The South African Society of Sleep Medicine (SASSM) hosted its Sleep Congress in Durban on the weekend where the theme was The Brain The Mind and Sleep. The event brought together experts in neurological disorders, psychiatry and neuropsychiatry, psychology, cardiology, pulmonology and sleep technology for the first time.

Sleep is a serious business. In the last 20 years the sleep industry has grown into a multi-billion rand one and countless research has linked sleep to physical, mental acuity and productivity.

In April, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) identified performance sleeping as an important development for 2012 in its annual Trend Report.

In the report, IHG said that as interest in sleep medicine and research continued to grow, it would make sense for companies whose core business is sleep such as those in the hotel and hospitality industry to take a more active role in developing the field.

A hotel group entering the debate and developing their own sleep research centre, could allow them to become market leaders in what is evidently a growing trend, the report states.

IHG revealed that in the US sleep problems cost the economy $70 billion in lost productivity, medical bills and industrial accidents each year. It is also linked to health problems, in particular obesity.

The global village has also had an adverse effect on sleeping patterns, particularly those of businesspeople.

Among the international speakers at the SASSM Sleep Congress event was Dr Chris Idzikowski. In 2010 Dr Idzikowski worked closely with Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts to develop the Sleep Advantage Programme.

As a result of the programme, Crowne Plaza hotels, such as the one in Rosebank Johannesburg, have instituted measures to ensure the best possible nights sleep for its guests.

Sleep is an important consideration in the travel plans of most businessmen today. Often they have to cram a remarkable amount of work and meetings into the day and cannot afford to not be at their best, says Allan Clingham, General Manager, Crowne Plaza Rosebank.

Some of the measures developed with the help of Dr Idzikowski include specially formulated Aromatherapy products for the room. A guaranteed wake-up call policy which states that if guests dont receive their wake-up call within five minutes of their requested time, they dont have to pay for their stay. They also have quiet zones on certain floors of the hotel.

Business travellers who book into a quiet zone will sleep easy, knowing the quiet zone is for business guests only and there is a ban on noise from 9pm to 10am every night. These rooms will also be located away the lifts or ice machines, said Clingham

As more and more travellers become educated about travel and as they make more informed choices about where they want to stay, it is important that hotel groups look at innovative ways of attracting visitors.

In particular it is important that they are aware of growing trends such as the development of sleep research and the effect that this may have on their core business. When todays business traveller says they are looking for somewhere to sleep it means a whole lot more than it did 20 years ago.