The Business of Sleep


Long working hours and inadequate sleep are the hallmarks of modern society. Perpetual deadlines and challenging goals have connived to create frenzy for super-human performance. The World Health Organization recommends seven to nine hours of sleep a night. But studies indicate that the average adult makes do with merely six hours of sleep each night. No wonder, business is booming in the world of sleep. According to a 2017 McKinsey report, the sleep health industry has historically grown by more than 8% a year and is currently estimated at $30 billion-$40 billion. From best mattress of 2019 and sleep spas to spooning robots and cuddle blankets, consumers are emptying their wallets to enjoy the elusive sleep.

An industry of sleep entrepreneurs has grown around the quest for deep and long sleep. They are offering hi-tech pajamas that absorb the body’s natural heat and reflect that energy back into the skin. A new robot promises to soothe a person to sleep with its Buddhist breathing techniques. Temperature-controlled pillows and mattresses stuffed with horsehair keep the sleepers cool and free from humidity. The CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) devices space is a billion dollar market, given the soaring instances of obstructive sleep apnea. There is also a phenomenal rise in sleep centers or labs that diagnose sleep disorders. Such labs are either independent or located in hospitals and universities. Companies are selling mattresses embedded with thin sensors that analyze sleep movements and snoring patterns, and provide recommendations on how to improve the snooze. Business entrepreneur ships are also unveiling white-noise apps such as Sleep Cycle alarm clock, which monitors sleep habits via the phone’s accelerometer and microphone in an attempt to understand and modify personal sleep. Wearable activity trackers such as Fitbit even allow a person to track sleep time, waking activity and other vital signs, thereby providing interesting insights into what helps and hinders good sleep. Manhattan’s famous Benjamin Hotel has a sleep program, accompanied with a sleep concierge and sleep consultant.

After funding sleep-depriving technologies such as streaming video, gaming and social networks, the venture capital industry has woken to the potential of the sleep industry. Sleep-focused companies have raised a cumulative $700 million, according to an analysis of Crunchbase funding data. Online sleep start-ups are also disrupting the mattress market. They operate on a simple business model, which consists in offering one or two variants of mattresses designed as per different human body types and needs, making choosing a mattress a breeze. By taking the online sales route, they cut out middlemen and thus offer affordable rates. The New York-based online mattress retailer Casper reached sales of $100 million within a year of its 2015 launch. The British company Simba, which was started in 2016, has already surpassed sales of £100 million. The Pzizz app, launched in October 2016, has exceeded half a million downloads across 160 countries.

Sleep is big business today. And going by the trends in contemporary society and lifestyles, the sleep industry seems headed only one way and that is higher.