Leaders rightfully pay close attention to wellness trends--if they don't keep themselves physically and mentally sharp, the businesses they've invested so much of themselves in can crumble. Some vogue options, however, are questionable, and the sleepcation is one of them.


If you're not already familiar with the sleepcation idea, a sleepcation allows you to snooze as much as you want. But it doesn't have to be just about sleeping your days away to press reset (which, by the way, you can't really do). You also can use it as a few days of "me time" where you can chill out practicing all the awesome relaxation methods you already know or want to try.

Want to read a book? Cool. Hang out at a spa and get a massage for a while? Equally awesome. As long as the activity helps you rest and connect to yourself and the world again in a safe, mindful way, you pretty much have a green light. 

For me personally, for example, I'd hit up a cabin somewhere and spend uninterrupted days writing fiction to the strains of Brahms' Symphony #4 in E minor. That's where I find center.

By contrast, a traditional vacation--or in an extended version, a sabbatical--is more active. The focus isn't on recovery and getting back to normal or baseline, but rather on building yourself up from the baseline you already have. You typically have a much clearer agenda of things to do, and spending time with old or new connections is part of the game. For example, you can go to a museum or take a day class you've been eying, or you can immerse yourself in a culture you've never experienced. 

The dark drive behind the well-intentioned trend

But as wellness bloggers have explored, the sleepcation trend re-exposes a problem we're already painfully aware of--burnout. People are taking sleepcations as a Band-Aid, because at some point in their work, they no longer can cope with being relaxation deprived, because at some point, the need to stop becomes so great that they finally can't put it off anymore.

So they make relaxation a priority temporarily and get a small reprieve, only to then thrust themselves back into the mind-numbing environment that exhausted them.

The result isn't always pretty. Having finally experienced the relief of a lighter load where you're in tune to yourself and calm, you can have a new, excruciating awareness that the weight you're carrying most of the time is absolutely crushing. And with that awareness can come a potentially debilitating depression that interferes with your ability to work well.

If the whole point of a sleepcation is to come back ready to perform better, doesn't that depression-induced sag in productivity largely defeat the purpose?

Sleepcations by themselves aren't inherently awful. As noted, they give you rest and help you be certain of who you are. They're also attractive for individuals who's financial situation is tighter, since they can be staycations that don't require you to travel.

My issue is that the recuperative activities shouldn't be relegated only to your vacation time. After all, recuperation and growth, while related, are two different animals, and if all you do on a vacation is recoup, when will you ever have time to more actively explore, interact and learn in the world?

Recuperation should be happening, ideally as we need it instead of according to a schedule, every single day.

I completely understand that there are only so many hours in the day, and that it's not always possible to switch to a less demanding work load or schedule and keep the bills paid. But when we get excited at the prospect of multiple days that are only recuperation, that's problematic. That, I think, is our obvious cue to call for a massive revolution in the culture and underlying philosophies driving the current system of work, a revolution that we've already been needing for some time.

Change does not happen, after all, unless you have the courage to demand it.