Benita Chacko

Mattresses, pills, podcasts: Brands across segments are building the 'sleep economy' with products that promise relief from anxiety

From mattress to melatonin pill to sleep podcast brands - all are innovating to help their consumers deal with stress-related post-pandemic sleeplessness.

From counting sheep to listening to bedtime stories, people have been trying various techniques to put themselves to sleep since the COVID pandemic struck a year-and-a-half back. People have been tossing and turning all night due to the fear of losing their jobs or contracting the virus or the uncertainties of what the next day will bring.

Coupled with anxiety and stress, work-from-home has also brought in longer working hours, keeping people away from the bed late into the night. As people struggle to sleep, various brands are stepping in to help them with the best possible solutions.

Among the categories that have made the most of this growing sleep economy are mattress brands. They have increasingly shifted their focus to provide better sleep solutions to the customers. While it may seem obvious - what else will mattress brands talk about, right? - there's a marked shift in the communication from brands in this space; from simply selling 'technical' benefits like springy beds and softer pillows, they're highlighting the downside of a bad night's sleep.

Research suggests that we sleep better when our body temperature is low or falls. So, Wakefit has designed an orthopedic memory foam mattress with big grooves to enable more airflow that will lower the body temperature and help people sleep better.

Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, co-Founder, Wakefit
Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, co-Founder, Wakefit

Apart from product innovations, brands are also trying to help their customers through various offerings. Wakefit also offers sleep podcasts on its YouTube page. Its sleep internship offers Rs 10 lakh to people for sleeping nine hours every night for 100 nights. “We have to educate people, in a fun way, that sleeping pays,” says Chaitanya Ramalingegowda, co-founder, Wakefit.

Smita Murarka, Chief Marketing Officer, Duroflex
Smita Murarka, Chief Marketing Officer, Duroflex

On World Sleep Day this year, Duroflex launched a lullaby series ‘Sounds of Sleep’ to help parents put their little ones to sleep. Smita Murarka, chief marketing officer, Duroflex, mentions that it didn’t have a direct business impact, but it was still important for the company to propagate the importance of sleep.

Advertisements have also evolved their messaging with time. Unlike traditional mattress ads that sold aspirations, dreams and goals, the current ones are selling a good night’s sleep. The focus has shifted from how sleep can help you achieve better results the next day to the importance of a good sleep.

Duroflex’s recent ad, featuring actors Alia Bhatt and Rohit Saraf, talks about how a good mattress helps in healthy sleep.

“We are not promising the consumers anything larger than life in our ads. Research proves that sleep is a basic need for healthy living. It is also proven, how the choice of a better product, which is research and innovation oriented, makes a difference to your sleep. It's a simple message, but we are putting it out in a very fresh and modern way. I believe we are changing the category’s perception of being boring and mature looking. So, the TVC is about not only Duroflex, but also trying to change the category’s perception among the youth,” says Murarka.

She adds that Bhatt resonates well with the brand as she’s a sleep evangelist in her personal life as well. “We have chosen a young female. Somebody who is a young achiever, fearless, honest and speaks her mind. More importantly, she stands for sleep (even before our association). Bhatt is a sleep evangelist on her social handles, and that's what makes it a very honest association.”

Ramalingegowda says that Wakefit has also stayed away from the traditional messaging of selling dreams to differentiate itself.

“Most people know how sleep will help you perform better the next day. But why we need to sleep and what is happening in the mind while we sleep are not communicated that well. So, we took this approach to distinguish ourselves and emphasise on what is happening inside the body while you sleep.”

The pandemic has also helped people become more aware of their sleep habits and the need for a good night’s sleep. In a survey conducted by Wakefit, it was discovered that with the lockdown intertwining work and lifestyle, there seems to be an increased sense of awareness towards the importance of investing in quality sleep. The Great Indian Sleep Scorecard (GISS) 2021 indicates a conscious effort by people to prioritise sleep health this year, as the fear of having insomnia is up from 19 to 24 per cent.

