Sleep innovation: what it is and how it’s revolutionising the comfort solutions space

Harshil Salot, Co-founder, The Sleep Company writes about how lack of sleep can affect more than just our physical health, and product innovations to tackle this growing issue.
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We spend one-third of our life sleeping. Yet, it is one area of our life that we rarely pay any attention to. After all, why worry about something that would come as naturally as, well, sleep.

But all that may finally be changing as we slowly come to the realisation that for many of us, sleep does not come quite naturally and often not for long enough. Not surprisingly, the sleep industry shows a strong potential for growth worldwide today.

It is all the more remarkable when one considers that the sleep industry in India has been a fairly late entrant. It is now seeing new innovations and a widening of choices for the consumer, both in terms of products and unique brands that offer sleep-aid products.

But while there is an undeniable commercial aspect of the sleep industry, it is not without its grounding in very strong concern for the diminishing quality of sleep among people today. As a result, there has been a spate of sleep innovations that include both ‘hard’ solutions such as medicines, therapy, modified food, and ‘soft’ solutions such as mattresses and wearable devices.

Getting proper sleep

Until fairly recently, sleep aid usually meant swallowing pills that often left one feeling dazed the next day. But rising consumer awareness, coupled with a booming wellness industry, has finally shifted our focus towards the necessity of catching those uninterrupted forty winks at night.

This can be best gauged by companies rushing to file patents for sleep innovations, a trend that has seen a steady upward curve over the last decade.

It came from a rising concern over the lack of sleep that the average person gets today. In 2016, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the US released a report stating that 1 in 3 adults did not get adequate sleep, which was marked at seven hours a day for optimal health. This is despite the fact that the US is one of the leading countries in sleep innovations along with China.

We may not have adequate research into the sleeping patterns of Indians, but every study seems to indicate that we may be even worse off. In fact, a 2017 research showed that Indians slept the least in the world.

Earlier research had revealed that 93 percent of urban Indians reported inadequate sleep. The implication of poor rest are not just limited to our health. It also affects the quality of our work, since sleep deprivation causes lack of attention and drowsiness that can worsen with time.

Rise of sleep economy

The growing awareness about the impact of lack of sleep has led to a paradigm shift in the sleep industry, particularly in India. About two decades ago, the only products that ensured a snooze fest were chemically-loaded drugs that would often have adverse side effects. This scenario has changed significantly with product innovation, especially in ‘soft’ solutions.

Today, we have devices that tap into every possible means of ensuring a good rest, from wearable devices that track the hours and quality of sleep, to diagnostic devices that track the pattern of sleep, wave therapy for improving the quality of sleep, and devices that prevent snoring, thus helping others to sleep!

Another significant development has been in the mattress market. To begin with, we are finally recognizing mattresses as sleep aids and not just another item in our ‘soft furnishing’ list. Today, companies are striving for innovation in every aspect of mattresses, from revolutionary components to design and structure.

When pitted against the traditional coir mattress, the newer generation seems almost revolutionary, which is only appropriate given the sweeping innovation in other spheres of our life. These new mattresses offer smart designs that provide optimal support to the spine when lying down, thereby ensuring good posture. More innovative designs offer features like motion isolation, airflow, and no sagging.

Not just their product, the new-gen mattress companies are also utilising strategies such as D2C marketing to directly reach the consumer and thereby, cut out the expense of middlemen. These innovations could be key in tipping the balance in the Indian market which is still dominated by the unorganised sector with coir as the most commonly used component, followed by PU foam.

With a CAGR of over 11 percent in the last five years, these companies are hoping to make inroads into the untapped market for these innovative products. That’s not a bad deal, considering that in the process, it might give us what we all need, a good night’s sleep!

Edited by Anju Narayanan

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)