Exploring The Nuances Of The Sleep Solution Category

It’s no secret that as sleep issues become more prevalent and more research correlates poor sleep with severe health conditions, the search for better solutions will continue to be a high priority. Today, 50% of the population report not getting the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night and 75% of Americans ages 20 - 59 report regular sleep troubles. In a recent report from Patsnap, an intelligence technology company, the data shows that sleep deprivation is taking a major financial toll on our country; if the Americans that are currently not getting enough sleep got between six and seven hours a night, the report estimates that we’d see a $226.4 billion boost to the economy. In exploring the technological sleep products produced around the globe, Patsnap found an interesting intersection between culture and the popularity of different types of solutions. Namely, the report closely examines a growing divide between sleep technology and pharmacological or ingestible solutions that address sleep disorders and widespread sleep deprivation.

According to the report, the past ten years have seen exponential growth in new sleep solutions and while it has plateaued a little bit, there’s still steady growth underway. In fact, the sleep industry has an estimated value of $80-$100 billion across the globe. The report goes on to attribute this value to increased awareness and more experiences of sleeplessness due to four key factors:

  1. The rising age of the population
  2. Increase in obesity worldwide
  3. Changing lifestyles (in part, technology driven)
  4. Increase in individual populations experiencing mental health disorders and increased awareness of treatment

The answers to these challenges are coming in what Patsnap defines as soft and hard solutions. A hard solution to a sleep problem is defined as a medicinal or herbal solution that a consumer ingests to find relief. Whereas a soft solution is anything that is not ingested—this sector is increasingly broad and encapsulates applications and trackers, smart sleep accessories like pillows and adjustable bases as well as smart mattresses and any device used to create a more comfortable sleep environment. In the past few years, based on patent filing trends, the category that has seen the most growth and is predicted to continue growing is the soft solution category of diagnostic devices.

Unsurprisingly, sleep tracking devices are on the rise. This finding is pretty fascinating because tracking your sleep is not the solution in and of itself. While it may feel better to understand how one is sleeping rather than popping a pill, knowing how long and how well you slept doesn’t offer a full solution. However, beds and adjustable bases that adapt to your movements to improve your sleep might be. The same goes for devices that don’t only collect data but utilize it to suggest concrete changes the user can make to improve sleep habits.

These trends become a bit more nuanced when you look at diversity across the globe. While sleeping is a worldwide problem, attitudes towards correcting it vary based on culture, biology and even philosophy. When it comes to the development of soft solutions, there appears to be more innovations filed in the East versus West. The US and China lead the way in terms of innovation in the sleep devices category, with the US market valued at $30 billion in 2018 and the Asia-Pacific market slated for the fastest growth in this arena.

When it comes to the hard solutions, there are fascinating trends in popularity between the pharmacological and herbal division within the category and the trends correlate with location. Of all the hard solution patents, 22.5% are reportedly herbal and the majority of these patent filing are coming out of the Asia Pacific market (namely China whose patent filings make up 99.4% of the category). The rest are coming from Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and Turkey. The creation and filing for patents for herbal solutions continues to rapidly rise. On the other side of the coin, North Americans prefer medicinal prescription sleep aids. With 50% of Americans taking prescription drugs for sleep and over-the-counter options on top of that, it’s no surprise that most patents filed from the US, Canada and Australia are for drug patents to address sleep disorders impacting the nervous system. Western companies like Merck also take the lead in the production of hard, medicinal solutions. And while Western companies Resmed and Phillips lead in soft solutions, the vast majority of soft solution producers are located in the East.

All of that said, the category of sleep solutions, both hard and soft, are going to continue to grow. And our understanding of why certain trends exist—a preference for herbal hard solutions and the majority of soft solutions innovators coming out of the East, and pharmaceuticals being more popular in the West—will also continue to grow. How we address sleep is tied to a complex web of social, cultural and biological factors. What is consistent across the board is an increased craving for knowledge about sleep and solutions for improving it—because no matter where you are in the world, you’re more than likely struggling to get a full night of it.

Read the full report here