“Just like the COVID pandemic, there is also an insomnia pandemic going on. The only problem is the insomnia pandemic is a silent killer. Nobody’s talking about it as much. Whether it's a new OTT show or a boss's late night call, the first casualty in your life is sleep. But that awareness is definitely growing. And, people have begun taking positive steps to change that,” says Ramalingegowda.

Murarka says Duroflex's mission has always been about helping India sleep better.

“As a brand, we've been trying to propagate the importance of sleep, even before the pandemic. However, the consumer’s attention wasn't there. They were too busy and would blame their tiredness on the traffic or the stress at work. They are now at home, and willing to listen to solutions. And, because of our experience in this area, we're able to connect with the audiences in a much better way.”

People no longer seem to take their sleep for granted. Unlike earlier, when people proudly declared that they managed an all-nighter to complete work, people today take greater pride in showing off their ‘achievement’ of completing eight hours of sleep on social media.

Meanwhile, the revenues of these mattress brands have also grown. Wakefit doubled its revenue in the last fiscal, from Rs 197 crore to Rs 410 crore. Similarly, Duroflex has also seen a growth upwards of 70 per cent in the last year.

The Sleep Company, comfort innovation company and marketer of SmartGRID mattress, promises a scientific solution to sleepless nights. SmartGRID is a smart technology that changes the softness and hardness of the mattress depending on the sleeping position or on the body shape. This helps get a better quality of sleep. They have also witnessed a 10x growth during the pandemic.

"That just shows how much customers want good sleep and how they're ready to spend on a great mattress. Also people have become more aware. They are spending more than one-third of their life on a mattress. And now with the pandemic, they are also using it to work-from-home or to eat food,' said Priyanka Salot, Co-founder of the D2C mattress brand.

Priyanka Salot, Co-founder, The Sleep Company
Priyanka Salot, Co-founder, The Sleep Company

They are also constantly innovating to provide customers with improved sleep. They are looking to innovate with smart mattresses that can track different parameters of your sleep and smart comforters that can regulate the temperature.

"The Sleep Company will continue to do whatever can be changed in mattresses or sleeping accessories. Our focus has always been to become the world's best comfort-tech company. And we will continue to leverage technology to make sure we launch better products which can help customers get better comfort," she added.

Mattresses, pills, podcasts: Brands across segments are building the 'sleep economy' with products that promise relief from anxiety

Meanwhile, it has appointed Anil Kapoor as its face, an announcement that came after the brand’s recent round of funding worth Rs.13.4 crore.

"We believe the values and the attributes that he has for perfection, for the right products, for innovation really resonates with the company. So we've just got him on board to make sure that we continue to drive stronger awareness and superiority of the SmartGRID and do that faster and more exponentially," she said.

Cuddl, an online-first pillow startup is manufacturing adjustable thickness pillows for a more comfortable sleep.

Mattresses, pills, podcasts: Brands across segments are building the 'sleep economy' with products that promise relief from anxiety

It is not just mattress brands that are catering to people’s sleep needs. Earlier this year, Zomato ventured into the dietary supplement space and among its offerings is melatonin tablets, that help induce sleep. The online delivery platform will be delivering these tablets to the customer’s home within 15 minutes of receiving the order. Gummies brand Nyumi also has a product offering 'beauty sleep' to their customers.

Similarly, during the pandemic, various audio platforms began offering sleep podcasts and bedtime stories to lull the listeners to sleep. For example, audiobook giant Audible brought out the ‘Audible Sleep Collection' last year. Apple Podcasts also launched ‘Get sleepy’ - a sleep meditation module.

Netflix, whose CEO Reed Hastings once famously declared sleep to be the streaming platform’s biggest competitor, has hosted meditation app Headspace’s ‘Guide to Sleep’. The series offered friendly tips on sleep and concluded with a guided wind-down.