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Going Under Covers : Hilton Looks at Ways to Help Guests Sleep Better


For the last two years, Hilton Hotels Corp. has been studying what keeps travelers up at night and has just announced "what may be the most aggressive travel-related sleep experiment to date" at five of its hotels, including the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

At each hotel in the experiment, which is being conducted in cooperation with the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation and several sleep product manufacturers, five guest rooms have been redone with the tossing-and-turning set in mind.

The 25 Sleep-Tight Rooms are filled with features designed to "create the ultimate hotel sleep environment," said Robert E. Dirks, senior vice president of marketing at Beverly Hills-based Hilton Hotels.

They're not talking about an extra mint on the pillow here. Special mattresses, lighting, sound systems, wall insulation and soundproofed windows, even back-up wake-up calls are all part of the program.

"One of the goals of this study is to see how much better a traveler sleeps in a carefully crafted environment," said Tom Roth, health and scientific advisor at the National Sleep Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.

For example, sleep research by Hilton and the National Sleep Foundation showed that stress contributes to travelers' sleeplessness and that missing a wake-up call is a common worry. So Hilton established an optional "dual wake-up call" in which the guest gets a wake-up call and a follow-up call 10 minutes later to make sure the first one worked.

In addition, the hotels will hold phone messages to avoid disturbing sleeping guests and have added herbal teas, cheeses and milk to the in-room "refreshment centers" in place of alcohol and caffeine-based goodies. (Milk products contain tryptophan, an amino acid that can cause drowsiness.)

The Sleep-Tight Rooms are stocked with light systems similar to those used by astronauts to alter their circadian rhythms, environmental- and white-sound machines, CD players and classical CDs, relaxation tapes, earplugs, sleep masks, night lights and massaging shower heads.

The rooms also come with detailed questionnaires to help Hilton and the National Sleep Foundation figure out which features work best. In addition to the Beverly Hilton, the participating hotels are the Chicago O'Hare Hilton, the New York Hilton & Towers, the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Waikiki Beach and the Capital Hilton in Washington.

Travelers can request the rooms, which will cost the same as comparable regular rooms at each hotel. A bedtime story is not included (but there are books and magazines in the rooms).

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet Train

A train trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco could zip by in two or three hours if a high-speed rail system ever makes it from drawing board to all aboard.

A recently completed draft report prepared for the California Intercity High Speed Rail Commission looks at two high-speed rail technologies: VHS (very high speed) next-generation steel-on-rail technology, capable of operating speeds of nearly 220 mph, and magnetic levitation, or maglev, capable of operating speeds of nearly 310 mph.

The commission, which was established by the Legislature in 1993 to investigate and develop a high-speed rail system in the state, concludes in the report that the $18-billion VHS network would be the better choice, based on financial, engineering, technical, environmental and political factors.

The commission is holding public hearings on the issue and will make a final recommendation in a meeting at the MTA headquarters in Los Angeles on Nov. 22.


High-Speed Rail

Here are some sample travel times for the two systems along the projected Central Valley route:


Travel Times (hours/minutes) Route VHS System Maglev System Los Angeles-San Francisco 2:42 1:57 Los Angeles-San Diego 1:10 0:55 Los Angeles-Sacramento 2:24 1:47 San Francisco-Sacramento 1:21 1:03 Los Angeles-Bakersfield 0:51 0:39 Los Angeles-Fresno 1:22 1:01


Times staff writer Nancy Rivera Brooks can be reached via e-mail at or by fax at (213) 237-7837.

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