Marriott CEO: Stop Applauding People Who Boast About Not Sleeping

"You've got a glorification of folks who say, 'Oh, I only sleep three to four hours a night' -- which is dead wrong."

01/23/2016 11:53 am ET | Updated Jan 23, 2016

Arne Sorenson gets seven-and-a-half hours of sleep each night, and he's proud of it.

In a Friday interview with The Huffington Post's Jo Confino at the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland, the Marriott chief executive warned against idolizing business leaders who boast of barely getting any rest.

"Particularly in American society today, but maybe business society generally, you've got a glorification of folks who say, 'Oh, I only sleep three to four hours a night' -- which is dead wrong," Sorenson said. "That's the wrong philosophy." 

The mythology surrounding leaders who deprive themselves of sleep comes from a sort of machismo, he said.

"It shows a toughness, maybe," he said. "I don't know how we got there."

Lack of sleep has become a modern epidemic. A survey released last month by One Poll found 91 percent of respondents 18 years old and up say they either always or sometimes wake up in the middle of the night.

One problem may be smartphones. About 71 percent of Americans go to sleep with their devices, which emit light that can suppress the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, delay the circadian clock and increase next-day drowsiness, according to a year-old study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Still, people are waking up -- pardon the pun -- to the importance of sleep. The proliferation of fitness and sleep trackers, such as FitBit, Jawbone or the Apple Watch, has made quantifying healthy sleep easier and more accessible.

And people are talking and writing about it.

Just this past week, Motherboard -- Vice's science and culture publication -- ran a series called "You'll Sleep When You're Dead," which turned a lens on such topics as innovations in sleep technology and extreme sleep patterns. In April, HuffPost Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington is slated to release a book called The Sleep Revolutionon the importance of shut-eye.

For now, Sorenson said he simply hopes to find new ways to encourage guests at his hotels to be more deliberate about how and when they sleep. 

"We don't want to be preachy to our guests when they get into our hotels. They're going to lead the lives they want to lead," he said. "But I think there are some things we can do to be in a dialogue with our customers about the strengths of sleep."

He suggested his hotels could improve sound-proofing to ensure that a lively restaurant or bar in the lobby doesn't disturb sleeping guests on the floor above.

"We've got to make sure that we don't design hotels that transmit that sound through the building," he said. 

Constructing quieter hotels has long been an ambition in the hospitality industry. A New York Times article from October 2007 documented the rising number of luxury hotel chains renovating their soundproofing. But the wave of hotel makeovers largely missed lower-end lodging. So you can secure yourself a better night's rest -- if you can afford it.

Things do appear to be improving, however. A record number hotel guests reported fewer problems and said they were satisfied with their stays last year, according to a North American survey by J.D. Power.

"Those of us who do sleep should be proud of saying we sleep," Sorenson said. "It's really important to make sure you get that sleep."

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