Woman waking up after healthy sleep

The Far-From-Groggy Booming Sleep-Health Industry

6 min read • May 26, 2021 • Jesse Sumrak

2020 kept more Americans at home, but it didn’t help keep them in bed—well, at least it didn’t keep them asleep in bed. Today’s ever-evolving world is pushing society to move faster and rest less, and the pace only seems to be picking up.

Poor sleep health isn’t a new problem, though. Americans have been showing decreased levels of sleep for the last 30 years. However, now it’s becoming a norm. More than 25% of US adults report insufficient sleep or rest at least 15 out of every 30 days—that’s more than half the month!

Technology might be to blame for our modern-day sleep issues, but it’s also providing the solutions. Businesses are launching everything from mattress technology to bedroom ambiance to bedtime-routine mobile apps to combat sleep issues and win consumers a good night’s rest. And it’s working.

Below, we’re breaking down the walls of the sleep-health industry to discover exactly how and why this emerging economy is booming.

Why All the Fuss About Sleep Now?

Employees used to pride themselves on busy schedules, crammed days, and an “I can do anything” hustle attitude. Now, individuals are taking a more realistic, health-conscience approach. Research proves time, time, and time again that sufficient sleep is critical to employee health and business goals.

Fortunately, society is finally waking up to the importance of sleep health—and they’re doing something about it. Employees are putting their money where their mouth is, with more than 30% saying they’d give up part of their salary for a better work-life balance. To put it in practice, the average American has increased their sleeping time by 17 minutes per night since 2005.

However, the majority of Americans still struggle with sleep health. While 92% of adults believe sleep quality is extremely important to their overall holistic wellness, only 37% report getting sufficient sleep to perform their best each day. But, rest assured, when there’s an issue, businesses will build solutions. Lots of solutions.

What Are Businesses Doing to Fix the Problem?

What are businesses not doing is probably a better question. Smart mattresses, temperature-adjusting humidifiers, sleep tech wearables, medical devices, prescription medicine—you name it, and businesses are selling it.

McKinsey categorizes all of these solutions into 3 categories:

  • Ambiance Optimization
  • Routine Modification
  • Therapeutic Treatment

Let’s look at each of these in more detail.

Ambiance Optimization

Innovative mattress and bedding companies seek to fix the sleep-health problem by adjusting the environment instead of the sleeper. They turn bedrooms into sleep sanctuaries with a variety of solutions:

  • Smart mattresses
  • Innovative bedding (think sheets and pillows)
  • Blackout curtains
  • Noise-canceling sound machines
  • Temperature-adjusting humidifiers
  • Automatic thermostats

And that’s just the beginning. Startups continue to introduce new sleep ambiance solutions to make the bedroom a better place for sleep. Expect this market to continue growing in coming years, even as the stay-at-home theme begins to fade with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Routine Modification

With evolving tech wearables (like the Apple Watch or Wear OS by Google Smartwatches), it’s easier than ever to monitor everything from your steps to your snooze time. Close to 30% of adults in the US use a smartphone to keep track of their sleep. However, that’s still a far cry from general availability.

See, tech wearables are still relatively expensive. Most consumers aren’t buying gizmos and gadgets just to track their sleep—they want the whole shebang with fitness tracking, texting, and more. However, with Apple Watches starting at $200, the whole shebang isn’t quite available for the everyday consumer yet.

Which leaves an opportunity for disrupting technology.

“The popularity and capabilities of low-cost consumer sleep trackers that can reliably and accurately measure breathing and snoring sounds during sleep might greatly improve public health by serving as a screening tool for the early detection of sleep-disordered breathing,” says a study in The Lancet.

Innovators are coming out with new routine modifications solutions, too:

  • Consumables (think decaffeinated tea)
  • Smartphone apps
  • Bath and personal care products
  • Bluelight and low-light devices
  • Smart alarm clocks
  • Sleep apparel

This list is just the beginning when it comes to routine modification. As sleep-deprived Americans desperately try to re-right their sleep schedules, watch for startups to accommodate their lifestyles in more deliberate ways. 

Many of the market solutions now take a “try something different” approach—but the future will be “keep doing what you’re doing, and we’ll take care of the sleep.”

Therapeutic Treatment

Americans are also turning to treatment-based solutions. They’re considering everything from prescription drugs to natural sleep products to sleep labs to fix their sleep problems.

Sleep disorder treating companies are seeing an explosion of possibility. For example, the sleep apnea market is expected to grow to $7.5 billion by 2024 (a 10.7% compound annual growth rate). And sleep labs are on track to grow to $10 billion in the next 5 years.

Meanwhile, a growing number of health-conscious Americans want natural and homeopathic sleep products to cure their sleep problems without all the addictive medications. They’re turning to melatonin, magnesium, L-theanine, and other more granola ingredients—and they’ll pay a premium for brands that incorporate these naturally into their products.

Additional therapeutic treatment options include:

  • Over-the-counter sleep aids
  • Surgeries
  • Doctor consultations
  • Diagnostic devices

Finding the Opportunity

The sleep-health industry is anything but a yawner. Many aspiring startups and investors have this market on their minds. Many one-hit wonders are jumping on the scene with situational product fits, but a brand has yet to emerge to become the Apple, Google, or Airbnb of the sleep-health industry.

In the coming years, look for brands to establish themselves as sleep-health experts. Leading contenders for the space will nail all 3 sleep-health categories: ambiance optimization, routine modification, and therapeutic treatment. These brands won’t just come out with melatonin oatmeal (which doesn’t actually sound that appealing) or track-my-sleep apps—they’ll do it all.

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Jesse Sumrak

Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He's created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he's not dabbling in digital marketing, you'll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.