The Elusive Z’s… Our Sleep (Ob) Session

 started this newsletter to help trend-watching brand marketers and innovators learn about intriguing trends that may inspire new thinking on how you can grow your business. Each month, I’ll dive into 3 examples, and share my own humble opinion:

1) Spot On– An example of the trend I think is “sticky” and well executed

2) Missed the Mark – A well-intended, but poorly executed example of the trend

3) What the… An example I can’t quite relate to or don’t see gaining traction

Since we’re starting the fall routine, which sets the tone for renewed focus, energy, and productivity, this month I’ll kick off with a question:

Can we agree that our culture has become OBSESSED with Sleep?

No doubt, I’m feeding the slumber-mania: I included a sleep example in last month’s edition on self-care, and I couldn’t hold back on the topic this month.

I started watching this trend several years ago when working in the bath & body category, which was starting to morph into self-care and wellness. Now that these categories have fully merged, the importance of sleep for our mental, physical and emotional health is well understood.

The evidence for the fixation abounds. Beyond #sleeptips trending on Tik Tok, new terms like “sleep fitness” and “orthosomnia,” the #s clearly show a pandemic-boosted, still accelerating focus on shut eye.

In a recent McKinsey study on beauty and wellness, ~30% of respondents said they regularly use sleep-related products and services. Another trend report cited a study where 2/3 of respondents reported poor quality sleep in the last 6 months. From a more clinical view, the Center for Sleep Medicine at in NY reported to a leading fashion mag that their patient count has increased 50% since the pandemic.

And the Grandmama of sleep lore, Ariana Huffington, is still making mucho dinero evangelizing the importance of sleep to corporate leaders. (were we really waiting for permission from our bosses?!)

So… it’s a big thing.

To be clear, I have no intent to diminish the anguish sleeplessness can cause—sleep disorders are real, and as someone fortunate enough to be a good sleeper, I count my blessings when I speak to insomniac friends/relatives.

But I have to wonder if the cultural fixation on it just serves to make us more anxious and sleepless?!?!

Given the many predictions and indicators that this would be big business, it’s no surprise companies are rising to the occasion with an explosion of technologies and solutions selling better sleep.

The breadth of gadgets I came across in researching this topic would suggest the profit grabbing has gone a bit haywire. I’m curious what you think, based on what you’ve seen out there and what you read below. OK… here go the 3 examples.

SPOT ON: Ozlo Sleepbuds®

Launched by 3 ex-Bose employees that had found a small but passionate following for Bose Sleepbuds that wasn’t big enough to sustain the business, this next gen version, Ozlo Sleepbuds, is a connected streaming system engineered with “optimal sleep and connectivity in mind” as a “science driven, one stop shop for the best sleep of your life. “

They’re positioned against headphones not designed for sleep (big, clunky, uncomfortable, could get tangled in a cord (REALLY? Who would sleep with a cord near their head and neck?!?). The design is “tiny, low profile”, with comfortable silicone tips. They automatically turn off, or switch to noise masking mode when you drift off, or can stream your favorite relaxing music. The battery lasts 10 hours—I wish I could sleep that long!

Unlike some of the whack-a-doodle products like self-adjusting anti-snore pillows, or Foundation that stays on while you sleep so you wake up looking fresh for your overnight companion, I can actually see someone using this. The design seems solid, and I like the flexibility of audio modes. It’s sort of like the Calm app combined with airpods, and unlike most earplugs, might actually function and not end up on the floor. And, I respect that it’s Kickstarter funded.

Missed the Mark: Gelato Pique x Pokemon Sleep

The (apparently popular) Japanese-designed loungewear brand Gelato Pique  announced their partnership with the new Pokémon Sleep app (dropping 9/28/23! You heard it here 1st! Or on Instagram. Or on Tik Tok.)

The collection of cozy loungewear for kids and adults is timed to coincide with the release of the ‘Pokémon Sleep’ app. The description (worth sharing for the clunky translation from Japanese alone): “We have prepared a range of items to ensure you have a peaceful and enjoyable sleep, from loungewear inspired by Pokémon characters such as Pikachu and Snorlax …to deliver happiness during bedtime.”

The mechanics of it may make sense to anyone younger than 25 or Pokemon fanatics—so, not me: “Based on the results, encounters with various Pokémon are possible. Improving sleep quality is essential to earning experience points, and you may have thought of several ways to improve it… starting with comfortable pajamas might be a good choice.”

OK, aside from funny, I find this truly absurd. First, some franchises just don’t need to keep trolling for more dollars—hasn’t Pokemon had more than it’s moment?!  More to the point, if part of getting better sleep is about disengaging from the apps and games that rule our brains during our waking hours, why would we voluntarily invite anime characters to invade our sleep too?! The risk of bad dreams in today’s world is high enough already!

WHAT THE….The Oura Ring

In truth, this whole edition was actually inspired by the example below.  I may be the last to know about The Oura Ring, apparently trending in fashionable circles, so IYDKNYK. This biohacking bracelet features an “award winning design” with sensors “more accurate from the finger” to measure and report on everything from your steps to your body temperature, and of course, your sleep.  It’s been touted by Kim K. and Gwyneth, who apparently competed on their scores.

My thoughts? Well, I’ve been building up to a rant, so here it is:

Why does technology have to invade our sleep just to tell us that we’re not sleeping well?  Is our drive for both control and perfect health so strong that measuring our waking heart rates and metabolic conditioning stats is not enough? And for $400, does it actually improve your sleep? As we increasingly try to hack our own biology, I worry people will end up feeling worse about what they’re lacking, not better.

To take it further into armchair psychology, why is our sleep a measure of personal success we have to share with the world? Even for those devoted to our daily exercise rings (guilty) I’m not sure something as individual and personal as what’s happening in our BEDS at night can be solved via social media discourse among random youngsters that likely have VERY different stressors and reasons for sleeplessness. As elegantly put by an author of one sleep book “So many of us have this delicate and tenuous relationship with sleep…it’s the time of day we are most vulnerable. We’re at the mercy of our subconscious. “

As I said above, the connection between self-care, sleep and wellness is one I totally support and respect. I chased some pillow sprays and aromatherapy eye mask ideas back in the day myself. (see below for some related products). But unlike taking a relaxing, fragrant evening soak, or applying a colorful face mask, then sharing the “aaaah” moment on TikTok, discussing our sleep challenges and the right solutions just might be better addressed with a doctor or a therapist than a giant corporation or an influencer.

Honorable mentions

Given my unabashed love for wellness trends and products, these bonus examples actually make sense to me, and tap compelling ingredients for pre-sleep self-care:

The Good Night Collection by Dans Un Jardin aromatherapy line aims to “transform the bedtime routine into a luxurious experience.” Range includes a Bubble Bath and a Face Roll with chamomile, lavender, and other essential oils, and a tranquility-enhancing Herbal Tea.

Aveda’s Chakra 1 Grounded Balancing Body Mist taps into the Ayurvedic practice of Chakra healing, with a focus on the root chakra where we ground ourselves for a feeling of security and awareness.

Sources: Vogue Summer 2023 article” Night night”, Trend Hunter, Holland & Baret 2023 Wellness trends report, Business of Fashion “State of Beauty” report, 5/23

What Do You Think? Add a comment on any Sleep-inducing techniques that work for you!  See you next month!

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