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August 07, 2017
A recent consumer sleep study revealed that about half of all American adults use at least two sleep aids on a regular basis. These aids include sleeping pills, food supplements and herbal remedies, and the sleep aid market is expected to reach a value of around $80 billion by the year 2020.
This has sparked a lot of research and innovation surrounding sleep, and most Americans are eagerly watching the headlines for the next app, wearable gadget or “smart” bedding that could help them get more than the average five or six hours of sleep per night that most adults are getting.
All of this is exciting on the surface, but what are the sociological ramifications for rapid sleep innovation? While many experts are hoping that advanced sleep aids will benefit humans in all socioeconomic and cultural groups, others are questioning whether unequal access will turn sleep into an unfortunate status symbol. Could we one day determine the level of a person’s success by measuring the depth of their eye bags?
In the UK, cozy beds are taking the place of spin cycles as exhausted adults line up for Napercise classes. In the U.S., movie star Gwenyth Paltrow is advising her fans to indulge in an elaborate sleep ritual now known as “clean sleeping.” Her suggestions range from general advice like sticking to a routine sleep schedule to more indulgent options like taking a bath in aromatherapy oils and using essential oils to make bedding more appealing.
Fitness bands and watches that count the hours of your slumber are now as commonplace as yoga pants. One mattress on the market even utilizes barometric tracking to ensure a great night of sleep. While pricey, this elite mattress can warm up your toes or raise the head of your bed if you start to snore. It all happens while you sleep, so you spend less time adjusting your sleep position and more time actually snoozing if you make the investment.
Sleep-inducing apps like 2Breathe coordinate sleep music to your breathing rate to help you fall asleep faster. Whole-house white noise machines now block out traffic, barking dogs and other outside sleep disturbances just as easily as whole-house filtration systems deliver purified water. The SmartWake sleep monitor will wake you up during the lightest phase of sleep so that you’re less groggy.
Whether you’re in the market for a digital sleep timer or you would love to find sleeping pills that don’t leave you half awake come morning, there’s a good chance that you’ll have multiple options within the next five years. The question is whether you’ll have the resources needed to get your hands on the best products.
Some of these modern sleep trends are easily accessible to anyone interested in giving them a try. For instance, apps are readily available to anyone with a smartphone, which includes nearly 80% of Americans. Fitness watches with sleep tracking capabilities are available around the world, and select brands are often on sale for $30 or less.
The status symbol of sleep starts to make itself known when you look at this market a little deeper. For example, members of the working class who are balancing multiple jobs with children and household duties commonly have only four or five hours to sleep each night.
While people like Gwenyth Paltrow recommend seemingly simple sleep strategies, like massaging a loved one’s feet before going to bed each night, these recommendations require time that many working adults simply don’t have to spare. These simple sleep suggestions suddenly highlight the difference between people who are struggling to get much-needed sleep and celebrities who have the time to lounge in the bathtub and spritz their sheets while still sleeping eight or more hours a night.
Some experts are now suggesting that sleep could one day serve as a weapon for adults who want to dominate their competitors in their professional and personal lives. Those with the means to invest in smart beds, rather than sleeping pills and other cheap sleep aids, could benefit tremendously from greater health, sharper cognitive skills and other assets needed to succeed in business as well as parenting and personal communications.
With those theories floating around and sleep deprivation continuing to hold many adults back, the sleep aid market will continue to flourish. There may come a day when you don’t have to regulate your own sleep cycle or toss and turn until you find the most comfortable sleeping position. Your bed or your smartphone could do it all for you. That’s when sleep will truly elevate to a status symbol.