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Startups are increasingly interested in disrupting the sleep industry

A decade ago, pedometers were considered an innovative tool to count our steps. They had the potential to encourage people to walk more and get healthier. Now, many technology-enabled activity trackers are in the market that have evolved past simply counting our steps and are being incorporated into clothing, accessories, and devices that allow consumers and clinicians to easily monitor aspects of health. Some analysts are noticing that devices and apps that track and help consumers have healthy sleep patterns are gaining traction, as many consumers and health professionals are increasingly paying more attention to how important sleep is to overall health.

An increasing body of research shows that sleep plays a vital role in our attention, mood, performance, and life. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that a third of American adults do not get the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep a night. Lack of sleep has been associated with heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. A study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed that fatigue-related productivity losses cost employers $1,967 per employee every year.

Many developers of digital health devices and solutions are taking notice and are developing sleep products, devices, and trackers to meet growing demand. A company called Beddit makes a thin mattress sensor that tracks the sleeper’s movements, snoring, and environment and then provides analysis and guidance on how the individual can improve sleep. Resmed makes the S+ sleep sensor, which tracks sleep patterns and makes daily charts, and the company Oura makes a sleep ring that measures pulse waveforms, heart rates, and body temperature. Other products hitting the market cool the forehead and offer help in settling the racing mind or emit sounds, lights, and aromas that are thought to induce sleep.

While therapeutic sleep aids have been on the market for years, consumer interest in these newer devices and products is rising. It is not surprising that many consumers who are interested in monitoring their heart rate and activity levels and keeping track of their calorie intake want to know what is going on with their personal sleep patterns.

Related: For years, employers and health plans have been using employee and member incentives to encourage healthy eating, fitness, and tobacco cessation. Last month, the Employee Healthcare Benefits Congress held in Washington, DC made sleep a cornerstone of their annual employer wellness conference. The summit focused on innovative sleep programs for employers, the return-on-investment for sleep programs, and the business case for making sleep a priority. It also provided information on how to implement corporate sleep health programs, along with metrics to measure the success of the programs.

Last year, Aetna started a program to encourage employees to prioritize sleep. The program gives employees the chance to earn up to $500 if they can demonstrate they are sleeping at least seven hours for 20 nights in a row. Participating employees wear sleep trackers to help them record the data. The company also has information on sleep, yoga, and meditation to supplement the program.

Mark R. Rosekind, Kevin B. Gregory, Melissa M. Mallis, Summer L. Brandt, Brian Seal, and Debra Lerner, “The Cost of Poor Sleep: Workplace Productivity Loss and Associated Costs,” Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, January 2010

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Author bio

Doug leads Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Life Sciences and Health Care practice. With 24 years of experience, he works closely with multiple top health care organizations on major clinical and enterprise transformation efforts and on large-scale technology implementation projects. Doug has extensive experience in comprehensive quality and patient safety transformations, turnaround and performance improvement in academic medical centers as well as organization/workflow redesign and technology enablement. He has served as the lead on a number of enterprise transformation initiatives with some of Deloitte’s most largest and most complex clients.