We sleep for one-third of our lives, but we’re only now waking up to the importance of sleep. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published findings that a third of adults weren’t getting enough sleep. And these sleep-deprived people are costing the country over 400 billions of dollars each year. According to a report by Rand Europe, some 1.2 million working days are lost in the US every year due to tired employees. This is in addition to the costs to our individual health with the long and short-term impact sleep deprivation has on our brains and bodies. The growing body of research and increased public awareness around sleep has put sleep at the forefront of everyone’s minds. In turn, our so-called sleep epidemic has sparked an industry trend dedicated to helping people sleep.
As our society becomes increasingly more tired, companies are realizing there is a growing opportunity for innovation in the space. Particularly, technology can be leveraged to solve the problems that for decades no one in the sleep industry has been able to solve.
The way we sleep hasn’t fundamentally changed in over 50 years. The last major innovation in sleep was memory foam, invented in 1966. Since then, not much has happened. We have self-driving cars on the streets but still sleep on layers of basic foam glued together. The global mattress industry is expected to reach $38 million by 2022, but all the mattresses in the world won’t be able to radically impact our sleep because they are unable to adjust to our specific needs. Underneath the sleek packaging and solid marketing is just a piece of foam and fabric. Yes, it may add comfort, but comfort can only go so far.
Silicon Valley execs and wellness experts all agree that technology has to tackle sleep. Well + Good even named high-tech sleep science a top trend of 2018. Inc says innovative sleep gadgets will define tech this year. Better sleep can be achieved through science. Sleeping well is a key pillar of health that cannot be ignored any longer. Studies have shown that sleeping less can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, cause weight gain and make adults up to 200% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. By helping people sleep better, sleep tech could be the next step in human development and longevity. It has the potential to add hours back to our days and years back to our lives.
Despite its booming popularity in 2018, sleep technology is not a new invention. One of the early pioneers was Zeo, a company established in 2003 to monitor sleep. Their signature product was a headband that measures brain waves to accurately detect sleep phases. Zeo, unfortunately, shut down operations in 2013, likely because consumers weren’t yet ready to embrace sleep technology at the time. Fast forward to now, and sleep is finally ready for disruption. Innovative sleep tech is flooding the market and showing no sign of snoozing. Globally, the market for these products is expected to reach over $76 billion in 2019. As people’s sleep quality improves, energy, productivity, health and overall happiness will rise. The future of sleep involves technology, there’s simply no way around it.