spa.
It goes one step further with an intravenous therapy of vitamins and antioxidants, including vitamin B, which it claims is particularly helpful for better sleep.
"IVs are wonderful for sleep for a multitude of reasons," said Lauren Beardsley, a licensed naturopathic doctor who administers the treatment.
"By providing the body with adequate nutrients to support the body's normal physiological function, we can restore balance and restore quality sleep," she added.
SLEEPING IS BELIEVING
Medical professionals do sound a note of caution about alternative sleep remedies offered by hotels and others.
"Sleep has become a commercial issue and this isn't always to the benefit of the consumer," said Said Mostafavi, a Los Angeles-based sleep physician.
Sleep medicine as an accredited specialty is fairly new, having grown with advances in research since the discovery of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep in 1953.
Stuart Menn, another California-based sleep physician, believes some may be exploiting the sleep business but said the increased awareness it brings is helpful.
"I'm happy the word is getting out that sleep is important. But there will be those who purposely abuse the system or who passionately believe in what they do but can't afford to rigorously test their methods," he said.
"Frankly, a lot of it is a state of the mind. I guess if you went in to a spa and were convinced that aromatherapy is effective, you might sleep better that night," he added.
Many hotels upgraded bedding during the so-called "bed wars" in the late 1990s as Starwood's Westin Hotels rolled out its Heavenly beds. But now they are focusing on factors such as lighting and air quality to create a better sleep ambience.
"Our goal is to continue providing innovative offerings to ensure a good night's sleep," said Rob Palleschi, global head of Hilton Hotels & Resorts, which is part of Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc.
There may be a lot of room for growth in sleep amenities in a world that shows no signs of resisting digital temptation.
"There's a lot of work to be done to help guests wind down in this 'uber-connected' era," said Maas. "Any society that is technologically proficient is running into this issue."