‘Sleep is the new sta­tus sym­bol’

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - ANNE D’IN­NO­CEN­ZIO

NEW YORK — Pil­lows that track your snooz­ing pat­terns? A bed that ad­justs based on how much you twist and turn? Com­pa­nies are adding more tech­nol­ogy into their prod­ucts, hop­ing to lure cus­tomers crav­ing a bet­ter night’s sleep.

Some spe­cial­ized busi­nesses are mak­ing gad­gets that prom­ise to mea­sure and im­prove the qual­ity of slum­ber, while mass-mar­ket re­tail­ers like Best Buy are of­fer­ing sim­pler ideas like the ef­fect dif­fer­ent light­ing can have on fall­ing sleep. But with ever-grow­ing op­tions, peo­ple may find items that are get­ting more so­phis­ti­cated — but may still not be ac­cu­rate.

The in­ter­est in sleep has in­ten­si­fied. The num­ber of sleep cen­tres ac­cred­ited by the Amer­i­can Academy of Sleep Medicine nearly tripled from 2000 to 2015, the group says. Peo­ple are more likely to brag about how much they spent for a mat­tress than on their clothes, says Mar­ian Salz­man, CEO of Havas PR North Amer­ica.

“Sleep is the new sta­tus sym­bol,” she says.

It’s a big busi­ness. One of the more ex­pen­sive prod­ucts is Sleep Num­ber’s 360 Smart Bed, which runs from $3,449 to $4,999. It makes ad­just­ments based on how rest­less peo­ple are while they’re sleep­ing. The Zeeq pil­low, which sells for $299 and is from bed­ding brand REM-Fit, mon­i­tors snor­ing and can gen­tly vi­brate to nudge some­one into a dif­fer­ent sleep po­si­tion.

“I’m will­ing to spend more on sleep tech­nol­ogy be­cause it will hope­fully help me fall asleep quicker, stay asleep longer and be more rested when I wake up,” says Frank Ribitch, a self-de­scribed gad­get junkie from Martinez, Calif., who tracks his sleep with apps con­nected to a Sleep Num­ber bed and the Zeeq pil­low.

In­suf­fi­cient sleep is a public health con­cern, fed­eral of­fi­cials say, with more than one-third of Amer­i­can adults not get­ting enough on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. That can con­trib­ute to prob­lems like obesity and di­a­betes. And a study pub­lished by the Rand Corp. put the fi­nan­cial loss to U.S. com­pa­nies at up to $411 bil­lion a year.

Find­ing so­lu­tions could be a lu­cra­tive en­ter­prise. Ear­lier this year Ap­ple bought Fin­land-based Bed­dit, which was mak­ing an app and sleep mon­i­tor­ing de­vice that’s placed un­der the sheet. The $150 sen­sor be­gins track­ing when a per­son lies down, and an­a­lyzes data such as the por­tion of time some­one is in bed asleep be­fore wak­ing up. It also mon­i­tors heart rate, tem­per­a­ture, move­ment — and even snor­ing.

“Pre­vi­ously, it was about the sleep­ing pill and peo­ple didn’t want to talk about sleep ap­nea,” Lasse Lep­pako­rpi, co-founder and now for­mer CEO of Bed­dit, said be­fore Ap­ple bought the com­pany. “Snor­ing is em­bar­rass­ing. But this has been un­tapped op­por­tu­nity.”

At the Stan­ford Sleep Medicine Cen­ter, neu­rol­o­gist and med­i­cal di­rec­tor Clete A. Kushida tests new ther­a­pies and med­i­ca­tions. Over the past two years, the anal­y­sis has ex­panded to wear­able de­vices. The sci­en­tists as­sess how well the de­vices match the cen­tre’s own stud­ies, which use mea­sures such as heart rate and brain wave ac­tiv­ity to de­ter­mine the length and the stages of sleep.

Kushida’s con­clu­sion? “Con­sumer wear­able de­vices are not there in ac­cu­rately de­tect­ing the stages of sleep,” he said. The prob­lem: They fo­cus on mo­tion, which can be de­cep­tive since a per­son could be ly­ing in bed awake.


Sleep Num­ber store man­ager Lee Pul­liam demon­strates how the com­pany’s sleep tech­nol­ogy tracks your sleep­ing pat­terns.

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