global epidemic and big business

For 25 years, French people have lost an average of 18 minutes of sleep per night, according to INSEE. 62% say they suffer from at least one sleep disorder (difficulty falling asleep, waking up at night, etc.) The fault is the screens that invade our daily lives, an increasingly restricted lifestyle, permanent stress … The subject, neglected for so long, is now becoming headlines in mainstream and women’s journalism. “Like sport or diet, lack of sleep is heading towards becoming a public health issue” predicts Nicolas Goarant, a former parliamentary deputy who opened a pop-up in Paris on sleep-related matters for a month in the summer of 2017. Think Tank Terra Nova even released a report on the issue in 2016, promoting for example “sleep education” in schools, to complete the slogan “Eat better and move more” with “sleep well”, or even encourage companies to create “ bedroom “.

6% annual growth

This feeling has inevitably led to the attraction of the technology sector, always keeping abreast of the latest trend. So we’ve seen dozens of applications evolve, miracle-connected objects, olfactory alarm clocks, “dawn simulators”, “brain activity sensor” helmets … No mention start-ups that specialize in organic herbal teas or mattress delivery. At the last show in Las Vegas, Sleep Tech had its own space and was named “trend of the year” by American magazine Inc. 161 sleep-related projects are currently listed on Kickstarter in the “technologies” category and according to a Persistence Market Research Study, the global market is expected to reach $ 80.8 billion by 2020, with annual growth of 5.7%.

Orthosomnia, or the obsession with measuring sleep

In this jungle, the best rubs shoulders with anything good. And it’s hard to navigate, because all manufacturers are advancing scientific arguments. Applications (Sleep Cycle, Sleep Better, Réveil Bonjour, etc.) promise to evaluate the sleep cycle to provide a lot of data and wake you up “at the right time”, i.e., in the light sleep phase. Some apps also offer to prevent snoring by vibrating the phone, or to create a “dream diary”.

On the other hand, the “well-being” apps are dedicated: there are relaxation music apps (Relax Mélodies, White noise, myNoise …) and meditation apps (Sleep well hypnosis, Petit Bambou, RespiRelax, Bonne nuit .. .). Finally, connected objects that are supposed to enhance sleep or sleepiness, such as the pillow from French startup Moona, which adjusts its temperature, the Aura night light from Withings based on sounds and light adapted to sleep cycle, or the Dreem headband from French startup Rythm, which releases sound stimulation to increase deep sleep time.

This rudeness of technology is astounding. Like orthorexia, the mania for counting and measuring every calorie and every nutrient we eat, frantic learning of the smallest movements of your sleep is likely to be an obsession. A new “pathology” even given a name: orthosomnia. What can be learned from the mountain of graphs and figures delivered by the applications? How can knowing that you move often at night help you sleep better?

“Most things just provide raw data and don’t offer a concrete solution. It’s shocking because people are getting desperate”- Hugo Mercier, co-founder of Rythm

The technology against sleeping pills?

Some apps are actually unproductive, according to specialists. “It’s foolish to decide whether a sleep is deep or not based on movement alone. And by these false standards we wake the person up by losing the twenty minutes of sleep he or she needs!, annoyed neurobiologist Joëlle Adrien, head of INSV (National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance). Other doctors are on the contrary convinced of their usefulness. “Data is an important pre-diagnosis tool”, supports Maxime Elbaz, who manages the Hotel Dieu Sleep and Vigilance Center in Paris. The service itself has developed a free application, iSleeping by iSommeil. He is convinced that this can encourage patients to consult. Doctor François Duforez, one of his colleagues at Hôtel-Dieu, also sees a parallel in behavioral therapies and he is pleased with the success of these things as an alternative to medicine. Remember, the French are the second European consumer of benzodiazepines, the most widely used sedative, behind Spain. Nearly 13.4% of France’s population used it in 2015, according to the latest data from ANSM (National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products). After all, it is better to be addicted to the sounds of rain and pink light alarm clock than anxiolytics. “Placebo really has a big effect”acknowledges Nicolas Goarant. “But why not, when we know it plays 30% of the effectiveness of a drug?”.

On the other hand, one might wonder about the relevance of a “Pillow Talk” pillow, a pillow that allows him to “synchronize” his sleep with his (her) spouse when he sleeps thousands of kilometers away. , thanks for a bracelet. seeing his heartbeat. Or the Somnox robot-cushion stuffed with sensors that provide “The feeling of holding someone in your arms”.

Many candidates, few elected

So does sleep tech have a real future? Obvious successes such as the olfactory awakening of the young shoot Bescent (ex Sensorwake) remain rare. The latter has sold 25,000 copies and the startup only launched a second version after raising 1.6 million euros in 2017. But of the 161 Kickstarter projects, two-thirds did not find funding. and some are still in development will not exceed 30 contributions.

“The market for expensive products (over 150 euros), sometimes invasive, and the benefits are not quickly understood by the consumer will be difficult to become mainstream”predicts Guillaume Rolland, founder of Bescent

“Inevitably there will be big skimming” added Nicolas Goarant, where the durability of most connected objects is more than uncertain. “The sector attracts a large number of investors because it is a trending topic where there is a huge market”continued Hugo Mercier. “But over 40 million euros, you are no longer judged by investors on an idea but on the results”. So there is consolidation in the air. “All solutions today are too fragmented”warns Report Linker report. “There is no platform yet where consumers can centralize their data”.

Because the data is definitely a gold mine which manufacturers expect to leverage. In May 2017, Apple acquired startup Beddit, designer of a connected headband that will be placed on your mattress to check movements at night. An additional brick to the apple brand’s health offering, which already offers hundreds of sleep applications on its Apple Watch. What can be useful to his doctor. But other artists are also interested. American insurer Aetna or mattress manufacturer Casper gives a bonus to employees whose connected bracelet validates the long night of the bonus. When you are told that sleep is business.

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