SINGAPORE — Some people try to cram heaps of activities into their vacation, but for Ms Priya Elangovan, it’s a bit different. She would rather sleep as much as possible.
Since 2016, the 33-year-old has been booking short trips to Indonesia’s Bintan and Batam islands for a night or two to catch up on sleep as a way to de-stress from her demanding media industry job.
At the height of the pandemic, she switched to “staycations” to get a breather for some quiet time and a good night’s rest.
Although the stresses of the job have reduced, Ms Elangovan still opts for travelling or staycations as a means to get some much-needed sleep.
“I couldn’t sleep well at night, and taking leave to sleep at home didn’t help much,” she told TODAY.
Ms Elangovan shares a room with her sister, who sleeps during the day and works at night, making it difficult for Ms Elangovan to sleep at night.
The trips away allow Ms Elangovan to get some peaceful, uninterrupted sleep.
Turns out, Ms Elangovan is a trendsetter, going by the results of a survey commissioned by travel platform Booking.com.
It found that about two-thirds, or 67 per cent, of Singapore-based travellers who want to travel in 2024 are booking trips solely with the focus on getting a good night’s rest.
The survey was commissioned by Booking.com to explore trends in the travel sector for next year.
More than 27,000 travellers across 33 countries were surveyed in the online survey, including 502 from Singapore. The report did not give comparative figures from last year.
The findings also suggest that in 2024, travellers will tend to make up stories about their life to tell people on their travels.
In the words of the Booking.com press statement, they hope to feel “more alive by creating their very own epic alter egos on vacation”.
More than four in 10 (42 per cent) of Singapore-based travellers said they would embroider the facts when talking to people they met abroad about their real life.
LAVENDER TURNDOWN SERVICE AND AI BEDS
The growing number of travellers apparently focused on clocking in quality snoozes has ushered in an era of sleep tourism that includes “sleep concierges” and cutting-edge technology to serve the sleep-deprived.
For example, the Montcalm London Marble Arch hotel in Britain has a sleep concierge who sees that guests get the perfect pillow.
They even dab the pillow with aromatherapy oil — a “lavender turndown” service — to try to help relieve stress and induce deeper sleep.
Hotels are also using technology to create the most conducive environment for sleep.
The Park Royal Hyatt in New York uses beds whose contours are guided by artificial intelligence, such as the Bryte restorative bed.
The bed’s makers claim the bed can help fight off jet lag, allowing its occupant to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer.
It has an embedded sensory network that detects biometrics such as heart rate and breathing patterns to detect when the occupant enters the first stage of sleep.
The bed also has cooling features to lower the body’s core temperature to get the occupant into deep sleep faster.
All these preferences can be saved in a guest’s sleep profile for future check-ins.
In what is believed to be a first in Singapore, Shangri-La Singapore also offers a “better sleep” package from S$480 before taxes per night. The package was launched in December 2022 and is on offer till next March.
It includes neck and back massages and a curated playlist of music for optimal relaxation.
The hotel’s chef will also assemble a pre-sleep dinner menu comprising carefully chosen ingredients that encourage better sleep.
Shangri-La Singapore told TODAY that the demographic of people who book this package is diverse, where the hotel sees “a balanced mix of tourists and locals” who prioritise sleep quality, better rest and well-being during their stays.
The hotel declined to provide figures on how many people have booked the package.
BETTER SLEEP ELSEWHERE
Last year, a YouGov survey of 1,051 Singapore residents found that only one in four people in Singapore (27 per cent) has an ideal sleep cycle of seven hours or more.
Moreover, nearly a third of Singaporeans, or 32 per cent, get only four to six hours sleep while about four in 10 get six to seven hours.
While most Singaporeans try to catch up on sleep on the weekends, experts told TODAY that the quality of sleep matters and travelling to a new place helps to disconnect from the home and work environment entirely.
Dr Joel Yang, a clinical psychologist at Sofia Wellness, reasons that working from home may have contributed to the need to get away to catch up on sleep.
He said such work practices may mean that “people are not able to draw clear boundaries between work and home spaces” and need to seek alternatives for satisfying slumber.
“It’s not that people cannot sleep; I think it’s the quality of sleep they are looking for,” said Dr Geraldine Tan of The Therapy Room.
“The sleep comes when your body is able to relax and breathe,” she stressed, adding that it is that “breakaway” from home and work responsibilities that signals to the brain it is time to rest.
She adds it is not travelling that enhances sleep but rather the “breakaway” from home and work responsibilities.
“You can travel for work, but it doesn’t mean you can sleep. Travel is about being able to disconnect or disassociate from the work and the responsibilities that are very present, especially in urban life.”
She added that while weekends feel like “mini-breathers”, they have their “rhythm and momentum” that factors into one’s routine with work.
Going to a new place is a more explicit “cue to the brain” to rest and break out from this routine.
“When I travel, I let go of everything at home,” said 25-year-old Abigail, who declined to give her full name.
She tries to prioritise sleep in her daily life but finds it much easier to do so when she travels.
“There’s nothing much I can do (when it comes to work matters) because I’m no longer on home ground. I think that’s why I can sleep better when I’m overseas.”
She said her screen time decreases while on vacation as she does not scroll through social media or reply to direct messages as much.
While there is nothing wrong with travelling for restful sleep, it can be “maladaptive” when one “develops a habit of only feeling that they get quality sleep when away from home”, Dr Yang said.
“We don’t wish for one to lose the association of good rest with their home bed.”
YOU CAN BE WHOEVER YOU WANT TO BE
Another finding from the Booking.com survey is the way that Singapore-based travellers love the thrill of making up stories about themselves on their vacations.
Nearly three in four, or 73 per cent, of Singapore-based travellers said they enjoyed the anonymity of travel and the chance to recreate themselves.
Ms Amanda Ng, 27, loves to tell Uber or taxi drivers that she is either a television actress or a teacher, as opposed to her actual job in marketing for a software company.
This fudging of details usually involves naming a job that is “a little bit more creative” but still something about which Ms Ng can speak with some knowledge.
“I just find it a little bit fun to be someone else rather than my current self, which is pretty boring,” she said.
The same goes for “Travis”, who does not want to use his real name and said that he also creates temporary characters that are usually opposite to what he does.
“I’ll say that I’m an engineer or a doctor when I’m not one of those things,” said Travis, a copywriter. Like Ms Ng, Travis tends to make up stories when solo travelling.
“It’s nice to inhabit other versions of yourself when you’re going abroad, and it’s a very inconsequential lie. So why not? It’s like acting,” he added.
“It’s just fun because my life right now is very uninteresting,” said Ms Ng. “I just like for people not to know that I’m boring and give myself that kind of mysterious life.”
Dr Yang the psychologist agreed that there is no harm in some creative rewriting and can “provide a creative outlet for individuals to explore different versions of themselves and have light-hearted fun beyond what they may see as mundane life”.
He added that as long as the intent is not to “necessarily manipulate or deceive others, it can be seen in a playful light”.
Dr Tan echoes his sentiments: “If it doesn’t impede your life and you can return to your daily living, there’s no harm done.”
However, she cautions that if a person continually augments their lives on vacation but returns to their real life and feels immense discontentment, it will be a cause for concern.
“Then, they’re going to crave (to travel) more and more and be quite miserable when they come back into their day-to-day living.”