What’s a good night’s sleep worth? Americans will spend some $37 billion chasing it this year, according to Market Data Forecast. This includes sales of medications, sleep labs, CPAP devices, other sleep aids, such as earplugs and sound machines, and mattresses and bedding. The latter represents the largest share of the sleep market. Some $16 billion alone was spent on mattresses in 2019.
But restful, healing sleep remains elusive for many of us. Some 70 million Americans suffer from medical or chronic sleep disorders, reports the Centers of Disease Control.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. A recent survey among Americans found that 86% reported trouble falling or staying asleep at least once a week. Even more impactful, 3.6 is the average number of days per week that a good night’s sleep eludes them.
Lack of sleep does immeasurable harm to people’s health and well being, but it also costs businesses upwards of $400 billion in employee absenteeism, lost productivity and higher mortality. And that doesn’t even include the added cost of insuring a less-healthy work force.
The market potential is huge for companies that offer innovative products that can guarantee better quality sleep. Here are three emerging companies – Bearaby, Luxome and Eight Sleep – that are taking the sleep challenge on.
Bearaby sells weighted blankets and advocates naps
Bearaby sells one product – weighted blankets – but sells them in a variety of different styles and weights suited to one’s needs, material and weight preferences, from the $149 Nappling for kids to the $399 Hugger for couples.
But its Nappers, that come in certified organic cotton, eucalyptus fiber for cooling and luxurious upcycled velvet, are its flagship products. Sold via the company’s website, Bearaby is also the exclusive supplier of weighted blankets to West Elm, Pottery Barn and Pottery Barn Kids. And it received Fast Company’s Innovation by Design award.
Sleeping under a weighted blanket is a scientifically proven way to ensure a deeper, more restful sleep. They help people fall asleep faster and help stimulate the feel-good hormone serotonin and reduce the stress hormone cortisol. A weighted blanket provides the same kind of secure, restful comfort that swaddling does for babies.
Like so many innovative companies, Bearaby got its start based on the needs of its founder, Kathrin Hamm, Ph.D. in economics. While working for The World Bank and traveling across the globe, her sleep cycles were severely disrupted. She found napping was a necessity to keep her sharp so she could fulfill her role helping female entrepreneurs get funding.
Initially, she wasn’t thinking of becoming an entrepreneur herself, but her quest for better sleep drove her to research alternatives that led to weighted blankets, where she found obvious problems with the available designs on the market.
“Think about sleeping under 20 pounds of plastic beads. I was in India where it is hot and humid. I would wake up covered in sweat,” Hamm relates. “So I did more research and found a gap in the market for a sustainable, natural alternative.”
Her solution was inspired by the fabric rope knitting industry in India. She crafted a prototype from a small local factory and her business was born in 2018.
“I quit my job, took my retirement funds and put them into developing the initial stage of production,” she says. “Our blankets are differentiated. They look good on the couch, come in beautiful colors and are all-natural so they are sustainable, unlike the plastic bead alternative.”
Her personal commitment to helping people get better sleep extends into her corporate environment where napping on the job is encouraged. “We have a schedule of co-working hours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. when we slot all our meetings, then people can work to their own rhythms, so night owls can sleep in and early risers can take a break in the afternoon,” she explains.
It’s an idea she advocates for other businesses, where traditionally it’s been held as a badge of honor to arrive early and work late into the evening five or six days per week. “Nobody can be productive like that,” she maintains.
This is sound advice for other CEOs as they start to bring back their dispersed workforce. The standard 8:30 to 5:30 working hours don’t work for everybody as many stay-at-home workers discovered during the pandemic.
“We took an internal survey after implementing our co-working hours and the level of anxiety dropped and people could finally sleep through the night. It was a no-brainer for us,” Hamm concludes. “And it’s a good path that can work for bigger companies too. For optimum productivity and creativity, work needs to be scheduled so that it works for people’s natural rhythms.”
Luxome offers a personalized pillow just for you, not some other guy
Everybody knows the My Pillow guy, hawking what he claims is “the world’s most comfortable pillow” on television. But after shelling over some $70 for one, though $30 with the discount code, it may not live up to its hype, as this reviewer on Mattress Clarity found: “For us, the MyPillow Premium fell flat, literally, during the review.”
This was the inspiration for Luxome’s LAYR truly customizable pillow. “Pillows are so personal,” says Hyaat Chaudhary, Luxome’s founder. “There are a lot of adjustable pillows on the market today targeting back and side sleepers. But people change how they sleep throughout the night and the adjustable pillows on the market only change how much filling is in the pillow, not the composition within the pillow.”
