Q&A with The Benjamin Hotel’s Sleep Concierge

Sleep Concierge Anya Orlanska –>

The Benjamin at 50th and Lexington in Manhattan took the popular pillow menu concept and added a whole bunch of extra services, including the world’s first Sleep Concierge. More hotels need this. Because if some of you planners are anything like me, it’s not unusual to fall asleep on the bed checking email. Some of us are wired and connected to the hilt and we need someone to tuck us in at night.

Sleep Concierge Anya Orlanska does just that. She developed a pillow menu with 12 different pillow styles and various programs to maximize your time, productivity and alertness after arriving in town. For people flying in overnight, for example, The Benjamin offers an Executive Nap service where the staff will pull down the blackout shades, prepare the bed, deliver your requested pillow and set the alarm for when you want to wake up.

“We make the room nice and warm and dark so they can just come in and get a nice nap, and then we wake them up at their requested time,” says Orlanska. “I’ve never heard of any other hotels doing that.”

Following a recent stay at The Benjamin, I spoke with Orlanska about the ROI of a good night’s sleep.

Greg Oates: Anya, what is the philosophy behind your Sleep Program?

Anya Orlanska: Basically, we try to educate our guests and tell them that they need to relax before they go to bed. They need to shut off their Blackberries, iPods and computers, and turn off the television in order to give the brain a little bit of time to relax and decompress before you go to sleep…. Recently we launched a new program called the ‘Work Down Call.’ Guests request a time for us to call you in the evening and tell you to power down and prepare for a good night’s sleep. There are many studies proving it’s not a great idea to be emailing about business just before you go to sleep.

So what are you supposed to do for that hour or so?

Relax! We forgot about that word, right? We’ve forgotten something like this exists. You can take a nice relaxing bath. You can have a nice relaxing massage; we have a 24-hour spa on property. You can go to the spa or call down and a therapist will come to your room with a table. You can just slip in your robe and have a glass of champagne afterward. Or you can just read. We strongly advise to read a newspaper or regular book or magazine.

Who travels with books anymore?

We can arrange to have any book or magazine here that you want. We want you to sleep well and be productive the next day…. For people who don’t know about our Sleep Program when they arrive, and what we can do, the front desk staff provides an overview at check-in.

Can meeting planners call ahead and work with you to arrange specific pillows and programs for their group members?

Yes, of course. We do that often.

What has been the feedback so far?

People love it, they love the pillows. I have people coming downstairs holding their pillow that they slept on and they don’t want to let it go. They say ‘I want to buy it and I want to buy it right now’ (laughing). You can purchase the pillows online once you get home and we’ll ship it to you. But some people don’t even want to do that. They say, ‘I want to buy this pillow and I want it now!’

So what are the most popular pillows?

Very popular right now is the Swedish Memory, always. That was the pillow created by NASA. Also our new pillow called Cloud. It’s very nice and soft; it gives you the effect that you’re sleeping on air. It has really tiny holes inside that move so the moment you press your face on the pillow it forms this perfect cushion. Also very popular, especially with kids and teenagers is the Lullaby Pillow. It has speakers in it so you can hook it up to your iPad or musical device and listen to music or audio books. I like it because sometimes my eyes are tired at night and I can listen to books. A lot of people also like the Hypo-Allergenic because it’s specifically designed for people with allergies.

I tried the curvy pillow that helps you breathe better, if you snore a little.

Did it work?

I’m told that it did.

See, you need to buy one of those. It’s called the Snore-No-More.

It’s funny, we all know that we shouldn’t be checking our work email before going to bed but we do it anyway.

I do that too, guilty as charged. You go to bed thinking about it and it stays in your brain while you’re sleeping. We need to change that habit.