In a world where wellness has become a well-loved buzzword, it is perhaps unsurprising that sleep has become such big business. Sleep aids are big money. In 2017, it was a $69.5 billion business worldwide, and according to industry watchers, that figure is on track to grow to over $100 billion by 2023.
One of the reasons sleep aids are such a big business is because lack of sleep is a big problem, particularly for Americans. One third of Americans experience brief stretches of insomnia, while one-tenth report regular sleeplessness (more than three nights per week) for months on end. And more than one-third of American adults sleep less than the recommended seven hours per night.
Or, as Wayne Giles, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of Population Health, summed it up in a press release: “As a nation, we are not getting enough sleep.”
But if the explosion of products entering the market in the last several years is any indication, we as a nation are at least willing to invest in trying to get more sleep. As recently as the early 2000s, the sleep aid market more or less constituted the sleep medication market. And although pills and other chemical solutions for insomnia still make up the majority of the market, their share has fallen to 65 percent. Rising up to claim the remaining third are all of the non-medication-based sleep aids that have flooded the market in recent years, including sound machines, light machines, sleep trackers, apps, specialty bedding and curtains – just to name a few.
That increase in the market, Hatch Sleep Founder Matt Mundt noted, comes from the simple fact that many people, like himself, have suffered from lifelong sleep problems and want a solution. But they don’t really want that solution to be sleeping pills, which have a long history of becoming habit-forming and leaving people a bit groggy and disconnected the next day.
So, after a lifetime of poor sleep and a series of conversations that quickly went nowhere once medication was introduced as the solution, Mundt realized he needed a different type of sleep aid.
He tried the host of products on the market – and thought he had found the solution when he bought his first weighted blanket. Alas, he the experience of sleeping under it didn’t quite offer the relief it promised.
“I was so excited about it,” Mundt said. “But when I used it, I felt like I was getting squashed like a panini. And the blankets tended to easily fall off the side of the bed and pool on the floor, requiring you to wake yourself up to pull it back up,” he told Fast Company.
Plus, the weighted blanket solution is not inexpensive, with the average model running between $200 and $300 depending on size and brand.
And so Mundt decided to design his own product. He came into the field with at least one built-in advantage: He is a professional designer with stints at both Harley Davidson and Apple on his resume.
The Hatch Sleep Pod, the recently launched culmination of that effort, uses the same principle as a weighted blanket: It applies even pressure across the body that acts as a stress reducer and makes it easier for the sleeper to fall and stay asleep – but it does so in a different way. Instead of using weight to press down on a sleeper, it wraps them up tightly in what can only be described as a swaddle.
“It’s designed to feel like a hug,” Mundt explained.
A breathable hug, as the pod’s material is light and doesn’t trap heat. And, unlike a weighted blanket, it is machine washable. The price starts at $110.
As Mundt noted, the idea is to create a product that can adapt to the needs of sleepers and their habits, instead of trying to radically rewrite them. Sleep habits are like all other habits, he pointed out – they are developed over years and don’t change overnight, pardon the pun.
But the hope is that with a more flexible, adaptable and cheaper product, the pods just might help people invest in resting a bit easier.