Campus and Community, Christina Gayton, Economic Theory
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The Economics of Sleep

By: Christina Gayton

When taking a closer look at sleep, there’s a lot going on underneath the mattress, both on the individual and market level.

With the rise of products such as Purple Mattress, sleep apps such as Pillow, cuddle robots, and sleep-inducing essential oils, the sleep market is booming. Currently, the U.S. sleep industry is valued at approximately $30 to $40 billion and has grown at a whopping  8% annual rate. America is increasingly becoming health conscious and justifiably beginning to recognize a good night’s rest as key to wellbeing.  However, there is much more nuance that can be found in Sleep Market Economics other than the products and revenue being produced. Sleep itself could, in some regards, be recognized as a commodity and expense, all at once.

1 in 3 American adults aren’t getting enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although 100 years ago, the average American got 9 hours of sleep, these days, the average joe sleeps only 6.8 hours a night. This level falls just below the National Sleep Foundation’s recommended sleep length of 7 to 9 hours. To ameliorate American’s sleep problems, companies have developed products to help people get to sleep and stay asleep. Essentially, Americans are attempting to buy and sell longer and better sleep as a commodity.

All together, these products raked in $28.6 billion in 2017. The largest sector of the sleep market, by far, is the mattress industry, with a gross income of $16 billion. Other notable sectors include the prescribed sleep drug industry, which brought in $1.4 billion in profits, the non-prescribed sleep drug industry with $576 million in profit, the CPAP device (sleep Apnea therapy) industry with $4.3 billion in profit, and the sleep lab industry also with $4.3 billion in profit. Even sleep-inducing ASMR is proving to be highly lucrative, with some ASMRtists earning hundreds of thousands annually.

The effects of not getting enough sleep are markedly adverse. When the brain is running low on snooze time, cognitive skills, memory, visual perception, and motor skills are all impaired. A sleep deficit has even been shown to have comparable effects to having 10% alcohol blood level. In the long term, the effects are even more dire. Constantly denying  oneself sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and depression, among other ailments. Overall, sleeping less than six hours per night has been linked with a 13% increase in mortality rate. The healthcare costs from these sleep-related issues are estimated to be hundreds of billions of dollars per year.

The effects on society are rough too. Approximately $411 billion and 1.2 million work days are lost each year due to lower productivity from inadequate sleep. There are also the healthcare costs from sleep-related accidents, a figure projected to be over $60 billion annually. The overall economic loss far outweighs the current funds being put into the sleep industry by consumers and corporations. If sleep products do in fact help Americans get a better night’s rest, then funneling more funds into developing products and services for this industry would certainly pay for itself in the long run.

When taking a closer look at sleep, there’s a lot going on underneath the mattress, both on the individual and market level. In an age of increasing anxiety and work culture, sleep is becoming more scarce and the negative effects from its absence more prevalent. Profits from the sleep industry show no signs of stopping, and with further innovation and niche market products, high quality sleep may even become a luxury good as well.

Works Cited

Image Source:

Bramley, E. (April 2018). Dream ticket: How Sleep Became a Billion-dollar Business. Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (February 2016). 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. Retrieved from

Haynes, S. (November 2016). Lack of Sleep Costs U.S. $411 Billion in Lost Productivity, Study Finds. Retrieved from

Jones, J. (December, 2013). In U.S., 40% Get Less Than Recommended Amount of Sleep. Retrieved from

La Rosa, J. (April 2018). Top 6 Things to know About the $28 Billion Sleep Market. Retrieved from

National Sleep Foundation. How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? (March 2019). Retrieved from

NHS. (May 2018). Why lack of sleep is bad for your health. Retrieved from

Tuck. (May 2018). The inequality of sleep. Retrieved from

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