The Atlantic

The Town That's Building Life Around Sleep

Most people are socialized not to sleep when their bodies naturally want to. A small town in Germany wants to change that.
Source: Volker Rauch / Shutterstock

Bad Kissingen is a spa town. According to the town’s website, Bavarian King Ludwig II bestowed the “Bad” part of its name on it in 1883, but not because he didn’t enjoy his stay—“bad” means “bath” or “spa” in German. Just south of the Rhön Mountains in Germany, it’s quaintly charming in the way of small European towns (it has a population of about 20,000), particularly those reliant on tourists.

Apparently there’s a bit of a competition among European spa towns—“medical tourism” brings people who want special, specific treatments, or the cheapest possible version of a treatment. So Dr. Thomas Kantermann, of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, tells me. A friend of his, Michael Wieden, is the official business developer of Bad Kissingen.

“He joined with me to think—if we want to pimp this town, if we want to make it more sexy and attractive, how can we do it?” Kantermann says.

Wieden sought Kantermann out for his particular expertise—Kantermann is a chronobiologist, meaning he studies the differences in people’s circadian rhythms and sleep patterns. A person’s preferred sleep pattern is his or her “chronotype.” This is what we’re talking about when we say someone is a morning person or a night owl. Research has shown that living outside your chronotype, which most of us do—waking ourselves up early with an alarm clock for school or work, or staying out

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