Can a 20 minute spa service simulate four hours of sleep? (Photo: Riccardo Tinelli/Trunk Archive)
At the new Miami Beach Edition Hotel, a slick Ian Schrager invention with curving white walls and hopping pool scene, there’s a signature new spa treatment called the “Power Nap.” It uses a micro-current technology that supposedly simulates four hours of sleep in 20 minutes. For a first-time mom with a 10-month-old at home (who only started sleeping through the night a couple weeks ago) this treatment sounded like manna from the sky. I signed up faster than you can count sheep.
On a recent escape South from a never-ending New York winter, I headed to the spa, which was gorgeous, in white and cream tones, and came with the certain panache of the new and well-designed. The front lobby was stocked with interesting, niche labels like Ila and Elemental Herbology. The lounge area was posh and relaxing, with cushy banquettes and hefty coffee table tomes.
The spa at the Miami Beach Edition Hotel (Photo: Edition Hotels)
I had assumed the Power Nap, which was sold as an add-on to any massage, would happen at the same time as my service, but in fact, it came afterward. So after a perfectly delightful massage, a spa attendant came in to hook me up to a machine via two ear clips that emitted microcurrents. Here’s when things started to turn a tad Kubrick: you can feel the currents coursing through your ear lobes (and imagine them shooting through your brain). In fact, it got uncomfortable about halfway through—it wasn’t serious pain but an insistent pricking at my left ear lobe. Like a pesky gnat, the pricks prevented me from napping at all—I had actually been sleepier during my deep tissue massage. Even so, I walked out feeling rested.
After doing some digging, apparently there’s real backing behind the little ear zappers. “The benefits touted by these spa services are actually based in science,” Sofia Vergara’s New York City dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman counsels me. “This phenomenon of synchronizing brainwaves is called Cranial Electrical Stimulation (CES) or “electrosleep,” and it was developed in 1949 for the treatment of sleep disorders. It has additional psychiatric benefits of treating pain disorders, anxiety, and depression.”
Likewise, Engelman thinks red and infrared light, which is featured in the Deep Sleep massage at Ling Skin Care spa in Manhattan, can also benefit troubled sleepers. The light can be healing, she says, and “help improve sleep quality by boosting melatonin secretion from the pineal gland in your brain.”
“Running the light down your spine is an attempt to help stimulate release through more focused exposure directly to the central nervous system—although transdermal exposure [through the skin] has shown similar sleep benefits,” Engelman adds.
At Ling’s Union Square location, the vibe is a bit more hippie with ginseng tea on offer and a masseuse who raved of mantras. A technician ran an infrared light down my spine, which was deeply warming on a brisk spring day. I could feel my knots release under the heat (the lights are dialed to about 130 degrees). Though I couldn’t say exactly if I slept better that night, it sure felt divine.