World Sleep Day: What Is Sleeptech And What Does The Indian Sleeptech Startup Scene Look Like?

World Sleep Day: What Is Sleeptech And What Does The Indian Sleeptech Startup Scene Look Like?

by Anand Parthasarathy - Mar 17, 2023 01:27 PM +05:30 IST
World Sleep Day: What Is Sleeptech And What Does The Indian Sleeptech Startup Scene Look Like?2023 World Sleep Day Theme is "Sleep is Essential for Health"
  • India ranks second among the most sleep-deprived nations in the world.

    Technology has a solution for disorders like sleep apnea.

    Almost every health or fitness wearable can track your sleep.

    Mattresses have evolved over 200 years from cotton and feathers to coir-plus-rubber to rubber and foam.

    Multiple Indian startups have entered the mattress arena and have pioneered online sales.

World Sleep Day is an annual event organised by the non-profit World Sleep Society, to celebrate sleep and address sleep disorders. Held on the Friday before the Spring Vernal Equinox, it falls on 17 March in 2023.

This year’s theme is: ‘Sleep is Essential for Health’, just as eating well and exercising is.

Sleep experts in over 70 countries are organising local activities to promote sleep. In India, there are multiple events listed on the World Sleep Day portal.

Among them are:

Anupam Kanodia, Consultant, CKS Hospital, Jaipur and a sleep apnea expert, is organising a podcast today (17 March) with Dr Saurabh Mittal, Assistant Professor, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi and Dr Srinivas Kishore, Director, ENT, Asian Institute of Gastroenterology, Hyderabad. 

It will be available on the YouTube Channel, HealthCast.

Mahendri NV, a clinical nutritionist and retired Dietic head at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, has organised a one-day GoogleMeet online awareness webinar on the importance of sleep on 19 March.

Other India events can be found under the head ‘Activities’ on the World Sleep Day portal.

Why should Indians lose sleep (pardon the pun!) over sleep issues?

Just before Covid, in 2019, we ranked among the most sleep-deprived nations in the world — only Japan was worse — according to a survey by health wearables company Fitbit reported in FirstPost

The results, released this week of another survey entitled “How India sleeps”, by the community social media platform, Local Circles, show that 55 per cent of Indians polled across over 300 districts reported less than 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep after Covid. 21 per cent slept for less than 4 hours.

How much sleep do you actually need? The Frequently Asked Questions section at the World Sleep Day site quotes experts to suggest that the average sleep duration for an adult should be between 7 and 8 hours, which could go up to 10 hours. 

Anything less is sleep deprivation — and 93 per cent of Indians are sleep-deprived

Sleep Disorders

Sleep related problems and disorders include snoring (which can usually be cured by avoiding nasal congestion or a simple change of sleeping position) — and the potentially serious Sleep Apnea (the Greek word for ‘breathless’) which is a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts while sleeping.

Treatment may include lifestyle changes like low-calorie diet, avoidance of sleeping pills and alcohol, or devices like nasal dilators or positive airway pressure inducers.

A DreamStation sleep apnea solution from Philips.
A DreamStation sleep apnea solution from Philips.

Among the more common sleep therapy machines is CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) which sends a constant flow of airway pressure to your throat so that your airway stays open during sleep, effectively treating the spontaneous pauses in breath associated with sleep apnea. 

 Philips has been among leading providers of sleep apnea solutions — like the CPAP DreamStation, clinical research for which was done at the Philips Innovation Centre in Bengaluru.


To sleep, perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub (Shakespeare, Hamlet)

Dreaming is a normal part of sleep, says the Sleep Foundation, and either a reflection of or a contributor to quality sleep. However, not all dreams are created equal. 

When a bad dream causes an awakening from sleep, it can be considered a nightmare. Most people have a bad dream or nightmare every once in a while, with no notable impact on their sleep quality.

Most of us can’t remember our dreams once we wake up. But experts say people who remember their dreams often show higher levels of creativity.


Sleep, sleep, I couldn’t sleep tonight / Not for all the jewels in the crown (Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady)

Insomnia, the inability to sleep afflicts one in three persons at least intermittently. It can lead to problems with fatigue, attention or concentration memory. New studies have shown a link between lack of sleep and systemic hypertension and diabetes.

Rather than taking medication doctors suggest that one eat lighter meals at night and at least two hours before bed. Stay active, and keep exercises for earlier in the day. Take a hot shower at the end of your day and avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.

However, sometimes, sleep problems could be self-induced. The annual “Great Indian Sleep Scorecard” for sponsored by mattress and furniture company Wakefit and released on the eve of World Sleep Day 2023, finds that 87 per cent of Indians use their phones just before going to bed which can often be unsettling.

