Insider's Guide to Spas


Sleep is what nature intended to renew our bodies, sharpen our minds, to heal us, to refill our vessels—plus it has a number of proven health benefits.

Becca Hensley

The cure for insomnia is to get a good night’s sleep.—W.C. Fields

I’ll be the first to admit it. I haven’t slept properly since my children were born—and now they are adults. Add in that I travel across manifold time lines each month, bursting into new zones on the go, never looking back, never willing to forego an adventure, and you can imagine that I’m often sleepy, snooze deprived—and, well, let’s face it—ditzy. Here’s the thing: it’s not because I stay up partying (well, only sometimes). It’s more that I love to wake before the sun rises. I’ve been doing that innately (self-guided and self-inflicted) since childhood. And, it turns out that I’m not the only one.

Waking and rising pre-dawn, ideally about an hour before sunrise, is a long-practiced Ayurvedic ritual, said to cleanse the soul and to spread the breezy, airy, energy of Vata throughout the body, ensuring a zestful, cheerful day. To enhance my propensity to leap from bed, to rush to a window or deck, hopeful for a glimpse of the sun, I do go to bed early—some would say, ridiculously early. That’s the only way I have a chance to earn eight hours of delicious, dream-intense, hibernation-style sleep.

But things don’t always go as planned. When my kids were little, I’d awake like a watchdog, to any sound—even the slight change of a child’s breathing, barely discerned behind closed doors. Later, when my kids were teenagers, I’d rise with a start, as if summoned by an alarm, just moments before they arrived at home. It was a strange kind of mommy clock, but once awake, sleep would frequently fail me. That’s the sleeper’s witching hour, isn’t it? Everything’s going fine. You’re cuddled beneath a down comforter, enwrapped in multitudinous-thread count sheets, you’re having some sort of great dream, the kind that makes you happy and hopeful (rather than sad and frightened), and maybe it’s raining outside softly, nature offering you her version of a lullaby. And then, for some reason, you wake up.

Just how do we get to sleep? The solutions are various, from snacking on a banana to keeping all electronic devices far out of reach.

You can’t recapture that dream-infused state of bliss and deep-to-the-soul peace and renewal you craved. Rather, you toss. You turn. You stay awake. Your mind starts to race; your imagination opens a door to places you didn’t know existed. You think of things you regret from 20 years ago; you worry about something that’s not a problem; you start to plan your tomorrow at a breakneck speed. You never, ever, really go back to sleep. And, if you’re me, you jump up before dawn anyway, because God forbid you’d miss a sunrise.

So what’s the problem? Apparently, a lot. We all know we feel better when we sleep. We’ve seen our pets slumber lazily for hours—it’s normal. It’s what nature intended to renew our bodies, sharpen our minds, to heal us, to refill our vessels. According to science, sleep reduces stress, keeps your heart and cells healthier, improves memory, helps maintain a healthy weight, reduces inflammation, ameliorates depression, and keeps us alert during the day. Even power naps help. Studies show that people who get seven to eight hours of sleep simply function better and are healthier. Conversely, lack of sleep contributes to low sex drive, fogginess, and fatigue. It impairs judgment and can lead to illnesses from diabetes to heart disease.

Just how do we get to sleep? The solutions are various, from snacking on a banana to keeping all electronic devices far out of reach. Many suggest exercising vigorously each day, adopting strict sleep rituals (such as reading to a soft light or immersing in a hot bath each evening), staying on a strict sleep schedule, and relaxing to the scent of calming herbs, such as lavender. Darkness is paramount, and a clear head is the goal. But, sometimes we need even more help.

Spas across the world are acknowledging our desperation to snooze well, and many have created programs or treatments to help us take control of our slumber. We’ve collected a dozen to sweeten your prospect of dreams—and a better tomorrow.

Six Spa Treatments That Do the Trick

Continuously applauded by spa goers, Lake Austin Spa Resort, poised on the shores of Lake Austin, set amid nature and evoking a nostalgic lake house getaway of yore, proffers more than 100 treatments, many that help you wend your way to shuteye. Here are two with definitive results: the 50 (or 80)-minute Magnesium Massage detoxes and replenishes minerals that aid in sleep and muscle function, and the Gifts and Graces Massage, combining energy work with a traditional hands-on approach to center and root the most stressed guest all the way to their core.

