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First night effect: Sofitel commissioned a scientific research to perfect the art of sleep


Sofitel announced the results of a scientific study analyzing travelers sleep to guests’ sleep experience. Guided by this research, Sofitel will be deploying new experience rituals across all its hotels to help guests enjoy blissful nights.

Sleep has always been one of Sofitel’s focus. In 2003, the brand unveiled a major innovation: the Sofitel MyBed experience, the epitome of comfort. A box spring, mattress, topper, comforter and an extensive selection of pillows, developed with the utmost care to deliver unmatched comfort and the sensation of being cradled in clouds.

Sofitel has now taken its commitment to slumber a step further by conducting a scientific study to analyze its guests’ sleep. The aim was to better understand how travelers sleep in order to help them sleep better and longer. The study was designed to minimize the notorious “first night effect,” which occurs when people sleep far away from home.

Studying the “first night effect”

This effect is also known as a syndrome. When we sleep in an unfamiliar place for the first time, the left hemisphere of our brain displays heightened activity, which keeps it in a state of alert even after we have closed our eyes. This is a widespread issue for Sofitel as its diverse clientele includes many people who come for short stays: whether they were visiting for a business trip or enjoying a city break, in 2023, 45% of Sofitel’s guests spent only one night in the brand’s hotels. Such guests are especially prone to the first night effect. This inspired Sofitel to design an original, first full-scale study to analyze these sleep issues, in collaboration with leading sleep experts.


The subjects close their eyes and surrender to the process

One by one, a sample group of subjects agreed to participate in this study (which was published in the Journal o f Sleep Disorders & Therapy) and conducted in two phases. The first phase was to analyze their sleep at home to get a baseline measurement of its quality. In the sec ond phase, the subjects were invited to spend one night in a specially fitted out room at the Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe. The study applied a holistic approach that took a host of variables into account: total darkness, a temperature set to 66 °F (19°C), the neutralization of sounds and smells, the nu tritional value of the menu, hydration and breathing exercises. All the senses were studied through sleep sensors installed under the mattress. The objective was to deliver a sleep score out of 100 based on six factors: duration, depth, regularity, interruptions, time to fall asleep and the wake-up phase.

65 minutes of sleep gained

On average, the subjects’ sleep quality in the Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe room was 13.7% higher than at home – the higher the score, the better the sleep. The subjects of the study slept an average of 65 minutes longer. Their cardiac and respiratory rhythms were also analyzed. Respiratory rhythms were slower, a sign of deeper sleep. 32% of the subjects woke up after 8 a.m., and 64% of the subjects fell asleep in under 30 minutes. These numbers were borne out in the positive feedback the subjects provided: more than 8 out of 10 of them rated the experience as “good” to “very good.” When the subjects were asked about the best parts of the experience, the mattress and the pillow were mentioned in 96% of the responses.

“This study was invaluable for Sofitel because it gave us key data on our guests’ sleep. In late 2023, we started brainstorming on how we could apply the findings to our hotels across the world. We sought to give all our hotels clear guidelines and the opportunity to revamp their rooms and suites, to elevate the experience of all our travelers in the most personalized way possible.” says Nicolas Gronier, VP Global Marketing Sofitel.


The most restorative sleep

Sleep has always been a top priority for Sofitel, and now, thanks to the study findings, the brand is putting it front and center in an entirely new experience: The Art of Sleep. This is a complete ritual designed to promote the most peaceful nights. It is a natural extension of the pioneering Sofitel MyBed program, which was launched in 2003.

Since 2003, Sofitel has been pampering guests with its famous Sofitel MyBed pillow menu, from which they can choose the best option for them. The collection includes the Rêverie Douceur, a square pillow filled with soft feathers, and the Ergo Confort pillow, which offers support designed for reading and working in a semi-upright position. The Sofitel MyBed pillow menu is a tailored, thoughtful service that offers premium pillows to help create an inviting environment. To foster sleep, the brand keeps offering guests calming herbal tea to drink before bed.

Drawing on the study findings, Sofitel is now preparing to take its commitment to sleep to the next level. Starting in July 2024, it will be phasing in new rituals in each of its hotels. The offerings include light meals formulated to help guests fall asleep quicker, bespoke treatment protocols, relaxing playlists curated specially for the brand’s hotels, and precise lighting and temperature adjustments.

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Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.