Are sleep retreats totally dreamy?
These days I’m in need of some sleep. Not just six hours of relatively OK shut-eye, but some serious rest. Since becoming a freelance writer, I go through phases of waking in the night worrying about some impending deadline, always around 3am, it seems. It’s exhausting.
What I need is a place to get away to, somewhere I can fully recharge and get some restful sleep… but Mauritius may seem like an extreme option.
Granted, it’s a gruelling 11-hour flight, but with the time difference being just three hours, it’s easy to adjust. So why travel all this way to get a good night’s sleep? I’m here to try the ‘Sleep Retreat’ at the Shanti Maurice Hotel, a peaceful and relaxing villa-style ‘resort’ in the relatively unspoilt south of the island. It sits on a beautiful lagoon bay and, with only 61 villas and junior suites, it’s totally quiet and private.
Shirodhara performed with an appropriate oil containing nervine herbs, deeply soothes the nervous system and helps ease symptoms of stress.
The experience begins with a private consultation in the villa-style Nira Spa, carried out by an Ayurvedic doctor, who asks you about yourself, from your diet to personality traits.
I discovered my Ayurvedic ‘Dosha’, or body/personality type, is a combination of ‘Pitta’ and ‘Kapha’. This means I need to eat less hot food, spices and red meat to help bring my bodily inflammation down.
The doctor prescribed me a daily dose of breathing exercises (Pranayama), yoga and holistic treatments.
The Shirodhara Ayurvedic treatment induced an 11-hour sleep, something unheard of for me even at a weekend. A heady oil (with spicy peanut notes) was lightly applied to my body, before being poured in a very slow stream between my brows, on to my ‘third eye’. The sensation was almost impossible to detect, but the effect was soporific and I felt a shift in my perceptual consciousness. Next, covered in oil, I sat in an invigorating steam room as the oils penetrated into my skin before being washed off with a natural scrub.
Another must is the Magnesium therapy, a two-hour relaxing massage in which the therapist grinds a magnesium capsule, to aid muscle relaxation and improve sleep, into oil before rubbing it onto your body.
A few hours later, I felt the drowsiest I have ever been.
Anil, my Hatha Yoga teacher, Reiki master and Pranayama specialist, exuded a calm, centred spirituality thanks to his years of daily practice. The yoga class took place in a large, incensed-filled tent in the centre of the spa.
Soundtracked by birds and the distant sea, I was gently guided through each posture, and my body was suitably pushed when it was capable of achieving more.
Breath is vital for optimum health, and I learned we should do three different types each day, some energising such as ‘anulom’ using alternate nostril breathing in the morning, and ‘bhramari’ in the evening, where the positioning of the tongue is used to produce a high-pitched vibration.
The benefit? It relieves stress and cerebral tension which, in turn, alleviates insomnia and high blood pressure. During the Reiki session that followed I felt something release; my airways felt clearer, and my irritable stomach better.
That night I felt vibrant and alive, not at all tired. Even so, I turned in at 11.30pm, not waking once in seven hours.
EAT TO SLEEP
Of course, it’s not all about relaxing treatments, you also have to eat and with such good food on offer, it was hard to listen to the doctor’s advice.
The menu is predominantly Indian. There’s La Kaze Mama, a Mauritian-style kitchen with local curries cooked in the hotel’s garden kitchen by one member of staff’s grandmother, while The Rum Shack’s fun beach-style cabin serves up whole lobster.
Breakfast at Stars was my favourite; the tropical fruit platter had stunningly juicy pineapple.
EXPLORE THE ISLAND
Another way to encourage good sleep is to explore the island by day. My driver took me through Mauritian tea fields towards the revered Grand Bassin lake, where Hindus come to offer gifts to their gods; I left in a cloud of incense.
Further along, you can enjoy epic vistas of the west coast at Black River Gorges
viewpoint. Stop off at the waterfall at Chamarel followed by a walk around Seven Coloured Earth, a natural volcanic occurrence and a place to see giant tortoises. In the south, views of Tamarin and Le Morne mountains can be seen as you drive past waves fit for a kitesurfer. I felt ready for a rest after just a few hours.
To say the elegant, sophisticated and incredibly private Shanti Maurice is heavenly is an understatement.
It’s sleep-inducing, that’s for sure.
Read more: What are the benefits of dream interpretation?
WHERE ELSE CAN I GET SOME SLEEP?
SHA is a spa hotel in Spain’s Sierra Helada Mountains.
Its specialist sleep programme offers a medical examination and combines Western therapies, diagnosis, diet and therapy. Seven days from €3,250pp
Canyon Ranch resorts n Arizona and Massachusetts combine preventative medical specialists with luxury spa services. You can stay overnight in its Sleep Lab to help diagnose disorders.
Three nights from £3,250pp
THE FAR EAST
Zighy Bay in Oman is part of the Six Senses Spa and Resort. Its Yogic Sleep package combines yoga nidra, pranayama, gentle yoga and spa treatments.
Three nights from £250pp (treatments only) sixsenses.com
Set in a 17th century country house in Hampshire, The Sleep Retreat uses scientific therapies, group psychology sessions and advice on bedtime routine/sleep hygiene. Bespoke sleep weeks cost around £3,600 the-sleep-retreat.com