The Sleep Industry: Why We’re Paying Big Bucks for Something That’s Free

The Sleep Industry: Why We’re Paying Big Bucks for Something That’s Free

We Just Want to Do What’s ‘Natural’

From 2006 to 2011, the market for over-the-counter sleep aids grew 31%. Within this market, the biggest growth category has been for natural and homeopathic products. From functional foods like melatonin-rich cherries to valerian and passionflower, consumers are on the hunt for natural solutions — as opposed to prescription sleep medications, which they seem wary of.

Interestingly enough, natural is a buzz word in the “stay awake” product category too. Starbucks new Refreshers line boasts “natural energy” from green coffee beans, for instance, while Jamba Juice recently introduced an “all-natural energy drink” line.

For some people, one of the many possible sleep “solutions” indeed proves to be a solution that helps them sleep better. It’s been shown that a good mattress will certainly improve your sleep, for instance. Other products can aid sleep as well, though individual results vary widely. But before spending good money on sleep remedies of dubious value, it’s wise to first try a few of these time-tested tips, none of which cost a dime:

1. Stick to a routine. Train your body by going to sleep and getting up at the same time every day.

2. Get rid of distractions. Make sure your room is cool, dark and quiet all night long. The “blue light” display of most computers, tablets and cell phones mocks daylight and suppresses melatonin. If necessary, get a sleep mask and earplugs. Keep your bed tidy too.

3. Clear your mind. Focus on your breathing and count “one” as you breathe in and “two” as you breathe out. Don’t count any higher. Just go back and forth with one and two because people inadvertently stay alert keeping track of higher numbers.

4. Keep a notepad handy. If you’re the kind of person who stays awake ruminating, put the intrusive thoughts down on paper. That way, you can let them go until the morning rather than stressing about them while you’re not falling asleep.

5. Avoid stimulants close to bedtime. Stop drinking caffeine by around noon, and exercise as early in the day as possible.

6. Power down. People who text and use their computers an hour before bedtime get fewer hours of sleep, are less likely to get quality sleep and are less likely to wake up refreshed.

– By Kit Yarrow chairs the psychology department of Golden Gate University and was named the university’s 2012 Outstanding Scholar for her research in consumer behavior. She is a co-author of Gen BuY and is a frequent speaker on topics related to consumer psychology and Generation Y.


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