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This article appeared originally on INSIDER’s September/October print issue.
Sleep and stress go hand-in-hand. As consumers report increasing levels of stress, they also report increasing issues related to sleep. As a result, the market for sleep support, stress support and the combination therein is expected to develop drastically in coming years as nutrition science, technology and social mediums converge to drive solutions.
In this Q&A with INSIDER, Matthew Oster, head of consumer health at Euromonitor International, details factors affecting the markets for sleep and stress support and provides insight on where the markets are heading.
The market of sleep aids and sleep support has expanded dramatically over the past five years or so, extending from pharmacological formulations (either in the form of over-the-counter or prescription drugs) to a variety of behavioural, therapeutic, data-driven and holistic solutions arriving to meet an increasingly sleep-deprived world. Digital technologies can now measure the quality and restfulness of a person’s sleep cycle, with smartphone apps and physical devices like smart pillows with biometric sensors able to diagnose and determine the severity of sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
Wellness platforms like Calm and BeYou place sleep needs in the context of a broader vision of wellness alongside mindfulness, meditation and nutrition. Sports nutrition companies like Som Sleep are integrating sleep-oriented products into the mix to enable peak sports performance. And the movement toward herbal and natural formulations has forced the longstanding OTC sleep aids marketplace towards ingredients like melatonin, valerian root and chamomile (or increasingly, CBD), with even the market leaders like Procter & Gamble’s ZzzQuil expanding their portfolio into naturals.
Euromonitor International’s 2019 Health & Nutrition Survey conducted in 20 countries found that one-third of respondents got seven hours or less of sleep a night. 22% responded positively to the statement that they “frequently do not get enough sleep” and similar rates reported still feeling tired when waking, waking often in the middle of the night. Even 17% of respondents felt concerned that their sleep habits were impacting their overall health. Rates of respondents signaling sleep deprivation were consistent across genders, age cohorts and cultures, signifying that there are common stressors affecting sleep quality in modern societies.
A number of factors have been tied to sleep loss, such as the pace of modern lifestyles, obesity, poor diets, sedentary living, increasing screen time, alcohol consumption, poor bedding quality, sleep disorders like apnea, and of course, anxiety/stress.
Elevated stress is a commonly reported phenomenon in modern societies. Reported stress can develop during periods of macro financial or political insecurity (for instance, during recessions or political changes), but more likely accumulated stress is related to day-to-day lifestyle pressures related to job, family, health and money.
Stress is pervasive simply because modern life doesn’t provide easily attainable or frequent outlets to let people relieve the buildup of ever-accelerating pressures. Despite (or perhaps because of) this, most consumers are not actively attempting to manage this accumulation of stress in any systematic way. For others, the wellness industry has become influential through holistic perspectives that include now-mainstream approaches like meditation and yoga (although the industry also touts scientifically-suspect options like salt lamps, meditation headbands or brain massages).
Lack of consumer understanding mixed with demonstrated need has resulted in an expanding commercialized marketplace for stress and anxiety relief that contains a variety of products and solutions that generate a lot of buzz (especially on social media) with little-to-no evidence that they help. A major factor how the industry develops going forward is how real scientific advancement can be separated from pseudo-science.
Sleep and stress can be viewed as two sides of the same coin, and indeed consumers are increasingly viewing sleep deprivation and stress as intrinsically linked. As a result, more products are being marketed to combat both conditions. Some of the most popular supplement innovations in 2019 are within this space, with CBD the obvious leader at the moment, as it is used broadly for both stress relief and sleep improvement. Adaptogens like ashwagandha and mushrooms have also seen an explosion of interest this year from consumers looking for assistance in these areas. Scientific studies have also recently demonstrated the role the gut microbiota has on sleep quality and stress, which holds promise for commercialised probiotics tailored to these needs.
It is clear that the need for sleep or stress support is only deepening as the societal factors most influential in the spread of these problems show no signs of abating. So the opportunity will continue to exist for the foreseeable future. Given the broad interest and the nascent development of technological aids like sleep tracking and artificial intelligence, it’s clear that future solutions will have to mix tech with pharma and lifestyle choices.
Though some companies are trialing ideas that merge these factors (especially through wellness coaching, apps and product recommendations), we’re still in the beginning stages of this process. The market for stress and sleep support is likely to be unrecognisable in even just a few years.