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The $70 billion quest for a good night’s sleep

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I’m pinned down to my bed, like a fish caught in a net. I’m trapped under a cozy, chunky knit blanket made by Bearaby, a six-month old startup. The blanket looks light and fluffy, but do not be deceived: It weighs 20 pounds. I have given up trying to wiggle or roll around underneath it, so here I am, just staring blankly at the ceiling. A few minutes later, I’ve dozed off, and I will not wake up for eight and a half hours.

In the modern world, where people are plagued with sleeplessness, this–the simple experience of falling, and staying, asleep–has become something of a luxury. A third of Americans experience brief stretches of insomnia, and a tenth experience three sleepless nights a week for months on end. This sleeplessness is responsible for an estimated $63 billion in lost productivity every year in the United States.

The good news for the sleep-deprived is that we’re living through a golden age of sleep aids. A decade ago, “sleep aid” was synonymous with sleeping pills, but these days, medication only makes up 65% of the market. The last three years have seen an explosion of other types of products designed to help people to fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer. Initially, many of these sleep tools were tech gadgets, including sleep trackers, apps, lights, and noisemakers, many of which I tested for a story in 2017. But more recently, the trend has shifted toward low-tech products like weighted blankets, temperature-regulating duvets, and pillows with built-in hoods to block out light and keep the sleeper’s head warm. “I think we’re increasingly coming to understand that technology is partly what is causing us stress and insomnia,” says Kathrin Hamm, Bearaby’s founder. “Consumers seem to be gravitating toward products that take them away from all of this blue light.”

Sleep aids are big money. In 2017, they generated $69.5 billion in revenue worldwide and analysts say the industry is on track to hit $101.9 billion by 2023. And given what we now know about how sleep impacts our quality of life, it is perhaps unsurprising that consumers are willing to shell out a lot of money for these products. Case in point: The Bearaby blanket costs $259. That’s on par with other weighted blankets on the market, including the Gravity Blanket and Coolmax. “People are setting aside a budget for self-care,” says Hamm. “It’s really hard to put a price on getting a good night’s sleep.”

So what’s driving this boom in sleep aids? After all, insomnia is an age-old problem.

An increasing amount of research suggests that not getting enough sleep (defined by the Centers for Disease Control as seven hours a night) increases our risk of diseases including obesity and diabetes. Sleeplessness also........

© Fast Company