Luxome started in 2018 selling weighted blankets, then undertook development of a pillow following the company’s consumer-centric philosophy. “We are trying to break the mold from brands that do a lot of marketing and promotion, but their products are mediocre,” he shares. “We stay true to our original philosophy about what customers really care about and how to do something better.”
Using himself and his family as guinea pigs, aided by a 10-pound medicine ball to approximate the average weight of the human head, Chaudhary took over a year to develop the LAYR pillow to meet the company’s exacting standards.
“It’s truly a customizable pillow, not just an adjustable one. It’s virtually a build-your-own-pillow concept,” he explains. It comes with four different inserts, one super soft, another medium firmness and two memory-foam inserts of different thicknesses, so the customer can personalize their experience. “You get to play around with all the possible configurations until you find the one that you really like.”
The fully-packed LAYR pillow is heavier than normal, but then it is designed to rest for a full night under your head. It also is expensive, $90 now, but the company offers a two-pillow set at a BOGO price of $135.
Currently only available online, Chaudhury isn’t ruling out selling through retailers eventually as the product line expands from pillows, blankets and sheets. But for now, it is going gangbusters as a direct-to-consumer brand, thanks to excellent customer reviews.
“I read every review and people are truly amazed that what we advertise is what they get,” he notes. “People have been tricked so often by so many brands that they almost assume the stuff you say about your product isn’t true. We take a different approach in the sleep market. We don’t do tons of deals or discounts, but offer an excellent product that stands on its merits for a fair price.”
Eight Sleep is the first ‘sleep fitness’ brand
Just as elite athletes track every detail of their performance and adjust accordingly, Eight Sleep sells mattresses and toppers that allow sleepers to track their sleep performance electronically through biometric monitoring. Then the technology embedded into the products adjusts temperature through a water-circulation system for optimum sleep performance.
Using the data collected through the night, such as heart rhythm and respiratory rate, sleep stages and deep-sleep time, Eight Sleep delivers sleepers a daily sleep fitness score via a smartphone app. The goal is to use the compiled daily data to “coach” owners toward better sleep performance, thus the company’s claim to being the first sleep fitness company.
“Until now, achieving optimal sleep required a combination of devices, tools and technologies, most of which didn’t deliver real results,” said Matteo Franceschetti, co-founder and CEO of Eight Sleep. “At Eight Sleep we have built the only comprehensive, end-to-end solution to help customers achieve the best possible night’s sleep.”
Eight Sleep competes in both the largest segment of the sleep market – mattresses – but also its fastest growing segment as well – the smart sleep technology segment, projected to grow 17.8% through 2027 at a compound annual rate.
As a direct-to-consumer company, Eight Sleep offers a Pod Pro Mattress priced at $2,995 that includes a queen-sized memory foam mattress, the Active Grid where the technology and the water channels for heating and cooling live and the bedside Hub where the water is stored.
However, what makes Eight Sleep particularly appealing is that you can also buy the Active Grid technology topper and water Hub alone and make your existing mattress smart. The price is $1,745 for the Pod Pro cover.
Eight Sleep is catching on with celebrities, notably Kevin Hart, and the sports community, all of whose livelihoods depend on performing at their best. The company claims that over 100 professional athletes sleep on its Pod and it partners with the San Francisco 49ers and the Sacramento Kings.
It is attracting attention from the investor community as well, with the company reporting it recently was one of the companies selected to receive funds through a $100 million initiative to build and support a community of Miami-based technology startups.
But perhaps the company’s most powerful endorsement comes from the medical community. It is participating in sleep and atrial fibrillation studies with Mount Sinai, University of California San Francisco and Stanford. In addition, Mount Sinai’s David Rapoport, MD, president of the Foundation for Sleep Research, and Stanford’s Craig Heller, Ph.D. are part of the Sleep Eight team, along with other professors and researchers at University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Yale.
Today North America represents roughly half of the global $72 billion sleep aids market, according to Market Data Forecast. But sleep troubles are epidemic across the world, so the current projection of the global sleep aids market to reach $97 billion by 2026 may be conservative.
One thing interesting about all three brands profiled here is that it takes people some time to adjust to them. People need to start slow to sleep under weight and they have to play around with the various LAYR inserts to find the best pillow combo. The fact is we’ve gotten used to less than optimal sleep and developed bad sleep habits as a result, so Eight Sleep’s idea of coaching people into better sleep is a sound one.
Brands that follow the rapidly emerging science of sleep, along with trial and error to design products that really deliver on their promises, are bound to succeed. Great sleep is a universal need.