With World Sleep Day coming up, we delved behind the scenes of Africa's first Sleep Rooms at the luxurious Ellerman House hotel in Cape Town.
The concept was dreamed up by internationally-renowned wellness expert Harry Jameson, who shares with us his holistic approach to wellness and his tips for staying fit while travelling.
“35% of adults aren’t getting enough sleep.” Harry explains.
For those of us living busy lives, the fact we aren’t getting enough sleep won’t come as much of a surprise. However, the health impact of poor sleep is often overlooked, especially when we travel. In fact, studies show that a bad night’s sleep can leave you with the same cognitive ability as someone over twice the legal drink drive limit.
“Would you walk into the office in the morning and down two beers?” Harry asks, “No!”
The reason sleep is so important is that its responsible for many essential bodily functions: muscle growth and repair, as well as the consolidation of memory. Besides this, Harry adds, “Sleep also helps the management of stress, mental health and weight gain.”
However, even if travellers are keen to get some shut eye, there are a multitude of factors that prevent getting a good night’s sleep. As Harry shares, “Hotel rooms are not actually designed for sleep, they’re often overstimulating and full of distractions, from the TV to the minibar full of sugary snacks.” To combat this, Harry has created a back-to-basics wellness bootcamp centred around the pillar of sleep. Perched on a hill overlooking the sparkling Bantry Bay in Cape Town, the retreat takes place in the incredible 13-bedroom Edwardian mansion Ellerman House. With its lush terraced lawns and ocean views, it’s easy to see how the luxurious hotel could become the perfect place for a restorative sanctuary.
The exclusive retreat takes place over three, hopefully sleep-filled nights. Guests participate in workshops, eat nutritious, locally-sourced meals, indulge in deep tissue massage treatments and, most importantly, are taken through a unique sleep ritual. There are several stages to the Ellerman Sleep Ritual, including using luxurious aroma-rich products, each carefully designed to help the body naturally increase melatonin and induce a deep, satisfying sleep. “This ritual was actually inspired by my newborn son, Otis.” Harry explains, “We bathe him every evening and then let him dry naturally. Not only does this signal to him that it’s bedtime, but by allowing him to dry naturally it slowly cools his body temperature, which helps create the right melatonin levels needed for sleep.”
Following a ritual in this way sets up the body for sleep each evening. For those lacking in willpower, all devices are removed from the room: even your phone is safely locked away and charged for you until the next morning. Each guest receives a customised plan based on their needs and can enjoy nutritional classes, cooking classes and nature-based activities like hiking Lion’s Head. “Ultimately we want guests to take home these tips and empower them to use what they’ve learned on a daily basis.”
With nature right on Ellerman House’s doorstep, there are ample opportunities to kayak the Atlantic, cycle along the Sea Point Promenade or, if you’re ambitious enough, hike Table Mountain. For those who struggle to find the time to exercise while travelling, Harry has some tips:
“My best advice is to get your exercise routine done early, or incorporate it as the day’s main activity. If you’re with the family, make it a family activity, involve the children in hikes, walks or racquet sports. Ultimately, you need to make a conscious decision to unplug, get back to nature or play sports. Making time for these activities will leave you more stress free and productive.”
However, even those of us with the best intentions can be waylaid by long-haul flights and a haywire body clock. Travel fatigue can often eat away at your energy in the early stages of a trip. To combat this, resetting your circadian rhythm is vital. “Set your clock to the correct time of your arrival destination for long haul trips and try to follow this sleeping pattern,” Harry advises. “Another thing I would mention is that you shouldn’t eat or drink alcohol on flights. Skip the bloating, sodium-rich airplane meals, keep hydrated with water and fast. This will actually help you sleep better.”
Having cycled across European countries and explored the Cape, Harry is himself an experienced traveller. But what’s the next destination for this personal trainer to some of the world’s most high performing individuals? “I’d love to go to Japan. Many of my favourite restaurants are Japanese and the whole country just intrigues me. Tokyo is also hosting the 2020 Olympics and I love to ski so if I could combine a visit with a ski trip that would be amazing.”