This dovetails with 38 per cent who lose sleep because of worries about the future.

Most fitness wearables have a sleep tracking mode.
Most fitness wearables have a sleep tracking mode.

Sleeptech Is Here

How do we know if we are sleeping well — and if not, what can we do about it? Here is where technology is increasingly playing a role:

Almost all wrist-wearable health bands or smart watches with fitness functions have a sleep tracking mode which provides useful data if you do have a sleep disorder.

Or do they? Medical opinion is divided. A June 2021 report by analysts McKinsey entitled “Sleep on it: Addressing the sleep-loss epidemic through technology” asks: “Sleep deprivation has become a global problem. Can the burgeoning sleep-tech industry provide solutions?”

It repeats the health wearable industry pitch “Remote monitoring via wearables could become a helpful tool for physicians seeking to better understand sleep disorders”.

But it balances this with quotes by experts like Dr Colin Espie, professor of sleep medicine at the University of Oxford who says “Claims that sleep-monitoring wearables can aid sleep disorders have yet to be validated in large-scale randomized control trials, especially with regard to debilitating health issues, like insomnia and comorbidity”.

Katherine Dudley, MD, writes in a Harvard Medical School blog “Between different brands, or even different devices within a brand, the software code, and therefore sleep interpretation, could vary.. I counsel my patients to review their sleep data with a grain of salt. The devices probably do give us a rough sense of the time we’re spending in bed (which may or may not equal sleep time)".

In non-critical situations, however, consumer wearables could provide useful data about sleep behaviour, such as whether individuals have regular bedtimes or sleep longer at weekends and could help people take steps to improve their sleep.

Customers seem to agree, making wearables a big part of the global sleep tech devices market that was estimated by Databridge Market Research to be worth over $30 billion by 2028, driven by “urging volume of patients suffering from sleeping disorders and increasing prevalence of geriatric population across the globe”.

With a market like that, can Indian startups be out of the loop? Unlikely!

Indian Sleeptech Startups: It’s All About Mattresses

The Most Important Third Of Your Life Is Spent Here (slogan for a mattress brand).

Contemporary mattresses have multiple layers and can be up to 10 inches thick.
Contemporary mattresses have multiple layers and can be up to 10 inches thick.
Photo Credit: The Sleep Company

A detailed look at the India sleep tech startup scene was last published in 2020 by the tech media platform Inc42, with the catchy title: “As India struggles to sleep, Sleeptech startups rise up”.

Almost all the startups cited — they include MattressBox, Sleepy Cat, Wink & Nod, The White Willow, Wakefit and Sunday — are into mattress and pillow and between them they pioneered the marketing of such bed accessories online.

They compete with the established brands like Sleepwell, Kurlon, Duroflex, Restolex and new brands like The Sleep Company.

Shop for mattresses today (big discounts are being offered for World Sleep Day!) and you will see buzzwords like memory foam, open cells, no-motion-transfer, orthopaedic support, hybrid springs,visco-elastic, cooling gel and smart grid. 

Most of the new generation mattresses come with multiple layers of latex and foam – 6-10 inches thick, with bamboo fabric covering.

Rather than be overwhelmed by the jargon, canny buyers tend to visit makers’ showrooms and actually lie on the mattress to check them out for comfort. The cost of a King size mattress (76 inches by 80 inches) of these all latex-and-foam mattresses range from Rs 30,000 to Rs 60,000.

However, many Indian customers still swear by a layer of coir inside the mattress — and brands like Kurlon, Restolex and Duroflex still cater to this market segment that wants its mattresses for below Rs 15,000.

Old timers may feel nostalgic for mattresses stuffed with cotton which ruled for over 200 years (with pillows filled with feathers) till the late 1950s, when Dunlop brought the all-rubber Dunlopillo mattress to India — an instant hit with hotels for its zero maintenance.

Around the 1970s, Kerala-based enterprises which could source both coir and rubber locally seized the market opportunity to combine the two in mattresses. They were a nationwide hit.

But cotton is still king for some — and a British company like Glencraft which has supplied cotton mattresses to the royal family since 1843, still sells classic mattresses, with layers of cotton, horsehair and merino wool to some of the world’s top luxury hotels. 

Whatever your personal choice — cotton or foam, coir or latex — a comfortable bed is perhaps the best device to ensure a good sound sleep, the very foundation of a healthy life.

Good night, then. And for a sound sleep, turn off those messaging alerts on your phone for the next eight hours!

Anand Parthasarathy is managing director at Online India Tech Pvt Ltd and a veteran IT journalist who has written about the Indian technology landscape for more than 15 years for The Hindu.

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