From most anywhere, Australia’s a trek.To whit, QT Hotels and Resorts SpaQ (with locations across Australia) developed a JetLag Recovery Treatment to ensure 40 winks. Comprising a magnesium-rich body scrub, an acupressure savvy massage, and a custom facial, the two-and-one-half hour indulgence works best when enjoyed near bedtime. Next step: fall into your QT Gel Bed.

At Tuscany’s five star Adler-Thermae Spa & Relax Resort, warm thermal waters go far to reduce tense muscles (and the inner stress that represents) to stress-free suppleness. Further improve your snooze power with their HAKI treatment, a holistic session that targets the extra tension people collect in backs, necks, and shoulders. The 50-minute HAKI Flow uses two elastic ropes in the water to rotate and elongate muscles.

Follow the trail to tranquility at the oceanside Ritz-Carlton Naples, where The Spa’s Peacefulness treatment leads you on a calming journey to quietude. Releasing tension with a special blend of soothing scents and oils, the ritual includes a full body exfoliation, a bath, a full body massage, and bonafide time to sleep.

Worth the journey to the Maldives, Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru sits amid a UNESCO-sited biosphere and occupies its own island. At its acclaimed Ayurvedic spa, try Om Supti Night Spa ritual under the stars. Discharged in a private jungle spot, it involves an outdoor bath, a swinging bed, an Argan oil massage, and a chakra balancing, essential oil, energy therapy, influenced by ceremonies and beliefs of North America’s Lakota tribe.

California’s Glen Ivy Hot Springs has attracted spa-goers who want to revel and relax in the healing waters since 1860. This historic spa, spread out over 17 acres, offers a healing playground of sorts and emphasizes nature-based renewal. On the spa menu is the Tranquillity Sleep Massage, a unique new 50-minute treatment developed by Comfort Zone with the support of neuroscientist Dr. Claudia Aguirre. Combining the powers of aromatherapy (imagine damascene rose, cedar wood, and sweet orange), touch, and sound, this massage uses gentle, slow movements inspired by ancient Kerala Ayurveda massage—performed with both the therapists’ hands, as well as soft brushes. The music, with its hypnotic rhythm, really does the trick and makes for a nice take-home treat. Guests may download it (as well as some excellent lifestyle tips) from Comfort Zone’s website and listen to it pre-sleep.

Check out these Six Spa Programs for Better Sleep.

The At-Home Advantage

Here are five products to play with at home—each designed with better sleep in mind.

Take advantage of flower power with a therapy facial sheet mask, enhanced with Recovery Essence 8, a proprietary blend of vervain flower, clary sage oil, and rosehip, among others. Effective, the Yarrow Lavender – Sweet Dreams Mask calms nerves and helps lull the senses to a pacific slumber. $8

A cup of chamomile tea will help you sleep. That herb plays a hydrating role in Revision Skincare’s renewing Restorative Night Cream, a nutrient-rich moisturizer that also boasts clinical levels of age-defying tripeptide and marine-derived algae extract for luminosity. $59

Inhale zen while you sleep with Gurunanda’s easy-to-use aromatherapy diffuser. A farm-to-shelf essential oil company based on Ayurvedic principles, Gurunanda produces many pure, healing essences for daily use. Breathe in lavender, chamomile and marjoram via their Calming Sleep Oil blend. $40 diffuser, $9.99 for oil.

Sometimes you can’t sleep. To look like you managed a full eight hours, dab on Lifecell Skincare’s Cooling Under Eye Treatment the morning after. An anti-aging brightener, packed with peptides, the eye gel helps to reduce dark circles and puffiness. $79

Bedeck your wrist with the Philip Stein Sleep Bracelet, which uses natural frequency technology to increase the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone which supports the sleep-wake cycle. You’ll awaken refreshed after a deeper, longer snooze. Available in fine stores everywhere, and at the Awili Spa at Wailea Resort’s Andaz Maui.

Here are 10 Blissful Bath Balms






Becca Hensley

Becca Hensley

Based in Austin, Contributing Editor Becca Hensley writes regularly about travel and spas. She believes a good story draws you in like laughter in a crowded room, and challenges you to do it justice. Her work appears regularly in Austin Monthly, Travel Channel, Toronto Star and National Geographic Traveler.